Deciphering the 10 Most Common Apartment Review Complaints

apartment reviewsCan you remember the last time you bought something without first reading online reviews?  If you’re like me and 60% of shoppers, than you’re using reviews to help you make your final decision.   If you’re going to live somewhere for an entire year or more, you’re likely looking for some reassurance and online reviews is an obvious choice.

The question is can you trust these online reviews?  How much weight should you put into various types of complaints?

In this article, I’m going to list some of the most common negative comments you’ll see and give you my opinion on how much weight you might consider giving these comments.  Grab your favorite beverage and enjoy!

Here we go…

The walls are thin Legit meter  (1 of 5) Classic complaint, but 95% of the time it’s not the case that the walls are too thin.  When you share a wall with a neighbor and they make noise, you’ll generally hear them.  The company I work with has built several new apartment buildings over the last 5 years and we’ve specifically added sound dampening materials and did other things to reduce the sound between residences.  From time to time, we’ll get reviews or complaints that our “walls are thin.”  It’s not that the walls are thin; noise transfer is  an unfortunate part of apartment living,

Tip: – Live on the top floor – with no one above you, you won’t hear people walking or jumping around.  Live in an end unit – the less walls you share with people the less noise transfer you’ll experience. Live in the woods, j/k

Loud neighbors –  Legit meter (2 of 5) Apartment living has some potential downsides and crappy neighbors is one of them.  You can live in the nicest, best managed, most expensive luxury apartment and if your neighbor is a jerk, you’re not going to have a good experience.  Management can only do so much when it comes to noise complaints.  There is often a lot of he-says-she-says going on with noise complaints. Most management companies make every effort they can to resolve the issue, but at some point you have to realize it’s not the management making the noise, it’s your jerk neighbor.

Tip:  Basically same tip as with the thin wall complaint.  The less walls you share with people, the less chance you’ll have loud neighbors.  Also, make sure to pick a community that matches your lifestyle.

Too small for the priceLegit meter (1 of 5) This complaint always makes me scratch my head.  When you signed the lease, you knew the price and you knew the size of the apartment, right?  If it was too small and cost too much, why did you rent there?

Tip: Come see it for yourself.  You decide what is too expensive and too small.  Just because there is another place in town that has more square feet and costs less doesn’t make it better. Generally you get what you pay for.

Poor location Legit meter (1 of 5) Remarks like this are a good reason for you to actually read reviews.  Someone may have given an apartment community a low rating because they didn’t like the location.  That really has nothing to do with the quality of the apartment, or the competence of the leasing and maintenance teams.  Location preference is subjective.

Tip:  When you see a poor review, read it!  Check to make sure the reasons why someone gave it a bad rating actually matter to you.

Management are thieves – they stole my whole deposit  – Legit meter (2 of 5) “The lady that did my move-out inspection said my apartment was in great shape and yet they still took my whole deposit.” This is probably the most common reason people write apartment reviews.  Here’s the deal; you’re generally going to have charges taken from your deposit. If you expect to get your full deposit back, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Also, if it’s not in writing, it’s not contractual.  If some leasing agent says the apartment is in good shape, that really means nothing when it comes to your security deposit; they’re generally not the ones writing the deposit letter or preparing it for the next resident. If someone says “you’ll get your whole deposit back,” get it in writing!

Tip:  Have some perspective.  You are likely going to pay 15-30 times or more the amount of your security deposit in rent over the term of your lease.  Don’t let some unexpected charges against your security deposit ruin your entire experience.

Stolen property / cars broken into – legit meter (2 of 5) Crime can and does happen just about anywhere.  Almost 70% of thefts to vehicles and 45% of thefts to residences are because doors were left unlocked. Unless you see multiple reviews of complaints about safety, break-ins & crime, a random negative review about getting broken into should not alarm you.

Tip: Check out the property you are interested in at night.  You want to see parking lots well lit and apartments with exterior lights on.  Also, lock your doors!

Parking is terrible Legit meter (3 of 5) The terribleness of parking is subjective.  We have a property where people review that the parking is great and others review that the parking is terrible.

Tip: Come see for yourself & ask the landlord about parking if it’s important to you.  Many times there are certain parts of a community where parking is worse or better than others.  If parking right next to your front door is critically important to you, make sure to mention this before you sign your lease.

Poor management – legit meter (3 of 5)  This is the ultimate “take it with a grain of salt” remark.  As a landlord myself, there is nothing worse than having someone write that you’re bad at what you do.  With our company, almost every time we see this it’s  because there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding of expectations.  When someone says the management is bad, look to see what the actual issue was; many times it is petty and may not be that important to you.

Tip: If the vast majority of the reviews note the management team as being good, I’d say to not worry about a few negative comments.  If you are concerned about the negative comments, bring them up with the landlord to get their side of the story.

Grounds are not taken care of – Legit meter (4 of 5)  I would say this is a red flag.  Management companies that do not maintain their grounds are likely doing other things poorly.  In general even mediocre apartment communities will maintain their grounds.

Tip:If multiple people mention that the condition of the grounds are poor, I would recommend you steer clear.

Slow / incompetent / rude maintenance – legit meter (4 of 5) Like poor management, you really need to look at trends and take it with a grain of salt.  If one person says maintenance was terrible, but all other reviews are positive towards maintenance, I wouldn’t worry too much.  Some things that I would be concerned to see include:  maintenance came in without any notice & maintenance didn’t clean up after themselves.  Those two comments show a general lack of respect.  Sometimes people write that it took too long for the maintenance to get fixed or they didn’t get it fixed right the first time.  It’s possible a maintenance request will fall through the cracks or take longer than expected; that’s just life.  Lack of respect is not something I would put in the “that’s just life” category.

Tip:  Ask the landlord about their maintenance service.  People almost never ask us about our maintenance service.  Ask if they give notice before coming in, how long it usually takes to have a maintenance request complete, and how to report maintenance requests.

BONUS TIP 1: Many negative reviews  –  Most of my research for this article came from Bloomington, IN apartment reviews. I noticed that in general, if an apartment community had a lot of reviews, the majority of them were bad.  It makes sense, people are much more likely to share a bad review than a good one.  If you see a place with very few reviews, it’s likely people are generally happy; or at least they don’t hate the place.  Factor in date of the reviews too.  If the negative reviews are old, something might have changed since then.  Also, if you’re concerned about the reviews you’re reading for a particular community, bring up the complaints with the landlord and get their side.

Bonus Tip 2: Management Responses – For most reviews sites – Google +, Yelp, ApartmentRatings.com there is a place for the manager to respond to the review. The simple act of a landlord taking the time to write a response speaks volumes.  Most companies don’t take the time to do this. If you find a company that does take the time to respond to reviews in a non-accusatory/non-combative fashion, it’s very likely they value their customers, customer service, and are quality landlords

Please share your thoughts below.  Thanks for reading and good luck apartment hunting

Eric Dainton

About Eric Dainton

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