I am by no means an expert, but I have been living in an apartment since 2008. Five years, 4 apartments, 3 states. I've seen the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. I've cried more times in an apartment office than I'd care to admit. There are many things I would change about apartment living, but it can all be summed up into one statement.
Apartment companies care more about getting the next tenant than keeping the current one.
Over & over again it rings true. If you've ever lived in an apartment, I'm sure you'll relate. If not, then just count your blessings. Apartments in general aren't bad-- they're actually great! But being treated poorly is not something I want to experience at my home.
Opposing incentives: $300 off first months rent! $50 extra per month for renewing your lease for another year. Want to go month to month? That'll be $300 extra per month. Sure, prices increase over time, but wouldn't it be nice if just for once they would give $300 off your rent for renewing for another year? It wouldn't hurt as bad when they increase your rent if they gave you the same incentives they gave new tenants. Or... if they just kept your rent the same price for another year. After living somewhere for two years you tend to be a lot more committed.
Putting their focus on the wrong people: Whether it's not returning calls, not being timely with maintenance, or being downright rude, it is clear that future tenants come first. This goes right along with #1- new tenants get a lower price than current tenants. Treating tenants poorly makes for a high turnover... and therefore needing more tenants. But imagine if an apartment complex continued to care for their tenants? They might actually keep their tenants & not have to work so hard to get new ones! Future tenants are important, but they can't always come first at the expense of others.
Lack of customer service: I've always been a people pleaser. I want everyone to be happy, which involves finding lots of creative solutions. At any job, you sometimes drop the ball. Or someone else drops the ball. It's unfortunate, but it happens, and the best way to handle it is to start by admitting it. 'I'm sorry' goes a long way! Explaining the situation doesn't hurt, if it's appropriate, but don't use it as an excuse. "This didn't happen because ________" is not a great way to talk to customers. "I'm very sorry this didn't happen. We have been very busy lately & are working on hiring an extra person to help out with this" is much better. I've never been argued with as much as with an apartment office. I don't want to argue-- I just want someone to care about the situation. They don't even have to fix it (as often it's 'not in their control'), they just have to care.
4) Outright lying: Of course we have the bait & switch. "We have a newborn & a dog- will you let us know before construction workers come & redo the cabinets?" "Of course! We can just call ahead." In reality, I had people coming in & out constantly. They were from a 3rd party construction company that didn't have company ID badges. So anyone dressed like a construction worker was supposed to just come right in & make themselves at home with me & my newborn baby.
When we were doing newborn pictures in our living room with my 8 day old baby? People were barging in left & right. I'd gotten used to it, but seeing the horror in the others faces made me realize-- this is not okay. They will say just about anything to get you to sign that lease. "Tell me more about this non-refundable 'secure deposit.'" "Oh, when you move out, it covers any damages, up to $500!" In reality, it's an insurance policy that covers the apartment complex up to $500 if they have to file a claim. And if they have to file a claim, the insurance company comes after us to pay for the claim.
Then there was the time I returned to my apartment with my 2 week old baby to find that the entire place smelled like paint thinner, which they'd used on the cabinets. They were fully aware that I had a baby, as they'd been there nearly every day since we got home from the hospital. I needed to pump, my baby needed a nap, and I couldn't even go inside my own place because I didn't want it to harm her. I was on the phone, in tears. Of course, no one at the office answered, so I had to go there in person.
They typically have high turnover in employees, so they often don't suffer the consequences of lying. By the time that tenant goes to move out, that employee is long gone. The apartment offers up that that's the reason why they're gone. *insert eye roll here*
I could go on & on with stories like those. You feel ridiculous to get every little thing written & signed, but it's what you have to do. They make promises and will do whatever it takes to get a tenant in the door.
Don't get me wrong... I know there are places here & there that are totally great to their current tenants. You don't hear of those places very much because, well, they're not advertising for new tenants! They already have great tenants & are pretty good at keeping them.
Bottom line: Care about people. Future tenants are important, but if an apartment complex does their job well, then they won't have to worry about getting as many future tenants.
If you're interested, I have plenty of additional stories about apartment living. My stories are pretty mild compared to others!