Tenant Onboarding for Rental Properties – Definition, Best Practices, and More

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What Is Tenant Onboarding?

Tenant onboarding is the process of introducing tenants to their new homes — it is where the relationship between a tenant and a lettings agent begins so it is important to create a positive, frictionless experience that sets a positive tone. An expertly-managed tenant onboarding process can reduce tenant churn as well as increase operational efficiency on the estate agent or property management side. From an internal standpoint, the goal for estate agents should be to set up a repeatable, well-structured tenant onboarding process that does not require manual ad-hoc tasks. The onboarding experience from the tenant’s point of view should come across as efficient and highly professional i.e. should not involve things like unscheduled phone calls seeking out documents or information tenants had previously submitted. Throughout this post, we will take a closer look at tenant onboarding — what it entails, best practices, challenges and more.

The Tenant Onboarding Process

There are a number of key steps involved in the tenant onboarding process.
  • Tenant application submission: For estate agents, the tenant application submission process primarily involves tenant document and data collection. The estate agent will put together a list of documents and information they need from the tenant and the tenant can send this information on.
  • Tenant application review: The lettings agent will review the tenant’s information, ensuring it is correct and any forms have been completed correctly.
  • Lease signing: Once everything is in order, the tenant can sign the lease agreement.
  • Payment of security deposit and first month rent: Estate agents should ensure the security deposit and first month’s rent are paid in full before proceeding. It is best practice to advise the tenant who will hold the security deposit — whether it will be the estate agents or the landlord.
  • Handover of keys to tenant: The next step is the pivotal moment of handing over the keys to the tenant.
  • Move in: Best practice for estate agents here is to ensure that the property is in pristine condition. Double check any appliances to make sure they are in working order and hire a cleaning company before the tenant moves in.
  • Follow up: One way to maintain the positive relationship established during the onboarding process is to schedule some time for a follow up to ensure everything is in order for the tenant.
  Moving through these steps in a seamless fashion can help to cement the tenant-lettings agent relationship. The letting agent or property manager should strive to ensure that during the tenant onboarding process, the tenant feels informed, valued, and comfortable.  

Tenant Onboarding Challenges

There are a number of challenges that an estate agent or property management company must overcome in order to run a successful tenant onboarding process.
  1. Document and information collection: Collecting tenant information and documentation is a major part of tenant onboarding. Without the right tools and processes in place, document collection can morph into a disorganized mess that eats up valuable hours even days of letting agent time. Collecting tenant documents in an ad-hoc manner through email, sms, and phone calls is less than ideal and will result in documents getting lost and unverified information being stored on tenant records.
  2. GDPR: Collecting tenant information and documents is subject to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Estate agents must ensure their procedures for handing tenant information are in full compliance with GDPR. Failure to comply can result in large fines for the organization.
  3. Professionalism: Tenant onboarding is an opportunity for an estate agent to demonstrate a high level of professionalism to a prospective tenant. If internal procedures around document and information handling are not well-established, this level of disorganization will quickly become apparent to the tenant. Ad-hoc requests for information or, worse still, phoning a tenant to request information that has been temporarily lost or misplaced will result in a loss of tenant confidence. Questions may also arise about the estate agent’s ability to comply with GDPR.
  4. Cyber Security: Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report found that email is the number one vector of cyber threats. For every 10 malware attacks, 9 of them occur via email. One way cyber attacks occur through email is the use of malicious attachments. Estate agents and property management companies who use email to collect tenant documents and information are leaving themselves wide open to the possibility of cyber attack.

Tenant Onboarding Best Practices

There are a number of ways Estate Agents can overcome these challenges.
  1. Tenant Onboarding Software: Identify tools that can solve familiar pain points around data collection and GDPR. As you weigh up which tools to incorporate into your tenant onboarding processes, you should consider questions such as:
    • How long does the software take to roll out?
    • Does it directly address onboarding pain points?
    • Does the onboarding software integrate with existing platforms?
  2. Email: As we have already established, many challenges in the onboarding process arise as a result of the overuse of email. A best practice for forward-thinking Estate Agents is to move away from the use of email in tenant onboarding altogether and incorporate an automated solution. Eliminating email from the onboarding process has the double benefit of removing an attack vector for cyber criminals and also moving away from time-consuming manual data collection.
  3. GDPR: Establish GDPR policies and procedures for your organization. Examine all current processes to identify any current weaknesses and address them as soon as you can either via new manual processes or the introduction of a software tool that addresses this pain point directly.

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