An Apartment Tail: Fievel Goes to the Dumpster

I’ve lived in an apartment for over three years now, so naturally I’ve learned a few tricks.

Take pest management, for example. A few weeks ago my roommate thrust a chewed-up piece of saltwater taffy in my face, disrupting the quiet time I had requested while watching “Bachelor Pad.” She had discovered the gnawed taffy on the floor of her closet and could only assume one thing: we had a mouse.<--break->

Now, I do not deal well with mice. The thought of them in my living quarters makes me sick to my stomach. So naturally I demanded that my roommate immediately go out and buy traps while I curled up in the fetal position and tried to concentrate on my reality TV.

Sure enough, Fievel was crushed a few days later in the trap we placed in the kitchen. Apparently we both share a love of peanut butter.

The sight of the mouse was too much for my roommate and me to handle, and we spent the next 30 minutes yelling, standing on various chairs, dry heaving, and begging the other to dispose of the gruesome crime scene. It was eventually decided that my roommate would be the one responsible for throwing the mouse into the garbage can, and I would run said body bag outside to the Dumpster.

The entire incident—including me sprinting faster that Usain Bolt—was rather scarring. But I also learned some valuable lessons about apartment living—namely, that you shouldn’t keep taffy in your closet.

Following are a few more apartment industry insights, provided by independent rental owners (IROs) Mike Butler, Dan Lieberman, Brent Sobol and James Stewart during the session “60 Tips from Pros With 60 Years of Experience” held at the 2012 Education Conference & Exposition in June in Boston.

1. You’re not Walmart—raise your prices. The rent typically varies up to $100 per month for similar communities in the same market. If you provide a superior product and services, you should be at the top of that range.

2. When residents submit service requests have maintenance technicians take before and after pictures to document that the problem was fixed. Give maintenance technicians a bonus if they find a dirty or missing air filter—or destroyed candy wrappers—while already there filling a work order in the resident’s apartment.

3. Encourage residents to do the selling for you through testimonials. Most owners are afraid to ask for referrals or simply don’t bother. Consider giving employees $5 for each resident testimonial they collect.

4. Create ‘apples to oranges’ comparisons. Make the most of any opportunity to highlight a feature or amenity that you offer that your competition doesn’t. This can be the deciding factor is prospective residents are doing nothing other than comparing communities based on price.

And, if I may, add one more thing: Offer a curbside rodent-pickup service.

For more, check out IRO Insider in the August issue of units, which mailed Aug. 9. The e-version is available here.