Updated: Sep 17, 2021
Many paths lead to the top of the mountain.
RentLab looks at all kinds of things when we develop Smart Living Scores for properties: energy and water efficiency, location (walkability, bikeability, greenspace and transit access), waste management practices, and support for struggling tenants (e.g. access to eviction diversion programs), and more. This means there are LOTS of ways to improve your score, your affordability, your environmental footprint, and the quality of life you offer your tenants.
Here are a few ideas to start with.
Share information about your property with RentLab: We reward properties just for sharing information! Share info on efficiency and sustainability upgrades already completed OR planned for the future, utility costs, general sustainability features of your property (including double-paned windows, updated appliances, recycling access, covered bike parking) etc.
Change the way you charge for utilities: Adopt best practices for utility billing - for example, by retaining control over utility accounts and giving tenants a utility "budget" to spur conservation. Under this scenario, a unit might have an electric budget of $25/bedroom. If tenants exceed the budget, they pay the balance (thus encouraging conservation). If they stay within the budget, they pay no additional fees. This simplifies the unit turnover process, reduces tenant admin fees paid to utilities, and helps you keep track of both tenant behavior and building performance concerns.
Make basic energy and water upgrades. We reflect these improvements directly in the score and on the property dashboard. If your property is a typical one- to four-unit building, you'll usually get the best bang for your buck by sealing and insulating the attic and the basement or crawlspace (or adding insulation if there's not enough). For all types of buildings, improving the building envelope (insulating, sealing leaks) and updating old equipment (older than 15 years or so) can do a lot to improve building performance.
Upgrade your lighting. If you still use incandescent or metal-halide lighting, an upgrade to LED will pay for itself within three to four years. LED lights are also safer than both metal-halide and fluorescent lighting since they do not contain hazardous materials like mercury.
Explore and participate in local efficiency or incentive programs. Most cities offer bonus points for participating properties through the RentLab platform.
Provide recycling services for your tenants, and make it easy. Properties with recycling services onsite earn more points than those without. You also get extra points for making it simple, like by providing multiple collection points for larger properties and educational materials so tenants know what to recycle and when.
Explore installing solar. If you pay the energy bills, solar can reduce your costs significantly, and typically pays for itself in about 10 years. Even if your tenants pay the bills, solar is increasingly popular and a great marketing tool, and will reduce your property's environmental footprint and our overall burden on infrastructure.
Help connect tenants with eviction prevention and other supportive housing programs, and accept Section 8 / Housing Choice Vouchers. Properties that work with tenants proactively to avoid eviction and attain stable housing score higher.
This list is not comprehensive! There are so many other ways to make your property better, retain your tenants longer, and cut your operating costs and your impact on the planet.
For more info on the Smart Living Score, visit here.
Know of a property or landlord taking measures to make their properties better? Or unique approaches to sustainability that you want to share? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org