Landlords and property managers are a crucial partner in achieving community sustainability, efficiency, and affordability in the rental housing sector.  We rely on these professionals to gather basic details about rentals, and to understand challenges and opportunities that will help make the sector better.  

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How to make your property more sustainable and elevate your Smart Living Score

RentLab's Smart Living Score is based on a broad array of property features, including energy and water efficiency, location (walkability, bikeability, greenspace and transit access), waste management practices, and social support for struggling tenants (e.g. access to eviction diversion programs) and more.  This means there are many ways of improving your score, your environmental footprint, and the quality of life you offer your tenants.  

Most effective measures:

  • 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, general sustainability features of your property (including double-paned windows, updated appliances, access to recycling, covered bike parking), utility costs, etc.

  • Change the way you charge for utilities: Adopt best practices for utility billing, and we'll give you points.  More details on this below.

  • 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 home, you'll 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 (insulation, sealing leaks), evaluating operations for efficiency improvements, and updating old equipment (older than 15 years or so) can do a lot to improve building performance.  See this Department of Energy page for information on saving energy in commercial properties.  Spoiler alert!  Replacing windows is rarely the place to start because the payback is so long.

    • 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, and you get extra points for making it simple, with 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, keeps costs down, and is a great marketing tool. See more below.

  • 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.

Rebates and incentive programs to improve efficiency

Nearly all energy utilities, and many water/sewer utilities, run rebate and incentive programs to encourage efficiency upgrades among their customers.  These range from cash reimbursements for equipment upgrades, to direct-install programs for lighting and other basic improvements, to custom projects tailored to your building's particular needs.  Some require individually metered units, while others address master-metered or common-area improvements.  Programs with and without income eligibility requirements are both available. For a partial summary of the programs offered in your area, see here.

In addition, some local governments offer rebate and incentive program that complement the utility offerings.  These vary as well depending on your location.

The only way to determine what's available is to check locally - if you're having trouble finding this information, reach out to us at