Many people forget that being a landlord means you are running a business. Just like any other business owner, you need to cultivate a healthy relationship with your customers – your tenants. That will not only help retain their business in the form of renewed leases, it will also encourage them to respect and care for your property. That keeps down your turnover expenses and your repair costs. Here are some of the best ways to cultivate strong landlord-tenant relationships:
If you are self-managing your property and live locally, introduce yourself to the tenants. Welcome them to the neighborhood. If practicable, meet them at home to walk them through it and point out any details they might otherwise miss. This could be the location of the gas and water shut-off valves or an explanation of how the irrigation system works. Not only will this save you disruptive phone calls later on, but it also creates a connection. You become a real human being, not just an entity to which they send a monthly rent check.
Keeping up on maintenance is just part of properly caring for your property, and it can keep expenses lower in the long run by preventing catastrophic failures and emergency replacements. It’s also an important part of keeping your tenants happy. Sweating out on summer days because the air conditioning is down isn’t going to make them feel great about you or your property. Routine maintenance and inspections can prevent downtime for major systems. It also shows you are being conscientious and trying to keep the home functioning well for the tenants.
This is your property, but it is your tenant’s home. Show them you respect that by minimizing disruptions. Give plenty of notice before any necessary visits or inspections. If you need to enter the property on short notice or grant entry to a worker, give as much notice as possible and acknowledge the disruption. Most states have laws regarding notification length for visits. Make sure you follow those, but when feasible, give even more notice. If you aren’t sure about the tenant laws in your area, that’s a great reason to work with a real estate investment firm.
While you don’t need to go overboard with the latest and greatest trends in home design, occasional strategic upgrades demonstrate your commitment to your property and your tenants. As a bonus, carefully selected upgrades can help you collect higher rents and may even save money over time. Upgrading from carpet, which most people find less-than-desirable in living spaces, to a hard-wearing luxury vinyl plank floor, for example, will show prospective tenants that you are committed to keeping up the home. That makes them feel secure that you aren’t going to allow the house to fall down around them. And as a bonus, those new floors will clean and wear better than carpet, meaning lower costs between tenants and a longer life for the floors.
Generally speaking, you will want to save upgrades for periods between tenants so your customers aren’t disrupted by the work. However, if the upgrade will greatly improve the home, they may be willing to deal with some minor inconveniences in exchange for a better living experience. When in doubt, you can always ask them whether they’d prefer you hold off on an upgrade so they don’t have to live through the work or do it now so they can start benefiting right away. And that brings us to our next point:
Sometimes, disruptions can’t be helped. You may realize that your roof needs replacing. If the work can’t wait until the lease ends in six months, there’s little you can do about that. But you can communicate clearly with your tenants about what they can expect, and you can acknowledge the inconvenience. That can look like just a sincerely worded note, or you might consider sending over a gift card to cover dinner for the night. A small investment in a token gift can purchase a great deal of goodwill. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can say or do to placate a frustrated tenant, but you can certainly acknowledge their feelings and apologize. You can also explain why the work must be performed immediately.
If your tenants reach out about a question or issue, it’s critical that you respond quickly. This is one reason many people opt to use a property manager, but if you are self-managing, be prepared for calls on a Sunday afternoon about a leaking toilet or the raccoon family the tenant has just discovered in the attic. Responding quickly, even if it is just to say you’ve received the message and will be calling pest control on Monday morning, generates trust and goodwill.
Choose the Right Properties
How can property selection help you have a good relationship with your tenants? Different property types are going to attract different types of tenants. An inexpensive condo in a college town may attract tenants who are more likely to disrupt the neighbors or cause damage than a single-family home in the suburbs. Property selection drives not only your profits but your likelihood of certain types of tenant issues.
It can be challenging to determine which neighborhoods will have the best rentals. If you don’t have an in-depth knowledge of various neighborhoods in the areas you are looking to purchase your property, you can seek out assistance from a property investment company. It’s their job to understand local markets and steer you toward the properties with the best investment potential. All the hard work is done for you.
The bottom line to establishing and maintaining a healthy, respectful relationship with your tenants is professionalism. Treat your investment property like a business and your tenants like valued customers. Your professionalism can make difficult conversations easier and can encourage your tenants to respect your time and property because you’ve shown you respect their time and their home.