While the benefits of keeping your tenants happy are pretty obvious, the methods of attracting and retaining a happy tenant are sometimes easy to forget. A landlord who takes care of both their property and their renters is going to enjoy higher profits (reduced turnover and lower maintenance costs) and less stress (not as many tenant complaints and fewer vacancies).
It is helpful to think of your tenants as your business clients. What are some of the techniques you would use to develop and retain loyal customers?
PUTTING YOUR UNIT’S BEST FACE FORWARD
Your rental unit is your product. When it’s time to put it up for lease, take a good look at it as if you were seeing it for the first time. What kind of impression is it going to make on a prospective tenant? If your property is not well-maintained, it might cause the renter to wonder if you also neglect the interior or even the structure of the building. It’s trite but true: you have only one opportunity to make a good first impression. The first way to impress a potential tenant is to make your property welcoming and attractive–a place they will want to come home to.
Keep the grounds in good shape and repaint the exterior of the building when needed. As for the interior of a vacant unit, invest in a cleaning crew to make it spotless. Have your handyman fix such things as cabinets that won’t stay closed, water leaks and carpet that is badly stained. These fairly inexpensive efforts are a good investment. They indicate to the tenant that the property should be respected and that you expect them to return it to you in the same pristine condition.
A bonus derived from handing over the key to a well-maintained property is that it will be easier to identify any damage done to it when the tenant moves out.
In an area where most of the available rentals are comparable to yours, your property needs to stand out from the crowd. High-tech security systems, surveillance cameras and additional safety locks are now on tenants’ must-have lists. Environmentally conscious renters also appreciate recycling bins.
Upgrades like hardwood flooring, energy-efficient stainless steel appliances, air conditioning and highspeed internet are desirable features that can be offered without expensive construction costs. The ability to pay rent online has become a popular feature during the pandemic that tenants may want to continue using in the future.
If you allow pets in your rentals, provide a designated dog run. This feature will not only make pet owners happy, but it will also add an amenity that is unique while helping keep your grassy areas green and sanitary.
SELECTING THE RIGHT TENANT FOR YOUR PROPERTY
When you have a happy tenant that pays their rent on time and treats your rental like their own, it in turn makes you happy. But nothing makes a landlord more unhappy than a tenant who doesn’t pay their rent as agreed upon or who writes bad rent checks. To protect yourself, your property and your relationships with your other tenants, you need to make an educated decision about your applicants to minimize the possibility of renting to a “bad apple.”
Bottom line: Be careful who you are leasing to. Always begin the process with a comprehensive tenant background check that will give you any criminal, eviction, previous address tenant history and other negative information about the applicant.
HAPPINESS BEGINS WITH MOVING DAY
So, now that you have filled your vacancy, how do you keep it occupied?
Having reliable, rent-paying tenants in your property is good for your business and begins with the signing of the lease agreement. Be sure your contract clearly states what is expected of all parties. Beyond the monthly rent and utilities, your agreement should spell out who’s responsible for what in the event that repairs are needed. If the property you’re renting includes a yard, be clear about who will maintain it.
Don’t forget to do a walk-through of the space with your tenant prior to move-in to record any pre-existing damage you may have missed when you were doing your pre-listing inspection. Having your handyman fix these damages will make the new tenant happy and impress them with your desire to deliver a picture-perfect home for them to live in.
Start your new tenants off with an unexpected welcome. While a bouquet of flowers or a gift certificate to a neighborhood restaurant would be a very pleasant surprise, just a phone call on moving day would be enough to start your relationship off on a good note. Offer contact information for you and/or your management team to ensure quick responses for problems or repairs.
IN IT FOR THE LONG TERM
Once they’ve moved in, it’s important to maintain good communication with your tenants by responding to their calls or texts as quickly as possible. Renewal day comes sooner than you expect and you want your tenant to be re-signing with you and not another landlord.
At the top of most tenants’ lists of frustrations is not having their maintenance requests taken care of in a timely manner. Broken appliances and plumbing can completely disrupt your renter’s ability to function. Scheduling a repairman only takes a few minutes. This kind of customer service is often a big deciding factor when your renter is considering a lease renewal.
Regularly inspecting the home’s condition will help you stay on top of maintenance items that need to be addressed and that the tenant may not have noticed. Such vigilance can help keep smaller maintenance tasks from turning into larger issues and let your tenant know that they’re important to you by proactively taking care of any needed repairs without delay.
It can be tempting to raise rents up to the maximum legal amount. However, offering good tenants a rent that is slightly below market rates can be a powerful retention tool, potentially saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in turnover costs.
WILL THEY STAY OR WILL THEY GO?
It’s almost the end of the lease and time to find out if your tenant plans to renew it. Be proactive and reach out to your tenant about 90 days before their lease is set to expire to discuss their plans.
If they have decided to move out and you want them to stay, ask what you can do to change their mind. It might be a small, easily rectified issue. Offer a reduced rent increase for the new lease. Consider the costs of re-renting a unit, including advertising, preparing the property for showing, leasing agent commission and lost rent. The reduced increase could be a cost-effective strategy.
A happy tenant makes for a happy landlord by paying their rent on time, respecting the rental property and renewing their lease when it is up. Remembering to run your rental business just as you would any other customer-based business will result in higher profits and a great reputation that will attract even more happy tenants.