The primary objective for owning rental real estate is to make money. Landlords can facilitate meeting this objective by running their property like a business and treating their tenants well. A happy tenant is one more likely to stick around for the long term.
There are many money related issues with being a landlord. The most expensive and time consuming period, other than the initial purchase and renovation, is the turnaround phase after a tenant leaves. Repairs, cleaning, advertising, interviews, and background checks all need to be accomplished before a new tenant can move in. The fewer number of times a landlord devotes to those tasks the better.
With that in mind, here are some things I’m doing to help my tenants enjoy their stay.
Nothing irritates a tenant more than a landlord who doesn’t respond to requests for service. There is simply no reason to ignore the maintenance and repair needs of a tenant. Yet that is the attitude many landlords have. They drag their feet on repairs because they are cheap, lazy and don’t view the need as a priority.
I’ve developed a system to respond to tenant phone calls or emails for maintenance within 24 hours. If the message sounds urgent, I respond immediately. Ignoring a tenant without the basics of water or heating and cooling could lead to legal action against the landlord.
The goodwill a landlord will build with the tenant by doing this one simple thing cannot be overstated. It’s probably the biggest tactic a landlord can use to keep tenants long term.
Discounts for Longer Rental Terms
In our rental property business, we offer three main rental terms of varying lengths for the tenant to choose from – 6 months, 1 year and 2 year. Any shorter than 6 months and turnover happens to quickly. Any longer than two years and rent can’t be raised consistently enough.
Each of these terms represent a different pricing structure, with the shortest being the most expensive. Most don’t choose that option, signing up instead for the 1-year term. However, we’ve had several tenants choose the 2-year term to gain the reduction in monthly rent that is charged. It makes sense if they see themselves staying put for at least that duration of time.
And the benefit to me is that I have someone locked in for two years. That reduces turnover costs and the time associated with finding new tenants.
Be Respectful of Emergencies
Life happens to all of us. The next emergency situation is right around the corner. Tenants are no different. So when a big emergency comes up in their lives be respectful of it.
I recently had a tenant who had to deal with a $1,000+ car repair. This was going to keep her from paying the monthly rent on time. She communicated with me about her need, I told her she could pay a couple weeks late and that was the end of it. She followed through and paid when we had agreed.
I didn’t completely let her off the hook as she still had to pay late fees but I wasn’t hard-lined either and start eviction procedures because she was a couple of weeks late. A landlord has to develop a balance in that area and be understanding of what is happening in their tenant’s lives. There is no need to be a jerk when someone is going through a life trauma.
Other Little Deals That Are a Big Deal
A few other things I am doing in our business to treat our tenants well include:
Allowing them to have pets. We charge an extra monthly fee per pet for this because we will have to clean the property once they move.
Supplying them with extras. Consider purchasing items for the property to entice a prospective tenant to sign up. We’ve purchased washers and dryers before and then charged the tenant a monthly fee for the use of that appliance. The same could be done with things like lawnmowers, microwaves, or other upgrade requests like the installation of ceiling fans.
Letting them decorate within reason. There should be no reason why tenants can’t hang pictures on the wall. I’ve even let tenants pick a new paint color for the walls, provided I or a professional could do the painting.
Giving them special gifts. Tenants love gifts! I always provide a “Welcome to Your New Home” gift basket that is ready for the tenants as they move in. A birthday or the yearly anniversary of living in the property are also special times to give a gift card as a way of saying “Thank You” for sticking to their agreement.
These simple things done by the landlord can go a long way in promoting some goodwill with the tenant. It may cost a little money but the long-term rewards of tenant happiness and longevity are definitely worth it.
What other tips do you have for treating tenants well? What’s the coolest thing a landlord has ever done for you?