Every real estate investor should at least consider rental property ownership. Just one quality rental property can provide you with short term cash flow as well as long term appreciation potential. As any landlord can tell you owning a rental property is not enough. You need to constantly stay on top of the property and always look for good tenants. In most cases the quality of your tenants determines the ease of management. If you have a good tenant that respects your property and pays on time they are worth their weight in gold. These tenants should go the extra mile to be retained. The seemingly basic things you do for the property and your tenant can make all the difference. Here are five simple tips to keep your tenants happy and your property rented.
- Communication. If you opt to self-manage your rental you are the sole point of contact with your tenant. This means you need to plan on making yourself available at all times. Your tenant should not be viewed as a burden or someone who is bothering you. They are paying your mortgage down and providing you with surplus cash every month. The truth is, if they want to stop paying there isn’t much you can do. Sure, you have the security deposit and can start eviction but that can take several months and cost thousands of dollars. It is much easier to keep an open line of communication to ensure your tenant is happy. There will be several texts, voicemails and emails that seem unnecessary to you but are important to them. It will probably take you less than five minutes to respond but by doing so you show your tenant you are active with the property. The more open you are to communication the more likely they will remain in the property.
- Clearly define rules. The goal shouldn’t just be to find a tenant, sign a lease and quickly move on to other business. Your tenant will be in the property for at least nine months, and hopefully more. One of the ways to help make their time in the property smooth and enjoyable is by slowing things down and walking through the lease. What may be obvious to you may not be so much to your tenants. If there are any rules specific to you and the property you need to make your tenant is aware. Never assume they have read the lease line by line and know everything that is on it. Go over your policies on smoking, pets, snow removal, lawn care and parking. Ask them if they have any questions or if there is anything they would like to know. By getting everything on the table prior to moving in you eliminate any potential questions or conflicts down the road. The more the tenants know and understand the policies the less likely they are to break them.
- Maintenance. How you respond to maintenance requests can make or break your rental property. You need to acknowledge that there will be a handful of unnecessary requests over the course of the lease, especially if you are renting to students or first-time renters. However, any requests that impact the living conditions must be deal with immediately. A clogged toilet or a broken lock on the back door may not seem ultra-important to you but are essential to your tenants. You don’t need to drop what you are doing and drive to the house immediately, but you should have a handful of people you can call that will get the job done within 24 hours. By making your tenant wait a few days to repair or replace a major appliance they will lose confidence in your ability to manage the rental. Instead of going the extra mile to take care of things they will slowly neglect the property. This neglect adds up over the course of the lease and will be see when your tenant moves out.
- Avoid unexpected check ins. There is a certain amount of leeway you must give your tenants if you want them to stay in your property. The best tenants are the ones that feel they are at home in your rental. If you are constantly showing up unexpected or unannounced they will look to leave regardless of how much they love the property. Not only are unexpected visits uncomfortable but they may be in violation of your lease. If you have any work you want to do you should give your tenants at least 48 hours’ notice. This doesn’t mean you can’t call, text or email and see how things are going but you shouldn’t knock on the door whenever you feel like it.
- Ask about renewal. It is amazing how many landlords fail to ask their tenants if they want to stay in the property. Your tenant may not know they have the option if they are already in the property. At about the 90 day out mark you should reach out and get a feel if they would like to renew. If you have done a good job with the management, there is a good chance they will. Ask them for a decision in the next 30 days or prior to the 60 day out mark. If you don’t ask you never know what your tenant may be thinking.
How well you manage the property often reflects the type of tenants you have. The simple things you do often have the biggest impact.