Starting a property management company is a tough business, plain and simple. Landlords deal with the problems of tenants who call to complain constantly, tenants who don’t pay their rent, and what can seem like endless, high dollar property repairs. Buying rental property and becoming a landlord comes with a lot of stress and responsibilities, and all of these things can turn a well-meaning property owner into a jaded landlord.
Oftentimes, as a landlord, it’s easy to start viewing tenants as dollar signs, instead of building a lasting landlord/tenant relationship. But creating a good connection with your tenants and marketing yourself as a great landlord has numerous benefits. It will make working with your tenant on fixing repairs and showing the property to prospective new tenants at the end of a lease go smoother, and your tenants are more likely to renew – possibly even with a rent increase.
Here are seven tips you can utilize to be a great landlord.
1. Customize the Lease
You can get a standard lease form at any office supply store. This will cover basic things like rent, security deposit costs and any legal tenant rights in your state. Use these basic documents as the framework for your own lease. Add in any special rules you have for the property, such as a weight limit on pets. Use as much detail as possible and include everything from late payment fees to maintenance responsibility and tenant’s behavior. A clear cut lease will reduce friction between you and your tenant in the future.
2. Know the Laws
Each state has a landlord and tenant act that covers rent, security deposits, landlord and tenant obligations, tenant’s rights, and evictions. You can get a copy from the Department of Housing office in your area, or online at the Department of Housing website for your state. Get to know these laws well. Violating a tenant’s rights will, at the very least, lead to an unhappy tenant, and at worst, land you in civil court.
3. Make those Repairs
When a tenant calls with repairs, set up a time to come and inspect the damage. If the repair doesn’t fall into the emergency category, set up a time that works best for the tenant. Tenants will respect you more if you let them know ahead of time when you plan to stop in, and many states require this notice legally. Once you inspect the damage, schedule the repair immediately.
State laws handle property management maintenance differently. Some states will allow a tenant to deduct the cost of repairs from his rent if you do not make them in a timely manner. Even if your state doesn’t set a cap on repairs, the faster you make them, the better chance you have at retaining the tenant.
4. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
While you do not want your tenant harassing you at home or calling you at all hours of the day, you do not want to cut yourself off from your tenant completely. Tenants feel more at ease when they know how to get in touch with their landlord. When a tenant moves in, give them your business number right away. Better yet, include an email address where the tenant can reach you. This will cut down on the amount of after-hours calls you get and help you keep a written record of communication between you and your tenant.
5. Respect the Tenant’s Privacy
Several years ago, I moved out of an apartment for rent that I loved simply because the landlord would not stop showing up at odd hours. While I knew he had the right to inspect the property, and I was happy to give him access anytime he asked, repeat visits before 7 AM and after 9 PM led me to not renew the lease at the end of the term and cut out.
Tenants want their privacy. In fact, several states require that you give a tenant notice before you enter the rental. You certainly shouldn’t abandon the rental property altogether, especially if you suspect the tenant may have caused damage, but let the tenant know ahead of time when you plan to stop in. And limit your visits to business hours or the early evening.
6. Listen to the Tenant’s Concerns
Every property management company deals with the odd nosy neighbor, overly concerned tenant, or cranky complainer, but most tenants won’t contact the landlord until they feel they have to. When you get a call from a tenant, listen to his concerns and do the best you can to make him feel like you addressed them. Granted, you cannot do anything about the neighbor’s lawn gnome collection if that neighbor isn’t your tenant, but you can mediate a dispute between two of your own tenants. If you can do something about the problem, tell the tenant you will address it and then do so.
7. Exercise Compassion
Occasionally, tenants will have a problem. Maybe they’re running a day late on their rent payment or they need to let their recently divorced brother sleep on their couch for a couple weeks. Whatever the problem, try and tap into your compassionate side when dealing with your tenants, especially the good ones. If you show tenants a bit of compassion and let them slide (within reasonable boundaries of course), they will remember the kindness. If tenants feel they have a compassionate, understanding landlord and not just a business automaton, they will be more likely to renew their lease or accept a small rent increase.
There doesn’t have to be a huge divide between leaser and leasee. By taking these seven tips into consideration, you can make sure that you’re an attentive, proactive and understanding landlord.
Do you own rental property that you lease out to tenants? How do you keep a positive working relationship between both parties?