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How to Keep Good Tenants – and Your Sanity – By Robert S. Griswold, MBA

Posted on 01. Apr, 2014 by in all

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An occupied rental unit is the key to your success as a property manager.  Yet, this basic fact is something many rental property owners quickly forget.  Advertising your vacancy, having a well-polished presentation, knowing all the latest sales closing techniques, implementing a thorough tenant screening program and moving in your prized tenants with amazing efficiency are all key parts of your job.  But the reality is that the day your tenant moves in is the day your most important job (keeping your good tenants satisfied and happy) begins.

You want your best tenants to stay and pay.  If you offer a quality rental experience at a reasonable price, you’ll have lower turnover than other rental properties.  You can achieve this goal by treating tenants with the same personal attention and courtesy you demonstrated when you first spoke to them on the phone or gave them a tour of the vacancy.

Knowing what your customers want is the key to success in any business and as a rental property owner your tenants are your customers.  In this article, I will let you know what most tenants are looking for in a rental experience so that you can make sure you are meeting those needs.  I will also give you some tips on getting to the point where your tenants not only enjoy their experiences at your property, but want to renew their leases.

Knowing What Tenants Want

If you’re trying to raise your level of tenant satisfaction (and that should always be your goal), you need to determine what your tenants want how to deliver that to them.

Timely and Effective Communication

A variety of issues concerns most tenants – and those issues are usually fairly obvious.  Good tenants don’t like loud or noisy neighbors, unkempt common areas, broken or unserviceable items in their units or unsubstantiated rent increases.  Fortunately, most of these problems can be solved if you have good communication and follow-through.

The one problem that tenant’s don’t ignore is a landlord’s apathy.  If you seem uncaring or nonchalant about tenants’ concerns, they’ll get the message that you don’t value their business.  The perception of apathy is often created by the unwillingness or failure to communicate.  If you give your tenants the impression that you only care about them when their rent is late, you’re headed straight down that apathy path.

Keep your tenants informed.  No one likes surprises and tenants are no different.  If the pest control company cancels its service call, let your tenants know right away. If the walk-through with your new lender has been changed to earlier, call or e-mail your tenants instead of arriving unexpectedly with a weak apology. Common courtesy goes a long way.

Quick Responses to Maintenance Requests

One way to set your rental management apart from your competition is to handle tenant maintenance requests quickly and professionally.  Providing prompt resolution to your tenants’ problems keeps them happy.

A very common complaint about rental owners is that they’re unwilling to maintain and especially upgrade their rental units for current tenants.  In my experience, this complaint is valid.  Refusing to repaint, re-carpet or upgrade the appliances for a great tenant makes no sense.  After all, if you don’t do it for the great tenant you already have and that tenant gets frustrated with your lace of effort and moves out, you have to do the work anyway in order to be competitive in the rental market and attract a new, unproven tenant.

Treating your tenants as important customers can be the best decision you ever make.  When working with a tenant concern or complaint, try to ask yourself how you’d want to be treated.  Treating your tenants in this manner makes your tenant relations much more pleasant, dramatically decreases your tenant turnover and improves your net income – a win-win situation for all!

Consistent Respect for Their Privacy

A vast majority of tenants hate rental owners who fail to respect their privacy. In the case of emergency, always leave a note indicating that you had to enter the rental unit – include the date and time, as well as the reason.

The minimum required written notice of entry is 24 hours in most states.  Your request for entry should only involve normal business hours.  Some rental owners feel that as long as they give proper legal notice, they can enter the rental whenever they want.  However, I recommend limiting your entry to Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. unless the tenant voluntarily agrees to a different time.

Even though you own the property, the last thing you want your tenants to feel is that their home isn’t really theirs.  If you don’t respect your tenants’ privacy in their own home, they’ll be less likely to show respect for you or your rental property during or at the end of their tenancy.

Equal Enforcement of House Rules

A frequent source of tenant complaints is the rental property owner’s failure to enforce reasonable house rules – the policies and regulations you set for your property.  In fact, good tenants actually want and appreciate fair and reasonable policies and rules.  They know that they’re going to be quiet and respectful of their neighbors and they want to know that their neighbors must reciprocate.

Tenants talk to one another and they quickly discover if you have different rules for different tenants.  Inconsistent or selective rule enforcement has legal implications.  For example, you may think that waiving a late fee for a tenant you’ve known for years but charging the late fee to anew tenant in similar circumstances is okay.  After, all, you’ve known the first tenant longer and you’re willing to forgive that oversight once in a while, right?  Wrong.  You can’t have different interpretations of the rules because the legal consequences you face are severe.

One of the most effective ways to be successful in the rental housing business is to retain those tenants who are your best customers.  Reducing turnover not only keeps the rental income flowing in but also lowers your expenses.  The tenant retention process starts the moment the tenant moves in.

Robert Griswold is a hands-on property manager with more than 30 years of experience, having managed more than 800 properties representing more than 45,000 rentals.  He owns and runs Griswold Real Estate Management, Inc. with offices in southern California and southern Nevada.  His book Property Management for Dummies is available at www.LandlordBooks.com.  For more information, visit www.griswoldremgmt.com.