Finding good tenants is an important part of maintaining cash flow as a landlord. But even the best renters might end up leaving if you don’t make an effort to maintain positive tenant relations. That’s right: tenant retention depends in large part on how you set the stage for your relationship with renters.
As it turns out, communication is a huge part of maintaining a positive relationship with your tenants. In fact, a failure to respond quickly to tenant requests is the number one reason tenants give for being unhappy with their landlord: 35% of renters who report being unhappy say the reason for their dissatisfaction is that the landlord doesn’t respond to requests fast enough.
That can be frustrating to hear, especially when your response time expectations don’t line up with your tenants’. Regardless of whether you’re on the same page, these five tips can help you maintain excellent tenant relations and boost your tenant retention rate.
1: Agree on Communication Preferences
These days, people are used to communicating through various channels –– texting, phone calls, emails, and apps. And while our tenant survey found that texting is the most popular method for communicating with landlords, only 48% of tenants consider it best –– that’s fewer than half of tenants.
Another 28% like email, 13% prefer phone calls, and 10% like in-person conversations.
It may be a good idea to include something in your welcome letter to tenants like this:
To ensure the fastest possible response, please use the following communication channels fin the given scenarios:
Phone calls to report urgent information (e.g., water gushing out of a pipe).
Email to ask non-urgent questions, submit maintenance requests, or to communicate information that multiple parties need to know.
It’s also a good idea to talk through your preferences with your tenant in person so they can ask questions about how you’d prefer various situations be communicated.
By offering multiple communication channels up front, you make it possible for tenants to communicate in the way they’re most comfortable, which increases the odds that they’ll get in touch when something comes up.
However, once you find out which communication method your tenant prefers, be sure to stick to that one to avoid confusion.
2: Set up a System for Tracking Maintenance Requests
If you’re hoping to boost your tenant retention rates, look no further than your maintenance system. The number-two reason tenants cite for not renewing a lease is that the property isn’t well maintained –– 12% of tenants report moving for this reason.
Maintaining your property is crucial if you want to keep tenants happy and maintain the value of your property.
3: Establish Protocol for Collecting Money for Repairs
Of course, some maintenance requests will arise when tenants themselves cause damage. If you determine that a tenant owes you money for a repair, you’re most likely to get that money if you have a clear process for communicating this message.
Even if you’ll be able to take the payment from the tenant’s security deposit (say, to cover new locks on the unit’s doors after they lose their keys), provide your tenant a written explanation of the cost of the repair at the time it takes place.
This will prevent unpleasant disagreements at the end of the lease, when you’re busy dealing with move-in and move-out proceedings.
4: Have a Process for Communicating about (Late) Rent
Nothing can sour tenant relations like late rent. And even if you consistently screen tenants and conduct credit checks, you’re likely to have at least a few problems with late rent payments during your time as a landlord.
To make sure these inevitable events go as smoothly as possible for both parties, be sure to have a process for handling late payments and to communicate this process to your tenants. Generally, it makes sense to do the following:
Double-check your records. Before taking any action, be 100% sure a tenant is actually late.
Reach out informally. While you don’t legally have to do this, it can be good for tenant relations. Send a quick text or email to check on the state of rent: maybe an otherwise reliable tenant forgot to pay this month or their check got lost in the mail (it happens!). Or maybe they’re experiencing a temporary hardship you can work through with them. Either way, reaching out can help you get a handle on what’s happening.
Send a past-due notice. Assuming the late payment wasn’t an honest mistake, this document should outline all fees a tenant owes and layout what next steps are. You can deliver it by hand, email, or mail, and you should keep a copy for yourself.
Send a Pay or Quit notice. Technically the first step in the eviction process, this should only happen if the tenant fails to pay after receiving a past-due notice. The details matter here, as this is a legal document.
Get an eviction lawyer. If all else fails, you’ll have to start the eviction process. It’s not fun for anyone, so be sure to work with a lawyer who has experience in this field.
Great Tenant Relations Start with Great Communication
Whether your tenants are happy or unsatisfied with you, you won’t know unless you communicate regularly.