Ask almost any tenant or landlord about the greatest downfall of the landlord-tenant relationship and you will hear the same answer, “poor communication.” This communication failure is unfortunate, as it frequently leads to animosity from both parties.
Building a strong and lasting relationship between you and your tenant will go a long way in making your life easier and reducing a number of turnovers your rental property sees. Fewer turnovers equal fewer expenses for you and a better ability to make a profit off your rental.
The landlord-tenant relationship starts from the very first interaction you have with your new tenant. Laying the groundwork early on will go a long way towards a successful future. Considering most landlord-tenant relationship last a year or more, investing in this relationship will save both parties time and money.
Put A Professional Foot Forward
As a landlord, you need to create a professional relationship from the get-go. Whether the first time you meet your new tenant is at a property showing or is during the application process, start out on the right foot. For new landlords, it may feel awkward at first to step into the role of a landlord, but with time it becomes easier.
When you first meet a new tenant, greet them warmly and with a handshake. While you want to be professional, you do not need to come across aloof or unkind. First impressions go a long way, and a tenant who feels like you are fair and friendly will be more likely to treat you with respect as well.
Learn your tenant’s name and use it. People respond better to a personalized message. You will be working with your tenant for likely a year or more, so take the time to get to know them a little. While the goal is not to be their best friend, you do want to portray that you care about their experience as your tenant.
Communicate Clearly & Set Expectations Early On
When you choose a new tenant for the property, make sure you start the relationship with crystal clear communication. One of the biggest downfalls between landlords and tenants is misunderstandings about responsibilities, expectations, and lease requirements.
Take the time to make sure your tenant understands important aspects of your lease. Some items worth covering include:
- The day rent is due and what happens if your tenant is late.
- Who will be responsible for the maintenance of the yard, if applicable.
- The best way they can reach you if they need to.
- Who they should contact in the case of a maintenance need.
- Who they should contact and how in case of an emergency (e.g. burst pipes at 1 am).
- What your pet policy is. If you do allow pets, how they should notify you of any pets in the future.
- Whether or not they are allowed to make any changes to the property and how to inform you if so.
- The consequences for breaking their lease agreement.
While you may feel like providing a written lease agreement is enough in and of itself, going over some of the important aspects of the lease will ensure everything is understood up front. Unfortunately, many tenants neglect to read their lease thoroughly, and while you are still protected legally by your lease, you can wind up with breakdowns in communication due to the lack of understanding. When things are communicated kindly and professionally up front, there is less room for excuses or hurt feelings later.
Learn To Be Firm
If being assertive isn’t your strong point, start learning how to become better at it now. Keep in mind, assertive doesn’t mean aggressive. You don’t need to be harsh, but you do need to be firm. For example, if you and the tenant signed a lease with an agreement to accept the property as is and the tenant later sends you requests for major upgrades to the property, you will need to handle the situation assertively. In this case, the assertive response will be clearly communicating that the lease agreement was for the current condition of the property and that you cannot make the requested changes at this time. An unnecessary and aggressive response would be rudely informing them they are out of line and that you have no interest in providing any upgrades to the property.
You will also need to practice being assertive when it comes to rent being paid on time. While you want to be friendly and kind to your tenants, you also need to ensure that you don’t send mixed signals. If for example, you continually excuse their late payments, they may feel like the due date is arbitrary.
Use Your Best Judgment
Part of being a landlord will be learning to use your best judgment to handle the landlord-tenant relationship. If for example, you have a responsible tenant who always pays rent on time and always holds up their end of the lease, you might make a judgment call to give them grace on a late payment one month because an oversight really did happen.
Remember, your tenants are people just like you. They want a secure and peaceful place to live the same way you do. The best way to create a strong relationship with your tenants is to treat them with respect.
Stay In Communication
A sure-fire way to ruin a relationship with tenants is to never respond to them. Even if they ask for something you cannot provide, get back to them in a timely manner. If they tell you about a maintenance request, make sure you handle it in a respectful time period. Just as you would not want to be without an important appliance or deal with a leaking roof, your tenants can quickly become frustrated if repairs are not handled in a reasonable time frame.
Conversely, good tenants should stay in contact with you as well. If you have a request for them or a question, they should respond in a timely manner. By both parties staying connected, you can prevent miscommunication, hard feelings, and tenants taking problems into their own hands.
Create A Better Relationship Through Tenant Screening
One of the best ways to prevent a horrific relationship with your tenants is to rent to responsible, respectable renters. The best way to find good tenants is to screen tenants properly. By weeding out applicants who have multiple evictions in their history, poor credit, and sketchy backgrounds, you can start the whole process off on a better foot. (As always follow the guidelines of the Fair Housing Act to ensure you are within your legal bounds for refusing an applicant. When in doubt, talk to a local attorney.)
When you find responsible tenants, work hard to keep them. Make sure your tenants remain happy, that way you can continue to receive your rent payments on time. This will lower your costs as a landlord, leaving two happy and satisfied parties.