How to Create a Win-Win Relationship for the Both of You!
After you’ve found your tenants, how do you keep them? Establish a friendly, pleasant, business-like relationship with your tenants, so they’ll want to renew again each year. By using one or a few ideas below, you will learn how to keep good tenants. The following are some suggestions that apply to residential landlords, landladies, and property managers.
1. Move-in Gifts
Move-in gifts are a nice way to welcome your new tenants. Place these gifts in the apartment with a red bow on them before the tenant moves in. A (plumber’s) plunger and a garbage disposal wrench, known as an Allen wrench, can work wonders for your tenants. Simple idea, right? These small, practical gift items will come in handy when the plumbing backs up or the garbage disposal stops working. Often overlooked, these items are not something people think of, but these move-in gifts will save you time and money with fewer maintenance trips.
2. Welcoming Gifts
A welcome gift establishes a positive relationship with your good tenants. Present the gift after the first eight to twelve weeks of tenancy. As always, make sure the tenant(s) rent is current before presenting your welcome gift. This effective gesture shows the good tenant(s) you are a thoughtful landlord. A few examples of some welcome gifts are:
- Hanging flower baskets of petunias;
- Small potted flowering plants such as pansies; or,
- Small fruit baskets from your local grocery store.
Present your gift in person. These inexpensive gifts will surprise your tenant(s). And go along way towards building goodwill. This is also a good time to do a quick “look around” inspection. This way you can determine if the tenant is keeping the apartment clean.
Also, take this opportunity to observe any unauthorized move-ins (e.g., a person or pet.) If there was, then politely address the issue immediately. Mail a written letter of notification acknowledging the unauthorized move-in. A copy of the lease should also be mailed to the tenant. Anyways, you will be able to address concerns while you’re there, creating a win-win relationship.
3. Renewal Gifts
Renewal gifts are small reward items of appreciation you may wish to provide to your tenant(s). A small incentive goes a long way. And you’re creating a positive relationship between yourself and the tenant. Here are the benefits of lease renewal:
- You don’t have to advertise for another good tenant;
- You don’t have to screen calls;
- You don’t have to show the apartment only to wait for no-shows;
- You don’t have to build a new relationship with a new tenant; and
- You don’t have to educate new tenants about your do’s and don’ts.
Renewable gift suggestions:
- A gift certificate to a local restaurant;
- A bouquet of fresh cut flowers; or
- A special gift certificate from a local supermarket or gardening supply center
These renewable gifts range from $25 to $50. This amount depends on your budget. And, continues to build a positive relationship with your good tenants. Presenting a renewal gift in person demonstrates a caring attitude about your tenant(s).
Holidays are a great time to acknowledge your good tenant(s). There are a number of holidays to choose from and depending on your time, schedule, and workload this is a personal choice. Generally, a trouble-free idea is to send a non-denominational holiday greeting card, letting your tenant(s) know you’re thinking of them.
Alternatively, such as a week before Thanksgiving, purchase a turkey as a gift, along with one you buy for your own family. This provides the tenant(s) with a nice Thanksgiving meal while saving you time and money. Either way you’re creating another win-win relationship with your good tenants.
Communication and some well-established rules are vital. Let your tenants know your property management schedule. For example, calls regarding minor problems, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. during the week, excluding Sundays. Educating your tenants early is a necessity for your peace of mind. Following are examples of some real life non-medical emergencies.
It’s 9:00 p.m. on a New England Thursday evening. The winds are strong and it’s snowing lightly. The temperature has reached 30 degrees below zero. The phone rings and our tenants are complaining they have no heat. Quickly, a call is made to the oil company. The oil delivery is made and this remedies the situation. The landlord follows-up to make sure everything is o.k. Our tenants know even with freezing temperatures, we do care and act immediately.
Here’s another example, one of our tenants’ decided to use the laundry facility in one of our empty units. We approved her authorization to do laundry. While she was there, she discovered water spraying from underneath the bathroom sink. Already, two inches of water had accumulated. The bathroom and most of the surrounding kitchen is drenched. She called in a panic. “The water is spewing from underneath the bathroom sink,” she says. I was unsure what to do. I called my best friend, my husband, and he remedied the problem within two hours. The tenant did not have to call about this emergency. She chose to, demonstrating the importance of good, strong relationships with your good tenants.
Your property rental maintenance system will increase your real estate value and cash flow. Hence, you will be able to charge a little more rent for the up keep. When you’re scheduling maintenance projects for the year, make a checklist. Your checklist should include preventative maintenance; cosmetic, simple upgrades, and tenant renewals. Below are some simple guidelines for an effective property maintenance system.
- Replace the leaky toilet system;
- Replace worn out faucets;
- Replace a run-down refrigerator;
- Replace an unsafe stove;
- Replace a leaky roof;
- Replace inefficient or a potentially harmful furnace;
- Schedule pest control care;
- Seal cracks to prevent loss of heat or pest intrusion;
- Clean or check the filter in gas heaters;
- Check air conditioning unit for efficiency.
- Cutting, trimming trees, flowers, etc.;
- Landscaping – for example, add crushed stone around the building for extra drainage;
- Painting – freshen up trim, walls, ceilings, floors, railings, lattices, and so forth;
- “Curb appeal;” planting flowers and shrubs, lightly washing the outside of the building.
- Replace old, worn out carpet;
- Replace or install new floors;
- Add ceiling fan(s) to provide extra comfort during summer months;
- Add a microwave.
- Repaint walls, moldings, casings, ceilings;
- Provide new window screens;
- For more ideas, see the long-term tenants of 3 years or more section 10 below.
7. Drive-by or Walk-around Property Inspections
Throughout the winter months, you should drive-by your property every two months. Particularly if you don’t live nearby. Other areas without snowy winters may require more or less property attention. During your drive-bys or walk-around inspections, look for obstructions on the front porch, on the deck or the entranceway.
And depending on your geographic location, pay attention to the condition of the property’s lawn, flowers, and shrubs. In the spring, summer and fall a monthly drive-by or walk-around is sufficient. Below is a list of items to check:
- Bees nest – If it’s small and you know you can remove it safely then do so. The best time to remove a bee’s nest is in the morning. It’s cold and the bees are not flying in and out as much. If you’re unsure ask the person at the local hardware store for help. Pick up a can of bee spray eradicator while you’re there. However, a professional pest control company is the easiest solution to remove the nest safely.
- Clutter on the front and back porches or decks;
- Water to the outside hose is turned off;
- Lawn is mowed;
- Do you need to paint the exterior of the house, steps, fire escape, garage, etc.?
- Do you need to tar or replace the drive way or roof?
- Observe any illegal or excessive activity by the tenants.
- If the tenant happens to be outside ask if they have any concerns or requests.
Are people going in and out of the property to frequently?
8. Walk through Inspections
Property inspections are a positive way to build strong relationships with your good tenants. Tenants who call with small problems are often viewed as pesky tenants. However, inspections performed quarterly or bi-annually will likely make your tenants more comfortable. Good tenants prefer telling you their maintenance problems in person rather than over the phone. You can also correct most tenant problems immediately.
9. Death in the Family
Acknowledging a good tenants loss is a courteous and warm gesture. Send the tenant(s) a sympathy card, a bouquet of flowers, or a catered platter of food. This goes a long way towards building a long-lasting relationship with your tenant(s).
10. Long-term Tenants of Three Years or More
If you have developed a positive, respectful relationship with your tenant and they renew their lease, than consider their renewal a job well done on your part. Tenants who renew and have been in good standing with you over the last few years will appreciate some updated interior features. Below are a few ideas to make your tenant feel good while increasing your property’s value at the same time.
- Install new carpeting;
- Paint walls, casings, or ceilings;
- Add a used dishwasher or replace the existing one;
- Add a paper towel holder;
- Add a garbage disposal or replace the existing one;
- Provide new screens;
- Provide new light fixtures;
- Provide a new medicine cabinet; or
- Provide a new toilet seat.
11. Good Tenants Recommending Other Possible Tenants
Good tenants will gladly recommend other tenants because the new tenants will become their neighbors. Besides, your property is the tenant’s home and they are more apt to suggest helpful, pleasant, compatible neighbors. In addition, establishing a finder’s fee program is an excellent incentive to encourage your tenants to introduce you to responsible, prospective renters allowing you to minimize your advertising costs and the hassles related to finding new renters, while potentially signing on another good tenant.
Certainly, any finder’s fee program should be in writing, and possibly reviewed by your attorney, so that both the landlord and tenant understand how the program works, specifically how and when fees are to be paid. Retaining good tenants could create an endless pipeline of prospective tenants for you by your tenant’s word of mouth rather than employing traditional, cost-prohibitive methods.
One warning: The same due diligence should be followed with any tenants referred to you by tenants presently renting from you so that you don’t run into problems later on.
12. Provide your good tenant(s) an Information For Your Apartment Form
The Information For Your Apartment Form is important when you or your property manager cannot be reached. Below is a list of subjects the form should include:
- Window areas;
- Air conditioning unit;
- Walls and ceilings;
- Emergency phone numbers;
- Contact manager information.
You can view, the complete form at [http://www.my-real-estate-software.com/apartment.html], so you can keep your good tenants happy and prevent those annoying middle of the night phone calls!
As you begin to integrate these suggestions into the management of your property or properties, you’ll learn how to keep good tenants. When you respect, train, and show some generosity you will create a win-win relationship for the both of you that can last over twenty years or more. Good luck and happy managing!
Derrick is a Memphis native specializing in locating, purchasing, renovating and managing single-family and multi-unit properties and possesses over 8 years of experience in real estate investing and property management in the Memphis and Nashville markets… Learn More…… www.memphisbuyandhold.com