Tip #19

Be Accessible via Text Messages

Written on December 20, 2012 by , updated on June 8, 2014

“Americans ages 18-29 send and receive an average of nearly 88 text messages per day, compared to 17 phone calls.” – CNN

Landlord Getting a Text Message in the RainIf you are an independent landlord, you need to be easily accessible so your tenant can notify you of an emergency.

Some property managers would disagree with me, but I suggest giving your cell phone number to your tenants.  Even more so, make sure you can accept text messages. If you have younger tenants, they are more inclined to text you rather than call you.

The classic argument is “but then they will call at 1 in the morning!“.  I have hosted hundreds of tenants, and I have NEVER had a tenant call me after 10pm at night.   However, if there was a true emergency (flooded basement, house on fire, police activity), then I would want my tenant to call (or text) me no matter what time it is.

I have found that when my tenants knows they can reach me anytime, it builds trust, and then they only contact me when there is a legitimate need.

Interesting Reads: Time Magazine: Your Life is Fully Mobile

photo credit: Guillaume Perreault via cc
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9 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • front_porch

    You may not have had a tenant text you after 10 pm, but I have! I have established office hours (10 am to 7 pm Mon-Fri) but they seem to text or call whenever it crosses their minds to do so and about trival stuff that could easily wait until business hours. I’m not talking 20-somethings, either. The worst offender I had was in his mid-forties. I’ve had tenants (and prospective tenants) who not only texted early in the morning and late at night, they also texted on Mother’s Day, the 4th of July, and so on. From now on the tenants (and prospective tenants) only get a landline number and they can leave a message. I hate feeling I’m constantly at their beck and call whenever it crosses their mind to text me.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi there,

      So how do you handle emergencies? Recently, I had a tenant text me at 10:45pm saying “I came home and the power is out, but all the neighbors have power”. It’s december and freezing outside.
      I was able to tell her where the circuit breaker was, and she got it working again, via text, and it took a total of 3 minutes.

      If I’m sleeping when they text, oh well, but at least I didn’t shut them out.

      If I refused to take calls/texts after hours, then she would have slept in the cold, or worst. I think it’s better to say “don’t call me after 10, unless something is wrong. Treat me with respect, and I’ll do the same”. We’re all adults here.

      Though I hear where you’re coming from, if you only have a landline voicemail system, you’re increasing your chances of property damage by refusing to take emergency calls. What if a pipe busts (common in the winter), and you could save yourself a flooded basement if you could remind your tenant where the water shut-off is. Instead of only leaking for 10 minutes, it leaks water for 8 hours, and now there is 10K in damage.

      If I have a tenant who abuses the “emergency” calls, I politely but sternly reprimand him/her. Problem solved.

      • front_porch

        The tenant I had that abused the texting, was reminded a number of times…at first nicely, and later more sternly about appropriate times to text. He accused me of being “mean” but my requests didn’t stop his behavior. I was on the verge of giving him notice to vacate (he was on a month to month rental agreement) when he decided to move. I’ve had others–prospective tenants–who couldn’t take a hint or even an outright statement that I was busy and called at inappropriate times. One called on Mother’s Day and, despite the fact I told her I was visiting my Grandmother’s grave and with my mother, she insisted on asking me questions about our area (not even the rental property but just our general area) that she could have found out by googling. I remember one of the questions was “Can I buy a mattress in your town?” LOL, our town is an SMSA of 130,000 people. We aren’t the big city…but you can certainly buy a mattress here! Wouldn’t you think that question could have waited until Monday? She was a doctor but, needless to say, I didn’t end up renting to her. She was extremely time consuming and expected constant “hand-holding” and her preferred method of communicating was texting. If she didn’t get a text back in short order, then she would call.

        My mother is a real estate agent and has been in the business for over 30 years. She’s had clients who called after midnight and before 6 am! Some people have no sense about what’s appropriate.

        I do have procedures in place for tenants to call me for emergencies…and those are defined in my lease. I also use water leak detector alarms so the tenant can’t ignore them and will have to take action.

        The one time any of my tenants had any pipes freeze…it was, ironically enough, the guy who texted too much that I described above. He never once called or texted me about it. Instead, he contacted our handyman directly (a no-no and it says so in the rental agreement) and had him fix it and never bothered to say a word to me about it. I found out from the handyman. I assume the texting tenant didn’t want me to know because he had closed off all the heat to that bathroom (the one in which the pipes froze) and didn’t want to have to admit he helped cause the problem.

        So, due to my past experiences with making my cell phone number available and allowing tenants to text me, I decided not to allow that any longer.

        • LTRS

          I have been a landlord for 18 years and have always encouraged my tenants to call or text me anytime. I explain to them that I am busy and will get back to them at my earliest opportunity. I generally do not get messages after 10 PM unless it is an emergency. If I do get a message that is a non-emergency, I respond at my earliest opportunity.

          I expect my relationship with my tenants to be mutually beneficial. If they confide in me I am able to continue to know them better and keep them longer and get them to pay rent on time. Enhancing my communication with my tenants makes it easier for me to notify them of changes, special circumstances or discussing what to do when their lease expires.

          Bottom line, if I have good tenants that are open with me I minimize the chance of them going elsewhere even when I have to explain when there is an increase in rent.

          • Lucas Hall

            Hi!

            Thanks for your feedback! I couldn’t have said it better! It’s all about the end game, and you are wise to aim for a mutually beneficial relationship rather than viewing tenants as “the enemy” or “them”.

  • Lou Ann Rech

    First of all, all of my tenants have my cell phone number and rarely do they call or text after 5pm. My real question is, how legally binding, if at all, are text messages? -In frigid Minnesota, thank you.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lou,

      Use your common sense. Text messages are hard to fake. If a tenant denies that something and you have a text message to prove it, who do you think the judge will believe?

  • M.A.

    Any ideas on how can a landlord save text messages, in case they are needed for future legal back up?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi MA,

      If you have a smart phone, you can keep those messages indefinitely. If not, then try taking a screenshot of the conversation and saving it as a picture.

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