Whether you’re an accidental landlord or a seasoned property investor, owning a rental property is a business.
With any business, communication is a key component to success. Customers (tenants) need to be well-educated on their purchase (renting your property), respected, and treated well. If not, you lose your customer.
Customers (tenants) need to be treated well.
Tenant turnover is expensive and time-consuming. With proper communication, tenant retention will improve and landlords will keep more of their profits. It is well known in the landlord world—tenant turnover kills cash flow.
Over the past seven years, I’ve had some great relationships with tenants, and one that turned out very badly. From that experience, I can tell you exactly what I did wrong: I stopped communicating effectively.
While I started out communicating well, my frustration with these particular tenants caused me to retreat. The transparency remained, but my respect and understanding went goodbye. We ended up in court. I chose a customer who was not a good fit, and in the end, I lost that customer and cash flow.
With the right communication, landlords can choose the right tenants, keep them happy, and avoid turnover. Communication that shows transparency, respect, and understanding is the key to a successful landlord/tenant relationship.
1. Be transparent and honest
When communicating, both tenants and landlords rely on clear, honest communication. For landlords, clear communication starts with the unit listing. Be honest about the unit in the ad. Also, make sure your listing is legal. Landlords cannot discriminate in their listing by communicating that they would prefer a female college student, for example.
Make sure your lease is legal, too. Landlords cannot, for example, communicate in their lease that service animals are forbidden. It is recommended to go through the lease clause by clause with tenants and make sure the tenant understands each clause.
Communication during the rental term
Make sure tenants understand the best way to communicate about any issues or maintenance needs. Positive, transparent communication needs to be continued through the whole relationship. Tenants need to feel comfortable contacting you for maintenance issues. If the issue sits, it could get worse.
Communication during lease renewal
It’s ideal for landlords to contact tenants 90 days before the end of the lease to communicate either renewal options or the end of the lease. Give tenants 30 days to make a decision. That way, you have 60 days to find new tenants. If the tenant chooses not to renew, send a termination form and communicate with the tenant about what they need to do to get their security deposit back.
Clear, honest communication needs to be a priority throughout the entire lease. While it may feel uncomfortable at the time, it will cut down on misunderstandings. It’s worth a possible uncomfortable conversation now to avoid arguments or legal action later.
2. Express mutual respect
Mutual respect is essential for a healthy tenant/landlord relationship (well, any relationship). The landlord needs to take the lead on showing respect and making it clear that respect should go both ways.
Landlords should respect their tenants’ boundaries. Don’t call or message tenants around the clock or “pop in” to discuss an issue. Communication should be clear and open, but it should not be intrusive. When communicating, try to do it in writing first, for both parties’ benefits. If you need to enter the tenant’s unit, give plenty of warning, ensuring that it is at least the legally required amount of notice needed.
Landlords should also respect their tenant’s privacy and personal lives. As long as their private life is legal and does not affect the property, it is not your business.
In turn, tenants should respect the landlord by following the property rules and paying rent on time. If tenants are not showing respect, you can make it clear that lack of respect is not an option by communicating about ignored rules and charging late fees to tenants who do not pay on time.
3. Understand we’re all just people
Landlords and tenants are just people. In general, people want to have a good relationship with the people around them and a happy home.
Sometimes things happen, so both landlords and tenants need to be understanding. Sometimes, a tenant will submit a maintenance request, and the landlord can’t get to it immediately. If a tenant who consistently pays on time communicates that there was an issue and they’ll be a day late paying rent, be understanding. The cost of tenant turnover for a landlord is more expensive than making arrangements for a late payment. A one-off issue is not worth ruining a relationship.
A solid relationship between tenants and landlords comes down to great communication and customer service. While it might not feel like it, being a landlord is a business. Tenants are customers, and just like in business, keeping an existing customer costs less than acquiring a new customer. If a tenant is great, make it your purpose to retain that tenant through great communication. In the end, tenants and landlords are people, and people thrive when communication is transparent, respectful, and understanding.