Turning a unit for a new renter is an expensive and time consuming process. While renters will eventually leave, there are some things that you can do to encourage people to stay longer. Tenants stay for a variety of reasons. These can include being able to live in a desirable neighborhood, overall housing prices, the flexibility of renting, or waiting to get married / have children. If tenants stay through their first renewal, they will likely stay at least 3 years or even longer. It's important, as a part of good tenant relations to make sure that you manage your properties in a way that encourage people to stay.
What can you do?
This part of the relationship begins once you've decided to lease to them. You'll want to be clear with your expectations and dates but also return the favor by being clear during the lease signing and taking the tenant through the lease, page by page. Make sure they know what they expectations are for them. Then, when you are doing the walk-through, be open about the property and the state of things. Don't leave the tenant to read the lease on their own or do their own Property Condition Report. Then, once they have moved-in, respond to messages within a reasonable amount of time and make sure to check-in with them in the few days after move-in and periodically throughout the tenancy. If you are going to be on vacation, make sure they know who to call while you are gone. If they need to contact you in a different way during your travel, let them know how to contact you.
Help them Settle In
Your new tenant may be new to the neighborhood or to the city. Creating a simple, "Welcome Book" can be a great help to your tenant. This book should include take-out menus, directions to Grocery stores, shopping areas, and local attractions. If there is a neighborhood newspaper or blog, include that information as well. This will help them feel welcome to the area and help them connect with local business and services. Finding all sorts of helpful information and compiling it together can really make someone feel like their new rental is really their new home.
Fix Things Fast
When things go wrong, being available and fixing it quickly is an important part of fulfilling your landlord duties. By state law, you are required to begin the repair of essential systems like heat, water, and plumbing within 24 hours and to commence the repair of other systems within 10 days. Make sure to inspect the property every 3 - 6 months and keep an open communication with your tenant about reporting problems when they are small and manageable before they become a big, nasty, expensive emergency.
Communicate Clearly (And Often!)
This goes right along with communication. The best tenant relationships start with clear and positive communication. If you start this habit from the beginning, the tenancy has a much greater chance of success. When you are going to do things that affect the tenant, let them know. If even it's an exterior problem and doesn't require notice, a quick email or text message can really make them feel included. Even though the property is your real estate investment asset, this is the place this person calls home. A little bit of respect goes along way to keeping a tenant over the long-term.
Be A Person
Property investment is a business. Everyone who is in it, is in this industry for the chance to generate income and a return on investment. However, that does not mean that all empathy and respect flies out the window. Tenants are people too. If you have a good tenant who has lost their job or gone through a difficulty, consider where a strict application of policy is appropriate or if some allowance for some extra time to collect rent or pay something is appropriate. A little bit of allowance can lead to a longer-term tenant and a great deal of gratitude.
Keeping a tenant in your unit for longer is possible if you can follow some simple guidelines on how to make sure that you're creating a chance for success with every tenancy. A little communication and a little humanity is all that is needed to run a successful income property business.