Modern landlords, like every rental property owner in the past, are constantly on the hunt for that excellent, long-term tenant who will pay the rent without causing any damage or fuss. The return on your investment in your property is never higher than when you can retain the same tenant year after year. So how do you find that ideal tenant and convince him or her to stick around?
The answer is: it depends! However, there are a few things about the way you treat tenants and your property that can increase your odds. While not every tip might be relevant for your particular rental property, employing a few of these may help you see a sharp uptick in your lease renewals, which translates to dollars in your pocket.
Gain a Reputation for Fair and Equitable Treatment
This is a tip that should go without saying, but if your tenants fear that you are unfair or that you treat people in a discriminatory way, they won't want to stick around! When you get the opportunity to come down harshly or listen carefully in front of tenants that you want to retain, do everything you can to bite your tongue and give a fair hearing to the situation. Not only is it a good practice to avoid assuming we are right in every circumstance, but people really do make their decisions based on how much they trust their landlord to do the right thing if a dispute ever arose.
Offer Yearly Bonuses for Great Tenants to Renew
At the end of the year, it's helpful to offer your tenants a bonus for the year they've spent with you, and possibly a bonus that goes up each year. Think about it: even a few hundred dollars of bonus money is less valuable than the time and effort you would have spent finding a new tenant, and you might have lost income in the meantime. Offer the tenant the savings right there, and you may sway them if they were on the fence about having to find a different place to live anyway. This kind of policy, like fair and equitable treatment above, builds loyalty that is worth far more than whatever bonus you offer.
On this same note, if you have tenants who refer good tenants to you, it is also possible to offer them a one-time credit toward their rent for introducing you to a great tenant who stays for a certain amount of time or signs a certain length of lease. Why not have your great tenants do the marketing for you? Again, it's cheaper than the effort it takes to do it yourself, and your tenants come pre-screened by people who like them... Plus, who wants to move once they have all their friends living in the same area? Win-win-win.
Take Care of Details Your Tenants Ask About
Being good in a big situation is a standard practice, but try to actually respond to every little request: fixing the stairwell light fixture and pruning an unsightly shrub should move up your to-do list if a tenant is the one who asks you about it. When they see you putting in the effort for small-return requests, they start to see their current rental home as a real asset. Even just being the person who emails back on the same day can have a huge impact on how respected and appreciated a tenant can feel.
Maintain the Exterior of the Building
Renters may be perfectly satisfied with the interior of an apartment in a multi-unit property, but one day, they may get out of their cars and just look at the building and feel... unimpressed. Just because the exterior of the building isn't any one tenant's first priority doesn't mean you should let it fall into mediocrity. Take care with the landscaping, the maintenance of the siding, and any outdoor areas that are available to tenants. If they look like a million bucks, the tenants will be reminded of the excellence present in every aspect of your property.
Make An Amazing First Impression
Start retaining customers from their first walk-through: make an effort to make apartments or single-family residences incredibly inviting and warm, and make sure that you are on your customer-service A-game when meeting new potential tenants. As much as they may sign the first year's lease because they need a place to live, subsequent leases may be dependent on how you made them feel in those all-important first few interactions. Don't be afraid of big gestures: a small welcome gift, information about the area, and a wonderful clean scent in the space can all impact the way your applicants feel about the new home they are considering.
Make Your Rentals Pet-Friendly
While this isn't feasible for all properties, many renters who find a great property that allows pets for a reasonable fee will become very loyal to that particular property or complex. After all, the quality of pet-friendly apartments varies, and availability can also be a problem. When you are willing to consider pets, with the appropriate precautions to protect your property and your interests, you make a longer-term impression on your pet-owning tenants, and they end up wanting to keep their spot at a great location.
Work With Great Tenants on Cosmetic Changes
Perhaps you generally prefer a strict rule about changing elements of the decor in your properties; after all, your tenants might damage the walls by putting up hooks for artwork! However, if your renters really seem like the ideal candidates for you long-term, it may be wise to relax regulations and focus on some ways they can make the space their own. Obviously, no one is knocking down walls and putting in a rotunda; little gestures that let tenants personalize their spaces more can really increase their mental "ownership" of their apartment and help them to see themselves sticking around for years to come.
Address Security Concerns Proactively
If there is any reason to suspect that your tenants feel unsafe, whether there has been a package stolen or just strangers walking around the complex, use modern technological options to both increase your tenants' peace of mind and the security of your property. Whether security cameras, advanced locks, or doorbells with cell phone applications and video feeds are the most appropriate, pick items that help your tenants feel more secure and feel like they are in control over their own homes. Investing in the property also looks good to your tenants; when they are paying you rent money, they either consciously or unconsciously appreciate seeing you re-invest that money in elements of the property that benefit them as renters.
Respect Your Tenant's Space and Time
While "problem tenants" may seem like they could benefit from a surprise inspection or two to discover that they are breaking the rules of the lease, such behaviors can ruin a relationship with a great tenant. If a tenant has given you no reason to suspect a problem, give them ample notice if you ever need to enter the apartment. It can feel intrusive and untrustworthy for you to enter their apartment without clear cause or mentioning it to them ahead of time, and such a behavior may be the prompting they need to start looking for other places to live.
Time is important too - while it is important to be warm and friendly in interactions with tenants, don't try to become best friends with them. When you need to discuss something, get to the point quickly and leave room for them to ask questions, but overall, it is usually a great idea to be known as the landlord who speaks efficiently and moves on, not the one who talks to their tenants when they need to be getting on with their days.
Make Updates Over the Years
Security updates aren't the only way you can showcase your interest in re-investing in your properties. When lease agreement season is approaching, have a candid chat with your tenant about whether anything in the apartment could stand an update. Obviously, large kitchen remodels may not be possible whenever tenants happen to think they'd be nice, but an updated bathroom fixture like a fan or redoing the paint could be very valuable. Mentioning that these updates are coming may be part of how you subtly say "thanks for being a great tenant" and keep them as tenants for the upcoming year.
Some of these tips require a lot of effort and investment, while others are simply strategies for doing a great job as a landlord by paying attention to the smallest details. Another factor that affects how much tenants like and wish to continue with a particular landlord or property management team is the ease with which they can apply for rentals and pay their rent. With VerticalRent, you minimize the hassle and make living at your property an easy step forward. Contact us today to learn how our easy-to-use software makes renting easier for you and for your excellent, long-term tenants.
About the author
Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America.