Charles Thompson, CEO of Specialized Property Management, has led technology, automation and turnaround management strategy for 30 years.
Finding a tenant, signing a lease and having someone move into your property seems rather simple. It should be the beginning of a wonderful, win-win relationship. Yet so often, this is not at all the case. Why do rental investments have such a difficult reputation? Setting clear expectations and demonstrating mutual respect from the outset are the essential keys to a long-lasting, professional relationship where everyone comes out ahead.
There are a number of steps to ensure both parties understand and are in agreement with how the many aspects of the rental cycle will be managed. Further, it is critical that a conversation to review every aspect of the rental occurs before your tenant ever moves into the property. Unfortunately, some landlords often lack the experience to know themselves what to expect, let alone set clear expectations and mutual responsibilities for their tenants upfront. This lies at the root of many of the well-worn landlord headaches. There are a few critical essentials professional property managers recommend covering at the outset.
1. Review The Lease With The Tenant
One would hope that the tenant has read the entire document prior to signing, however, in this age of one-click acceptance of terms and conditions, it’s no longer assumed. To safeguard that both owner and tenant are clear on the finer points of the document, it is very helpful if you review the lease together. This also gives you an opportunity to answer any questions or provide clarification on items so you can both move forward without ambiguity.
Be sure to review the contract with the tenant in its entirety and ensure all concerns are addressed. At the same time, they can provide a buffer to ensure things remain professional between owner and tenant.
2. Set Clear Guidelines For Communication
Do you have a consistent tenant communication plan once the lease is signed? How do you want them to contact you with maintenance issues? What if they have questions about how to use an appliance? How will you arrange scheduled inspections or entry for exterminators or other service calls? No one wants that 2 a.m. phone call demanding an immediate fix for a broken A/C in a heatwave. On the other hand, you don’t want to find out about a pipe leak in the basement hours after it happened.
These are just a few examples of the different types of communication that will need to occur while your property is occupied. Prior to move-in, it is critical that you discuss the various types of interaction that will be necessary throughout the lease and agree on how any information exchange will be handled in detail. Specify what method — text, email or phone call — is to be used based on the urgency of the situation.
There are more sophisticated systems to manage this process, including 24/7 maintenance lines and online portals. It is critical to invest in systems to manage communication, but that investment could be in a smartphone as much as a complex owner and tenant portal.
3. Respond Quickly With Respect
We have all been in situations where we have sent some sort of communication, only to have to wait several days to hear anything back. By the time you finally do get a response, the tone has been set. You begin feeling frustrated — and both parties are already on the defensive.
Whenever your tenant reaches out to you with a question or a concern, always respond as quickly as possible. Even if you do not have an immediate answer. The utilization of a tenant portal can be invaluable in these instances, as the tenant can check for updates without having to call or email anyone — and any new management activities or regular reminders are reported in real-time in their account.
In addition to responsiveness, it is also especially important to be respectful of your tenant’s time and privacy. Then, work with your tenant respectfully when scheduling vendors to ensure that you do not disrupt the quiet enjoyment of the property for which they are paying.
4. Provide Technological Conveniences
Even before the pandemic, we had all grown more dependent on technology over face-to-face interactions. Tenants now expect their landlords to offer them no-contact and 24/7 methods of interaction. For example, paying rent online or from a mobile device is becoming the norm over dropping off a check, using the mail or going into a bank. Communication portals for owners and tenants discussed above are also becoming more standard technological expectations.
Tenants want to view properties virtually, submit maintenance requests online and receive fast online responses to their questions. This can be a particular challenge for self-managers or inexperienced rental owners, yet is critical for a safe, clear and respectful relationship in this era.
From the first showing, establishing clear expectations with your tenant will be the key to the success of your rental property.
Ensure your own peace of mind and the success of your investment by remembering these basics:
• Set expectations by walking through the lease with your new tenant.
• Develop clear communication guidelines and provide timely responses.
• Work with your tenant respectfully to schedule convenient vendor visits.
• Do not overwhelm them with a parade of contractors.
• Offer no-contact technological alternatives to face-to-face interactions and 24/7 information.
• Facilitate a foundation of trust by keeping your commitments to the tenant.
If you take these initiatives at the outset of your partnership with your tenant, you will immediately increase your return on investment. Content tenants take better care of a rental property and are more likely to keep the terms of their lease. Happy tenants are also significantly more likely to remain in the property and extend their leases, which eliminates the risk and cost of vacancy days, turnover costs and marketing expenses.
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