According to the Rental Protection Agency, there are currently around 113 million renters and 23 million landlords residing in the United States. Unfortunately though, not all of those tenants are pleased with the job their landlords are doing.
Although nearly 43 million U.S. households have chosen to rent rather than buy their homes, this choice can come with its own share of setbacks. As of 2017, nearly one-fourth of all renters spent more than 50% of their income on housing. And while the cost of living may be beyond a landlord’s control, there are some more manageable factors that can keep tenants around—even if they’re paying more.
If you want to attract high-quality tenants and convince them to stay for the long haul, you need to do more than merely take their rent check each month. The following must-haves can help you discover what will really make a difference in the lives of your tenants.
Pew Research Center data shows that 95% of Americans own a cell phone, with 77% owning a smartphone. What’s more, a study conducted by Fluent found that two out of three Americans read their email a few times per day. In our constantly connected world, there’s no excuse for being an absentee landlord.
You can’t expect to retain tenants if you don’t keep the lines of communication open. Give your tenants at least a couple of different ways to contact you, as well as an emergency number to call outside of business hours. You need to answer their calls and return them promptly, reply to their emails and texts, and initiate communication when it’s warranted. If the water needs to be shut off or you’ll be doing loud construction work next door, you should contact your tenants to keep them in the loop.
The worst thing you can do is ignore their attempts at contacting you. It sends the message that you simply don’t care. Nothing will lose a good tenant faster than a landlord who dodges calls but still cashes rent checks every month.
These days, we tend to opt for convenience above all else. So if you’re eager to keep existing tenants around (or attract even better ones), you need to make it easy for them.
Improving the entire application process, for example, can go a long way. Filling out all that paperwork can be tedious and anxiety inducing. But if you provide potential tenants a way to fill out a free online rental application at home, you can help to alleviate some of that pressure and keep the process as stress-free as possible.
The same goes for tenant payments. Paying rent via check through the mail seems extremely antiquated now. Check usage declined by 13.5% worldwide in 2015, while digital payment technologies are on the rise. If you offer your tenants another way to pay—through a secure online portal, for example— they can pay with the click of a button. As a bonus, you’ll be more likely to get those monthly payments on time.
You might also want to consider that little perks can mean a lot to tenants. According to landlord survey results, around one-half of U.S. housing is considered to be pet-friendly. Pet deposits are standard procedure, but the amounts charged can be astronomical. Tenants probably aren’t going to give up their beloved pet just to live in one of your units. Although you need to protect yourself, you shouldn’t see this as an opportunity to over-charge renters. If your housing is indeed pet-friendly, make it easy and affordable for your tenant to pay a nominal deposit.
As a landlord, you have a duty to provide housing that’s safe for your tenants. You’re obligated to provide a habitable unit that’s equipped with hot and cold water, a sound structure as well as systems for plumbing, heating, and electricity that are operational and up to code.
Of course, everything breaks down at some point, and when it does, you need to be on top of those repairs. Regular maintenance and tenant requests need to be addressed and rectified as soon as possible. If your tenant has notified you that the heat isn’t working, that their sink is clogged, or that there’s a leak in the roof, those problems need to be taken very seriously. If you aren’t equipped to take on those duties yourself, you’ll want to have a heating contractor, a plumber, or a roofer on-site almost immediately to assess the extent of the issue. Even minor repairs should be taken care of in a timely manner; going above and beyond for a good tenant can convince them to renew for another year.
Being a consistently stellar landlord isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort. If you can appeal to your tenants’ best interests and ensure their satisfaction, you may not have to deal with late payments, unexpected vacancies, or negative online reviews in the future.