Retaining Good Tenants Means Starting Off on the Right Foot!
By John Nuzzolese
We already know that the key to a successful tenancy is to first find a good tenant. Haven’t we often secured good tenants only to find they drift to the wayside and gradually become bad tenants? Why is that? There are a combination of reasons that this happens. Those reasons are what I refer to in The LPA’s article, “The 6 Biggest Landlord Traps”. Let’s explore how to make good tenants even better and how to keep them that way.
Now that you have a good tenant you have already screened, accepted and signed a lease with, you may be tempted to feel like your job is finished for now. The property is rented! Now you can take a vacation, right? Wrong. The job is never over unless you sell your rental property and retire somewhere nice, never to see or speak to another tenant again. Are you going to do that anytime soon? OK, so lets talk about making good tenants even better.
- Emphasize the most important lease clauses.If you haven’t already done so when you carefully went over the lease personally and emphasized the important items to your tenant, do it as soon as possible. (I hope you used my LPA Lease – I’m personally biased.) You can even do it with a follow up letter welcoming the tenants to their new home an reminding them of those key elements in your lease that are most important to you. Some landlords even send the tenant a spare copy of the lease with certain clauses highlighted.
- Tell the tenants that you report to “National Tenant and Credit Reporting Bureaus”. The reason I phrased it like that is because I don’t want you to feel like you may be telling a lie. Reporting to a “National Tenant and and Credit Bureau” could mean the LPA’s “National Tenant Rating Bureau or Deadbeat Database”“. Or it could also mean that you are ready to use The LPA site to “prepare a delinquency report” to the major credit bureaus. I have achieved outstanding results by advising new tenants not to pay late because it can affect their credit rating. I inform them that they may not qualify for a car loan or mortgage in the future if they are not careful about their rent payment. I warn, “PLEASE DON’T RENT FROM ME if you think you will have trouble paying the rent on time. You seem like such a nice couple. I’d truly HATE to ruin your credit and damage your financial future”. By the way, The LPA has a free members only tenant credit reporting feature that may help you collect delinquent rents.
- Enforce your lease with “Essential Landlord Forms” that will support your lease. When a tenant gets out of line, correct the situation with a professional form. Nip the problem in the bud before a small problem becomes a disaster. If you do not send a late notice as soon as the rent is late, the tenant will continue to be late. If you are inconsistent with sending the late notice, the rent may consistently be late. Have you ever heard the old adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” ? Well, when a tenant becomes comfortable enough to think the landlord is a friend, he often loses the professional respect he may have once had. So, enforcing the lease with professional forms is the way to go.
- Enforce penalties such as late fees. Using a professional form is great, but it has to pack a punch to get the results you want. Don’t be afraid to hit a tenant with the late charge whenever the rent is late. I’ve had tenants tell me they were late just to see if the late fee would be enforced! Use a “Late Charge Due Notice” or an “Urgent Late Notice” to collect rent and late fees before too much time passes by.
- Allowing an Early Payment Discount is another effective tactic to get the rent paid on time or early. Everyone wants to save money. And that money adds up over the year, so make sure the tenants know about it. If you didn’t use the clause in your lease, you can always send them the “Early Payment Discount Voucher” found in Essential Forms.
- Routine Inspections aren’t always as important as the expectation of routine interior inspections. When the tenant is expecting an inspection of the premises by the landlord or manager, the property is usually kept ready to pass the inspection. Many landlords will inspect on regular intervals prearranged with the tenant. Others will do surprise inspections, and some just emphasize that they will be doing inspections, but just don’t get around to it. Even if you can’t get around to it, it may be a good idea to send the tenant a note from time to time to tell them of an upcoming inspection. The main thing is that your property is cared for properly.
Keeping good tenants good or better is an ongoing process that we as landlords continue to improve with experience. It all starts with understanding and agreeing with each other. After that, it’s just a matter of professional communication.