Retain Good Renters: A Landlord’s Guide to Communicating With Tenants

Tenant retention is an essential part of keeping your rental property profitable. However, the reasons why good tenants leave can sometimes hinge on how well a property is managed and how specific issues are handled. You can keep good tenants by taking tenant communication seriously.

Follow these guidelines for handling complaints and emergencies so that your tenants stick with you instead of looking for a different property with different management.

Keep Communication Records

If possible, encourage your tenants to make maintenance requests and to send questions about payments and property electronically. You might have a website that allows for easy access to a tenant portal for complaints and comments, or you might encourage using email communication.

Electronic communication can help provide a timeline for when a tenant asked a question or sent a request. This way, you can review how the case was handled and make apologies for forgotten maintenance requests or a lack of reply.

Using a property management service can help with this problem because the management company will field most questions and concerns about the property in a systematic way.

If you try to handle the business yourself, you might consider having a separate email and phone for the property to help make communication more traceable; sometimes, communications can get buried in a person inbox.

Have an Expected Timeline for Complaints and Requests

Give an expected timeline for a response as soon as you hear from your tenant. Follow through. With an expected response timeline, you reduce the number of calls you receive from tenants who are just checking in to see if something is being done about a complaint or problem.

You can give response times without much effort on your part. For example, you could have an automatic email response that provides a basic timeline outline. For emergent problems, you can promise a response in 12 hours. For non-emergent problems, you might give yourself three days to address the issue and get back to the tenant.

As you deliver on the promised response times, tenants trust you to get things done. If you can’t deliver on response times, tenants start to become dissatisfied. That’s why it’s important to have a manager or a back-up responder in case you are not able to be there to provide assessment for tenant complaints and problems.

Explain Fees and Costs Before They Happen

Hidden costs and fees that tenants perceive to be unfair can quickly drive away quality renters. Never assess a fee without explaining why first, and try not to fine tenants unless you can help it.

For example, if you have a policy against pets, you likely have a penalty fine spelled out in the lease. If you notice a cat in the apartment or get a report of a pet, don’t assess the fine right away.

Instead, communicate with the tenant about the problem, and explain the fine for noncompliance. Give your tenant a chance to get rid of the pet or to provide the documents that state the animal is there for service reasons. If the tenant does not comply, then you can apply the fee and start the process for eviction if the tenant is not compliant.

Nobody likes to be hit with fees that they don’t expect or that they think are unfair. Always communicate with your tenant before applying fines or extra costs, even if it is just to warn that the fee will be coming. Make the blow softer by making basic improvements to the property that will increase the comfort or value of the home.

Also, remember to explain rent increases and why they happen; tenants might think increases are because a landlord is greedy, but they often are for increased property taxes, rising utility rates, or other costs a landlord cannot control.

Communication is essential to retaining good tenants. Renters usually complain about management that is not present, that does not communicate, or that operates without giving tenants the benefit of the doubt. Contact us at MacPherson’s Property Management, Inc., for more information about tenant retention and screening.