Luke is the Head of Marketing for Innago, a free property management software company dedicated to helping landlords save time & money.
Tenant communication is not always a landlord’s top priority. You have rent to collect, applicants to screen, finances to manage and maybe even new properties to acquire.
However, communication and clarity are the keys to any lasting landlord-tenant relationship. Without strong communication, misunderstandings and breakdowns can quickly compromise the tenancies you fought so hard to establish.
What does a communicative landlord do differently?
In this article, we review five ways to foster exceptional tenant communication in your rental business.
1. Be professional but friendly.
Professionalism goes without saying when you’re a landlord. The relationship between you and your tenants is, above all, a legal one.
But that doesn’t mean you should be cold or distant. In fact, silence sends a message that you don’t care about your property or tenants, a sentiment tenants might then reciprocate.
Plus, when a problem or issue arises, you want your tenants to feel comfortable reaching out to you. For example, let’s say you notice another person is spending considerable time living with your tenant at their unit. You might want to send a notice that the tenant has violated the occupancy limit as per the lease right away.
However, if you have a friendly relationship with the tenant, they might feel comfortable reaching out to you to explain that they are temporarily housing a sick relative. You might even be able to negotiate and add the person to the lease.
Cooperating to solve problems is much easier if you regularly have friendly interactions with tenants.
2. Utilize policy reminders.
Rental agreements outline dozens of policies. They vary from self-explanatory (e.g., the tenant should take care of the property) to highly specific (e.g., the rent rate, late fee policies, grace periods, etc.).
Your tenant must read and know all these policies, as “I didn’t know” will hardly hold up in court as an excuse. However, your tenants aren’t going to memorize the lease. If you want the highest chance of your tenants following all your policies, occasional reminders are a good idea.
These can be quick reminders you send to everyone about late fees, maintenance requests or guests, but they can also be polite, targeted reminders to individual tenants.
You may be surprised how far a gentle, friendly reminder can go.
3. Anticipate problems.
Staying in touch with your tenants makes you better equipped to anticipate problems.
For example, say one of your tenants suddenly stops making rent payments. They’ve otherwise been a quiet, reliable tenant, and you’d hate to lose them. What do you do?
If you’ve regularly checked in with your tenants, you might know that your tenant is a freelancer. Maybe they recently took on new clients and are waiting for that pay to process. Instead of immediately sending a notice for nonpayment, good communication can ensure you don’t lose a good tenant over a temporary setback.
4. Automate with software.
Keeping up with regular reminders can feel like a full-time job, especially if you have a lot of tenants. But you don’t have to do everything yourself.
In fact, with property management software, you can automate much of tenant communication. (Disclosure: My company specializes in this kind of software.) Your software can take on the basic, recurring reminders for you, including rent reminders, late fee warnings, renewals and more. This way, tenants can’t use the excuse that you didn’t communicate when payments are due, and you don’t have to babysit them every month.
Tenants often also get access to their own login portal, where they can view payment histories, maintenance tickets, lease details and other information. Nine times out of 10, a tenant can answer their own question by logging on to the software instead of bothering you.
Lastly, property management software platforms often can save a history of messages between you and your tenant in case you need them. When you’re both on the same page, misunderstandings are less common.
5. Reward loyalty.
If you have tenants who pay rent on time, take care of your property and keep to themselves, you may have few reasons to interact with them throughout the year.
Nonetheless, staying in touch from time to time can have a big impact on a landlord-tenant relationship.
Even small acts can go a long way. A quarterly check-in, end-of-year thank-you note or a small gift around the holidays are all affordable ways to show you care. Small gestures communicate that you’re present in a way your tenants are bound to appreciate.
Communication is the foundation of any relationship, and landlord-tenant relationships are no different. By making tenant communication a priority, you can make managing your rentals that much easier.