Landlords who have been at the business for a while know that relationships with tenants can be smooth and easy, or rough and rocky, depending on a number of factors. Often, it’s the tenants themselves—they can be trying! But sometimes, one of the factors is the landlord.
Rental property investing and management is a tough business, and being a pushover is quick path to disaster. Many landlords we talk to say it’s a fact that tenants can be “trained” to follow the rules and requirements of their leases. This is not to say that tenants are like puppies, or aren’t people who deserve respect—of course they do! It’s more of way of encouraging good behavior and enforcing consequences for breaking the terms of a lease. When landlords fail at this, they are in for a rough and rocky tenant relationship.
How to Train Tenants in 3 Easy Steps
- Communicate clearly—and often. It’s not enough to sign a lease with a new tenant and then go away. Need a question answered? Ask it. Is the rent late? Call, text or email the tenant. Concerned about the number of cars they’re parking on your property? Knock on the door and talk to them. Ignoring a problem will not make it go away. Establishing communication is the first step to developing a good relationship with your tenants.
- Clarify expectations. Most tenants are not mind readers. If you are not clear on your expectations, don’t blame your tenants for not fulfilling them. If rent is due on the 1st and considered late on the 5th, spell out what that means on the lease. Will the eviction notice go up on the 5th? Or will you just charge a late fee? If so, how much? And by “due on the first,” do you mean in your hand? In your bank account? Or postmarked on the first? If a unit is “non-smoking,” does that mean no smoking inside? What about outside on the deck? Or in the hallway or lobby? If residents are expected to smoke in certain areas only, then clarify it on a layout of the property.
- Be firm. For many landlords, this is a problem. For many others, being firm comes naturally. Remember, this is not just to keep tenants following your rules. It’s a matter of fairness. For example, if you allow the single mothers, but not male tenants, to move in without a security deposit, you risk a discrimination charge based on gender. If you ignore one tenant’s yappy dog, but don’t allow her neighbor to have a cat, you’re going to have problems. Know your rules, apply them to every tenant equally, and don’t back down when a tenant asks for leniency.
Training your tenants simply means that you require certain behavior from all who lease your property. When you allow tenants to bend or break your rules and requirements, they are training you on how it’s going to be. And that’s no way to run a rental property business!