- Be friendly, respectful, and courteous always. Then when you need to be firm, they will know you are serious.
- Answer your phone when the tenant calls or return their call promptly. Nothing is more frustrating when you have a question or problem and someone will not return or take your calls.
- Stop by or call to just chat and see how they are doing. This lets them know you care about them as a person. Ask about their work, their kids, or what they enjoy.
- Repair everything in the unit that the tenant calls about. Even a simple dripping faucet can fester into a frustration in time.
- If the tenants have lived in the apartment for more than 2 years, touch up the paint in the main areas, paint a room a color that you both agree on, or shampoo the carpet. You are not only keeping them happy, you are maintaining your property.
- If the tenant always pays on time and they call and tell you the rent is going to be late, forgive the late fee this one time. Even the banks do it!
- Offer an incentive if they find a new tenant for you. I give my existing tenants $200 if they find a new tenant that signs a lease. It costs the same as a newspaper ad and much cheaper than a vacant unit.
Items 1 and 2 seem like a given. I always try to keep a professional, yet friendly relationship with my tenants. Number three, though, seems a little creepy to me. While I happen to live in the same property as my tenants, and run into them occasionally, small-talk about the neighbors, etc., comes pretty easily. However, I think that calling them out of the blue (even if I lived elsewhere) would creep them out. I would say that it’s great to get to know them (as you would any business client), but do the small talk while you’re there for another purpose (fixing something, picking up a check, etc.).
Number four is a big one. Responding to maintenance requests in a timely manner goes a long way. If something can’t be fixed immediately, I try to keep tenants updated so that they know that it’s in progress and will be taken care of soon. And, keeping the unit well-maintained benefits you too.
I’ve never really done number 5, although I have taken it upon myself to do some upgrades to the apartment so that they would make it more attractive next time I had to show it to prospective renters. Tenants seem to appreciate these upgrades more if you make them before they’ve given you their notice to move out, but they’ve always been cooperative either way.
Number six seems like a given too. I can only think of one late payment that I’ve received, and it came with an explanation, so I waived the late fee.
Number seven sounds like a great idea in theory. Advertising on Craig’s list, however, is free, and seems much more effective than newspaper ads. If it gets me a good tenant quickly, it would be worth it to pay a tenant a referral bonus. However, I don’t think I’d pay $200. Maybe $50-$100.