This article was posted on Sunday, Jun 01, 2014

The quote that “Good Landlords Attract Good Tenants” is true.  So when you consider best practices, I think you need to decide what practices will allow you to attract and retain quality tenants.  The first thing that comes to my mind is BE AVAILABLE.

Prospective Tenants

If you put your rental home on Craigslist, in order to find a qualified tenant, you must be available to answer the phone and to tour the property.   Here are some statistics based on national averages:

  • 20% of all calls into apartment communities are NOT answered
  • 12.5%  of all calls coming into leasing offices should be converted into an appointment and a leasing tour
  • 33% of all leasing tours should be converted into a lease

Therefore, you can see that when you have a vacancy, being available to answer the telephone is beneficial.  It is the key to getting the prospective tenant to your property and you getting your property rented.

Don’t Neglect Current Residents

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Once you have a tenant and they have moved into your property, it is important if your tenant needs to talk to you that you are available as well.  This means offering tenants various ways to contact you, i.e. multiple telephone numbers (if possible) and an email address.  Tenants should also know that if there is ever an emergency in the middle of the night that they are able to connect with you.

Whenever a tenant calls or emails you, be sure to respond to them as soon as possible.  Business etiquette calls for quick responses.  There is nothing more irritating to a tenant than a non-responsive landlord.  When a tenant has a request or needs a problem solved, set expectations upfront so they don’t think you are just ignoring the issue.  If you are working on the problem or question, just let the tenant know that.  Also, taking four days to respond to a straight forward question is basically the same as not replying at all.  Consider the following statistics from the Jim Moran Institute and Lee Resources:  Up to 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their request or problem successfully and in a timely manner.

Building positive tenant relationships by being available is just one of the things you can do to be a successful landlord.  Showing tenants that you are open to listening to their concerns and available to help them will help keep your property maintained and your tenants happy.

Complaints About Neighbors

Just when you think you’ve seen or heard it all in this business, the telephone will ring and bring you another issue to resolve.  Lately, my phone has been ringing with calls from tenants feeling they are being harassed or complaining about a neighbor.  I understand there’s a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in every one of us and even the most minor issue can escalate if not addressed.

Often, it is hard to tell who or what is actually at the root of the issue.  If anyone complains about a tenant, you should open up an investigation and determine if a violation of the lease actually occurred. Tenants and/or their guests may not be a nuisance on the property or jeopardize the health, welfare and safety of others.  Each claim must be taken seriously.  While not intended as legal advice, this is how I investigate a claim.

  • Request that the tenant report the incident to the police.  When a tenant calls about a threat, excessive noise or harassment, the first thing I do is tell them to call 911.  If there is a threat of bodily harm or they are afraid, I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.  Also, a police report can be used as solid evidence of a disturbance or pattern of repeated harassment.
  • Discuss the situation with all involved.  It is important to receive all the facts and circumstances from both sides including the nature of the allegation and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred.  Recently, a tenant called to tell me a neighbor was knocking on her door.  So I called the neighbor in question and she reported to me that she had put her garbage bag in the hall to take to the trash bin when she was going out.  The tenant across the way then picked up the bag full of garbage and put the bag on top of her car.  Then the neighbor knocked on the other neighbor’s door to discuss what happened.  The complaining neighbor forgot to tell me that she had put a trash bag full of garbage on the tenant’s car, so the blame was shared.
  • Document all information gathered.  In this instance for documentation, we issued two notices to comply or vacate.  The first notice went to the tenant who left their garbage on their doorstep for not taking it to the trash bin.  The second notice was to the tenant who put the garbage bag on the neighbor’s car as an act of aggressive behavior toward another tenant.  Each tenant received a reminder that retaliation would not be tolerated and that continuing such behavior toward each other could result in eviction.

For ongoing tenant conflicts that cannot be verified, let the complaining person know there is no evidence to support the claim.  Encourage them to keep you in the loop if another issue occurs and assure them you take their claim seriously.

Tenant to tenant issues are considered a civil matter, however, I feel some obligation as the landlord to act once I learn a resident is being harassed by another tenant.  I want my tenants to be happy and care where they live and to be long-term residents, so caring about tenant safety is one way to build resident retention.

There have been court cases across the nation against landlords who did not act.  Landlords who ignore warning signs may be doing so at their own peril!

Julie Johnson is currently the Director of the Residential Group at Phillips Real Estate Services.  Reprinted with permission of UPDATE.


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