Creating Positive Landlord/Tenant Relationships From the Start

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When you’re investing your time and money into a long or short-term rental property, you will inevitably find yourself dealing with tenants. It’s unavoidable. Person-to-person interaction is a critical part of the real estate industry. What’s more, nothing sours a real estate investment like a tense or stressful relationship with your tenant. As a result, it’s vital to take steps to make the most of those relationships from day one.

Getting off on the right foot with your tenant is one of the most vital components in building a successful landlord-tenant relationship. That means managing expectations and adhering to guidelines on both sides of the landlord-tenant relationship. The sooner you can establish guidelines, the better.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Communicate clearly with your tenant

The importance of clear-cut communication cannot be overstated in the world of real estate. Whether you’re letting out your rental property as an Airbnb or drawing up a months-long contract with a renter, you should think long and hard about your expectations for the property.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when laying out guidelines for inhabiting your property;

  • When is the rent due, and how would you like to receive payment?
  • What are the penalties for late payment?
  • Does the property have amenities (like a yard, pool or hot tub) that need to be maintained by the renter? Will you supply the tools required for them to maintain the property?
  • Is the renter responsible for cleaning and trash removal?
  • Are there noise requirements in effect?
  • When is it okay for you to enter the premises?
  • Are dogs and cats allowed on the property? Are there any particular rules or extra fees associated with a pet-friendly residence?
  • What are the rules about smoking on the property?
  • Would you like the property to be kept as-is (i.e., no new paint colours, no satellite dishes, no remodelling, etc.)?

Be sure to consider the type of renter you’re contracting with when you’re drawing up your expectations. For example, you can’t expect a short-term renter to mow the lawn.

Once you have a set of guidelines for living at the property, you should put them in clear-cut language. This will help you visualize and finalize your house rules. Have your renter read the guidelines and sign them alongside the rental contract. Finally, make sure to have a conversation with them about the guidelines. Ask if they have questions or if they might need some leeway on specific regulations from time to time.

This puts your expectations in black-and-white from day one.

Put business first

No doubt your renter is perfectly polite, but as their landlord, it’s crucial to remember that they’re not your friend. This is a business transaction, and while it can be amicable, you should draw the line at too much intimacy.

When you start to blur the lines between your tenant-landlord relationship, it’s easier for your tenant to take advantage of you. They may not have malicious intent, but they will be more likely to disregard rules and may even become lax with the rent.

As a result, it’s best to keep your renter solely in the professional sphere. 

Recognize when you need help

As you begin your foray into the world of real estate, the idea of getting a property manager might seem unnecessary. Consider this: when your tenant moves in, you owe them a certain responsibility. And they won’t forget it.

When something unexpected crops up, your renter’s first call will be to you. Night and day, you’re on the hook when your tenant is locked out, the plumbing springs a leak, appliances malfunction, a fire breaks out, the house is robbed, and any number of other unforeseen mishaps.

If that sounds like a significant time commitment, you’re right. And as the number of rental properties you control increases, the possible number of tenant requirements rises proportionately.

When you find yourself overwhelmed or forced to routinely prioritize or even disregard tenant concerns, it might be time to enlist a qualified property manager.

Respect your tenant’s privacy

Your name may be on the mortgage, but your tenant still has an ownership stake in your property from the moment they move in. That means the property is essentially theirs on a day-to-day basis. To ensure that their privacy remains unthreatened, follow a few ground rules.

Don’t stop by the house unexpectedly. Try to give your tenant at least two days’ notice before you’ll be visiting the property.

Don’t have repair technicians show up without prior notice. Consider communicating with the tenant and offering them the opportunity to have service techs visit around their schedule, not yours.

Don’t enter the property without the tenant’s express approval, even if they’re not on-site. 

More often than not, you will be innately aware if you’re crossing a line into unprofessional territory. Use your best judgment and keep your eyes open for queues from your tenant to avoid making mistakes.

Violations happen

One thing to realize when you enter any kind of landlord-tenant relationship is that rules will get broken. Whether it’s intentional or not, your tenant will violate some ground rules.

As the landlord, it’s up to you to understand when to draw a line and when to be flexible. For example, an otherwise upstanding tenant might turn in the rent a few days late from time to time. On the first (or second) offence, you might not enact your property’s rules about turning in the rent late. If you receive a noise complaint the first time, you might just provide a businesslike reminder of the noise policy.

At some point, you will need to draw the line at violations. You should also understand that certain offences should initiate an immediate removal from the property.

Significant property damage, criminal behaviour, having pets in a pet-free environment, and repeated minor violations all merit immediate eviction.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you ensure a happy, professional landlord/tenant relationship.

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