Being a landlord has its ups and downs, but is generally quite rewarding. After all, you’re providing tenants with the most basic of human needs: shelter.
But what makes a great landlord? Someone whose organized, on time, caring, good a negotiating? Maybe all of the above.
While you might not feel like you’re the ideal landlord (nobody does), it’s worth remembering that many of the most important qualities to be successful in the business can be learned—and there are steps that you can take to develop them.
Below are eight key traits of that successful landlords should have and quick tips and trips you can implement:
Traits of a Successful Landlord
As a landlord, you’ll need to keep track of all kinds of moving parts and juggle many different tasks. Leasing to new tenants or dealing with maintenance requests involves a lot of paperwork. Not to mention saving and filing all those receipts for tax season!
You should have a structured system to organize your files make sure you know exactly where all your important documents are kept. You should also have a reliable system of keeping track of appointments.
Implementation: Most landlords don’t take full advantage of their smartphones, yet they can customized to become the ultimate organization and time management tool. Apps like ScanBot or TinyScanner let you scan any type of document and transform the image into .pdf format. These can then be easily stored into a Google Drive or DropBox account.
As for time management, how often did you get a call in the car (hands free of course), agreed to a meeting and forgot to note it in your calendar. Luckily the voice recognition feature in your phone can solve such problems. The technology has come a long way in the last 2 years and in most iPhones or Androids, all it takes is a quick voice command to send an appointment directly to your calendar.
2. Clear communication
The key to developing and maintaining positive relationships with your tenants is clear communication. You should respond to inquiries, questions and concerns as soon as possible to avoid frustration on their part. On the other hand, if you’re planning any maintenance or making changes to policies, make a concerted effort to notify your residents well in advance.
Implementation: Whenever you need to communicate important information, don’t stop at emails. A quick call or text exchange goes a long way and avoids the risk of the message not getting to the tenants. If you can’t easily reach your tenant, leave a courteous letter in the doorway.
Rules and policies are incredibly important when it comes to establishing expectations and boundaries, but a good landlord knows when to be flexible. Demonstrating a reasonable level of understanding will earn you the respect of your tenants but it’ll also make it more likely that they’ll reciprocate should the roles reverse.
Implementation: Being understanding and flexible doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. If a tenant asks for leniency or an exception, evaluate if giving in will create a problem or precedent you won’t be able to recover from. If it does, explain to the tenant why you can’t help them and offer an alternative solution.
Even though building relationships with tenants is an important part of being a successful landlord, you should still keep some distance. Being good friends with your tenants probably sounds like a great idea, but it can be a slippery slope. When tenants view you more as a friend than as a landlord, they are more likely to test your flexibility with lease terms or become a little more relaxed with their payments.
Implementation: Treat tenants just like you would customers in a brick and mortar store. There’s nothing wrong with being welcoming and friendly but you should also keep your relationship professional in nature.
Regardless of your landlording style, consistency with the tenants is crucial. They should know from the minute they sign the lease what to expect of you. This is important because holding different tenants to different standards can lead to tension and resentment which causes high turnover rates.
Implementation: Your policies and rules should be clearly defined and available to all of your tenants. Writing them down in a Google Document and making them available 24/7 ensures that everyone gets the same message and can refer back to them at any time.
You might have an easier time leasing an apartment if you don’t mention that a train runs right by the bedroom window every day at midnight, but that’s no way to treat a tenant. Transparent communication is essential, even if it puts you at a disadvantage from time to time.
At the end of the day, your tenants have to be able to trust you. Establishing a positive and professional relationship leads to lower turnover rates since tenants will feel like they aren’t being taken advantage of. Similarly, they’ll be more inclined to take good care of the unit since they humanize the landlord on the other end.
Implementation: Be as open as possible and don’t divert or deflect a tenant’s questions or concerns. Sometimes, being up front and honest will lead to a difficult conversation in the short term but it’ll save you from having to constantly push back dealing with a situation in the long run. For example, if an upgrade or repair keeps getting delayed, explain to the tenant why and what you’re doing to resolve it.
Even when you are dealing with a rude or disgruntled tenant, it’s essential that you maintain your composure to foster a positive environment. A respectful relationship brings everyone to the same level of calm and understanding, even if it’s one-sided at first.
Implementation: Never forget the human on the other side of the exchange. Just like you, tenants have day jobs and are subject to stress and pressure. For most, one’s home is a sanctuary from the outside world. So it’s understandable if a tenant gets short with you if he or she feels like there’s an issue with their unit. Maintain your professionalism, show understanding and communicate clearly. Responding to disrespect with a dose of your own won’t lead to a better outcome.
8. Ability to prioritize
Landlords juggle a long list of things to do, but there’s only so many hours in a week to get them all done. The result? The list keeps growing week after week. It goes without saying that keeping your units maintained and in good order takes the top priority. But how do you decide what to prioritize next? While it varies case-by-case, most successful landlords prioritize actions that realize immediate gains, or that put them in a better position for the future.
Implementation: Whenever you have competing action items in your to-do list and can’t decide which one to target and wrap up first, always ask yourself three questions: Which one has the largest and most immediate impact? Which one can benefit me in the long term if actioned now (conversely, how can it harm me if unactioned?) What’s the lost opportunity cost compared to the other items on the list? If you answer those questions honestly to yourself, your choices will be much easier to make.
The most important thing to remember is that nobody is perfect. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you are not an exemplary landlord all the time. Instead, you should focus on constantly improving so that you can develop a positive reputation among your tenants and attract new, reliable applicants to your rental properties.