There’s tons of material out there to help you conduct the actual business of being a landlord – from rental rate calculators to advice on maintenance and repairs. But being a landlord also requires a certain amount of emotional intelligence and the proper cultivation and maintenance of relationships, both with tenants and everyone else peripherally involved in your business.
The most important relationship – your tenants
Having a good interpersonal relationship with the people who rent your property is vital. The better your relationship, the more likely they are to treat your property with respect, pay the rent on time, and just generally be good tenants. Many landlords maintain that this is nothing more than a business relationship, and shouldn’t be treated as more to avoid potential issues. But the risks are worth the rewards. You are dealing with someone’s home, whether or not they are renting it from you – and this in itself makes your relationship personal.
First of all, make sure the lines of communication are always open between you and the tenant. Give them your phone number, email, and contact information for anyone they can reach in hours that you may not answer for an emergency situation, such as a pipe bursting or a problem with a major appliance. The benefit to them is peace of mind, and the benefit to you is knowing that potentially damaging situations like water damage will be dealt with immediately.
Once you’ve opened those lines of communication, use them. Do a check-in call once every few months to make sure everything is going well. This can help you get on top of minor items, such as a leaky faucet, before they become major repairs. It also shows the tenant that you are interested in making sure their rental is in tip-top shape.
Gauging the reasonableness of tenant requests
One of the most-cited issues with landlords is a failure to address issues that a tenant has. Granted, the request has to fit on a scale of being within reason – you can’t be expected to change a lightbulb, for example, but if the lightbulb is lodged at the top of a 10-foot ceiling, you may want to consider helping out the tenant. Time-wise, you should budget some time each month to show up and deal with what may seem minor issues. Emergencies should always be dealt with within 24 hours of the original call, contractors permitting if you need to call one in.
Many renters haven’t been homeowners before, and may not know how to perform basic maintenance tasks over and above cleaning. The more of these “grey area” requests you handle for a tenant, the more goodwill you’ll build with most of them, and the more willing they’ll be to perform tasks that you’d like them to do, such as cleaning behind a fridge. There are some people you can never please, but don’t automatically shunt a tenant into this category if they are asking for something that you consider to be basic.
While you should be kind and personable to your tenant, it’s preferable to not take up their space too often. Having a landlord come around can be a nerve-wracking experience for a time-pressed professional who washes their dishes once every few days, and more so for a family with children. Never randomly drop in on them – you should call and set a time if you want to visit the property for any reason, preferably at least a few days in the future to give them time to clean up for your visit.
Relationships with contractors
It’s hard to find a good contractor. When you find one, treat them like they are gold – because to you, they are. Try to always hire the same contractor for a specific task to build a recurring relationship. For example, if you have carpets steam cleaned between each tenancy, hire the same company. The smaller, the better, as long as they have the capacity to get to your job in a timely manner. That way you’ll get to know the same people with each job, and can build a rapport with them. Honest professionals tend to hang together, so if you need a contractor for a different task, ask your go-to people for references before you hit the Internet to search for someone. Where possible, you should try to line up a contractor for anything you can’t fix yourself in advance – that way you can gauge reliability, availability and trustworthiness before you call them into your property for an emergency.
It’s a small thing, but you should always send out cards around the holiday season to your contractors, and buy a small gift for your tenants. Tenants especially will remember this and be more likely to refer you to their friends.
How to deal with complaints like a champ
Once you’ve assembled your superhero contractors, it will be easy to deal with tenant emergencies and complaints – but only if you’ve been smart enough to do it in advance. If a tenant calls you unusually upset about something you think is relatively minor, try to put yourself in their shoes – is it minor to them? Toronto is home to many professionals in positions which carry with them a high stress level, and most tenant requests have to be viewed in this light. Deal with the complaint as quickly as you can, and check in with the tenant after the fix is in to make sure they are happy.
If you would like to get a company to do all of this for you, contact Highgate today! We have established relationships with trusted contractors and are ready to manage your property on a moment’s notice.