Everyone wants to be liked, but when you’re managing rental properties and dealing with tenants, developing a friendly relationship can turn sour. If a tenant feels too comfortable with you, they might start to expect special treatment or feel like they don’t need to pay late fees.
However, you need to be likable, or you won’t be respected. The key is to strike a balance, and here’s how to do that.
1. Be firm, but not mean
Plenty of well-respected professionals are firm yet very much loved. You don’t have to choose one or the other; you just have to know how to be firm without being mean. Set the rules so that your tenants know they aren’t negotiable, but be willing to hear them out if they have a good reason for a special request.
For instance, you might have a no-smoking policy, but your tenant wants to enjoy a cigar on the porch once in a while. Be willing to listen. You can still say no if you don’t want to bend the rules.
If your tenants think you’re not serious about enforcing the rules, they might not hesitate to violate the lease in small ways, such as getting pets in a no-pets unit or stashing trash outside their door for days at a time.
Enforce your lease terms as soon as you become aware of a violation. Keep extensive, detailed documentation regarding all tenant issues, requests, and problems. Never assume that a seemingly happy tenant would never file a lawsuit because you can’t know for sure. Thorough tenant documentation will mitigate future legal issues, should they arise.
2. Be direct and specific from day one
Your first interaction with a tenant will set the tone for your entire relationship. From the first point of contact, whether by phone, email or in person, be sure to embody the tone of how you want the entire relationship to be and communicate all expectations upfront. For example, when you go over the lease, verbalize the policies and make sure they understand the rules. Never leave anything up to your tenant to figure out on their own.
Being direct with your tenants will command respect from them since many people appreciate this gesture. Vague communication is frustrating, and most tenants just want to know what’s expected of them so they can move in and live their lives.
3. Develop rapport with your tenants
In any way possible, try to develop some rapport with your tenants. They’ll feel more at ease with you, and this will foster trust in the relationship. Find something you have in common, maybe make some small talk about finding out what their hobbies and interests are, or ask if they like any sports. It’s easy to create rapport with someone when you approach your commonalities in a genuine manner.
4. Enforce all rules with limited exceptions
Always enforce the rules and never give tenants the impression that you’ll let them slide. You don’t have to be mean about it; you just need to be direct and firm. In other words, explicitly state that you don’t let lease violations slide, and they will be expected to pay all applicable late fees.
If you’re going to make an exception, make it known that you’re giving the tenant a break and that it won’t be a regular thing. You don’t want people to think you’ll roll over every time they need leniency. Some people will make a habit of violating the lease or being late with rent when they know there are no consequences.
Regarding late fees, it’s okay to allow tenants to pay them in installments if needed, but don’t let them off the hook. Late fees are supposed to serve as a deterrent to late rent, and waiving those fees is like giving them a second chance to be late again.
Don’t want to be a landlord? Hire a property manager
Whether you’re renting a single-family home, an unfurnished condo, or a serviced apartment, your workload will be intense. Not everyone who owns a rental property is cut out to be a landlord, and that’s okay because you can hire a property manager. When you outsource your daily duties, you won’t have to deal with the stress of managing repairs, fielding emergency calls, and keeping up with landlord-tenant laws.
Property managers can do everything for you, including collecting rent, filling vacancies, running background checks, and even serving eviction notices according to the law. If being a landlord isn’t for you, hire it out and spend your free time doing things you enjoy.