Sometimes the difference between a poor tenant experience and a great one is knowing how to talk to your tenants. You don't (and shouldn't) have to be their best friend, but establishing clear communication channels has multiple benefits, such as handling property issues, lowering tenant turnover and reducing how much you need to do once a tenant moves out.
The Benefits of Open Communication
One of the major benefits of open communication is encouraging your tenants to come to you if there's a problem with the house. Some tenants may not want to bother you with little items that don't seem like a big deal to them, but can lead to costly repairs if not quickly addressed. If you have friendly communication channels opened up, it's easier for your tenant to reach out with any concerns. You also create a professional friendship with your tenants, which can help encourage them to stay in the property instead of moving elsewhere. When you're respectful with your tenants, they are also more encouraged to treat the rental kindly during the move-out cleaning and inspection process.
Another benefit of talking to your tenants effectively is getting advance notice of major life changes that may affect their tenancy. For example, if a family became pregnant with triplets, they may have to move to a larger home. It's easier to plan accordingly for these situations when you have a casual heads up. You can also use this to predict problem tenants, as there are more opportunities for red flags to come up in conversation.
How you communication also matters. Some tenants prefer calling directly, others may want to send emails and texting is also an option. What's most important is agreeing on a communication method with your tenants when you're signing the lease. If you can't get to the phone due to a day job and your tenant calls you when the water main breaks, you could have a house flood to deal with by the end of the day.
Establish a priority communication channel for emergencies and a lower-priority communication channel for less-pressing matters and small talk. This way, you know that when tenants call your priority channel you need to respond as quickly as possible, while things going to the other channel can be handled as soon as you have a chance. It's also useful to have a back-up contact in case you are unavailable for possible major emergencies, such as a fire or water pipe bursting.
If your communication method is verbal, such as in-person or through the phone, create a note detailing the time of the conversation and whether any important matters were covered. For particularly important issues such as lease agreement alterations or a contract change, send a verification of the topics discussed in writing. A paper trail is important if the tenant wants to dispute any aspects of the change or says they don't remember the conversation.
Communication between yourself and your tenant is an important part of being a landlord. Establish the appropriate communication channels, learn how to read between the lines and build a relationship with your tenant that will last a long time.
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