Getting Your Tenants to Renew: Why They Stay, and How to Keep Them
Let’s be honest: Filling a vacancy is a hassle. It takes time, it sometimes means losing out on rent, and it’s probably something you prefer to do as infrequently as possible. So if you have a good tenant, how do you get them to stay? While some factors are beyond your control, such as your renter relocating for a new job, there are several things you can do to keep your reliable tenant happy and eager to renew.
Why renters stay
Renters stay put for a number of reasons: They may prefer the flexibility of renting, or they can’t afford to purchase a home in their desired neighbourhood, or they’re waiting longer to get married or have kids (frequent catalysts for buying one’s first home).
The good news is that if your tenant has been at your rental for more than a year, they’re likely to stick around a while longer: A comprehensive study of renters found that 40 percent of people who’ve been in their rental for more than a year have no plans to move within the next three years. Nearly half of them are happy with their living situation, including the price of rent and neighbourhood, and a third don’t want to deal with the stress of moving.
What about the other half?
While half of long-term renters are happy with their rental situation, half are less than satisfied. The same study reported that of the long-term renters who are planning to move within the next three years, 55 percent will move to another rental. Don’t let that happen! If you’re lucky enough to have a good tenant, you want them to stay in your rental.
So what can you do, as a landlord, to boost renter satisfaction? Here are 5 ways to keep your reliable tenant happy.
1. Be available and responsive
Start by creating a clear, detailed lease agreement that outlines your expectations, and review it in person to answer questions and establish good rapport with your new tenant. Let tenants know the best ways to contact you, noting any times that you’re not available, and then respond quickly to tenant concerns as they come up.
Show that you care about the unit and its occupants by checking in periodically to ask if everything is running smoothly at the property; renters sometimes hesitate to bother their landlords with small problems, but those can turn into bigger issues if not managed early.
2. Welcome them home
Help your new tenant get connected with the neighborhood so they can put down roots and have an incentive to stay long term. Providing a small welcome package with useful information such as take-out menus, a list of nearby points of interest — groceries, parks, community centers, post offices, libraries — and a link to the town or neighborhood blog is a simple yet effective way to help your renter get established.
3. Solve problems
When issues do arise, strive to take care of your landlord responsibilities promptly. If something is broken at your rental property, it may seem like just one more thing on your to-do list, but for your tenant, a nonfunctioning appliance or jammed window can be an annoyance that escalates to a major frustration if not attended to. On the other hand, tenants will have a positive impression of landlords who solve the problem quickly, without complaint, and follow up to ensure that the solution was effective.
4. Keep your tenants in the loop
Provide as much notice as possible when you know of a change or problem that will impact your tenants. Respect the fact that, for the duration of their tenancy, your property is someone’s home. Even if you’re doing something minor, like having the trees trimmed, inform your tenants in advance. Changes that cause more significant impacts, like a sewer line repair, increase in utility charges or an upcoming increase in rent should be communicated early.
5. Be human
Your rental property is a business, and you should manage it accordingly. But just as a good manager treats staff members with respect and empathy, be considerate of your tenants. Being a landlord is no excuse for treating your renters as inferior.
If you have a great tenant who lost their job and needs an extra week to get their rent together, consider whether the “all business” approach of tacking on late fees is in your best interest in the long run. While you should be cautious about making exceptions to your policies, in some cases giving your reliable renter a little leeway — and earning their gratitude (and lease renewal) — leads to the best outcome.