There are several things you want to do so that you have good tenants in your rentals. Mostly it involves setting standards from the beginning without invading their personal space and their rights as tenants. You should have a set of rules you expect them to follow. Type them out and have them sign a copy. They can't follow the rules if they don't know what they are.
Rules can be separate from the lease. Rules are things like no loud music after 10 p.m. or that vehicles can't be dismantled on the property. The lease tells them when the rent is due and includes a clause saying there is a $35 late charge if the rent is late. Be sure you personally go through the lease with new tenants. That way you know they read it. Use a yellow highlighter to point out important clauses like when the rent is due and that 30 days notice is required before vacating.
You don't want to invade their personal space but you do want to make sure they are taking care of your property. You want to become known as the landlord that takes care of your tenants. Make sure the home is in good repair and clean before you do the walk-through and hand over the keys. Tenants that can be proud of where they live are more likely to keep it in good shape. Also, have a reason to come back to the place in about a month to see how they are treating it. Replacing the furnace filter can be that reason. While you are there, ask them if there are any problems that need attention. Keeping your renters satisfied the first few months of the lease goes a long way in turning them into long term tenants.
One nice gesture is having the grass mowed right before they move in if there is a yard. Moving is a lot of work. Not having to do that chore for a while is a help to them and of course makes the place show better.
If they do call with a problem that needs attention, make sure it's taken care of quickly. Quality tenants expect the house they are paying for to be kept in good repair. Also, put a reward program in place. Something like a carpet cleaning when they renew the lease is a nice touch. And a $25 gift card if they recommend a quality tenant for one of your other properties.
Letting them know it's important to pay the rent on time is as easy as sending a late notice immediately the first and every time they are late. Never wave the late fee. Without a late fee, they have no incentive to make sure the rent is paid on time.
A few well thought out policies and rules make it easy for your tenants to know what to expect of you and what you expect of them.
As a landlord, you have the responsibility of setting the expectations of your tenants and living up to the expectations your tenants rightfully have of you. By establishing this from the beginning sets the tone of the relationship you'll have your tenants. Even if you only have a couple of rentals, managing them professionally makes the difference between a profitable business or an expensive hobby.
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Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 25 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest in the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.