Training tenants to behave takes some commitment on the landlord’s part, but it saves time and money in the end. The best place to begin is with organization:
Too much Information
One trick to getting tenants to follow the rules is making it easy to find them. A common mistake that landlords can make is having so many rules that no one remembers or understands what they are supposed to be doing — or not doing.
This happens when a landlord’s policies are largely reactionary — they modify the rules or the lease each and every time something goes wrong, rather than being proactive and focusing on how they want the property to be cared for. The difference is like seeing the forest for the trees.
A lease agreement is critically important, and must include the rights and responsibilities the landlord needs to enforce. That said, it’s not a very good reference tool. Tenants understand it’s a legal document, so they stick it somewhere safe, usually out of reach. Leases also are written in legal terminology, which isn’t exactly user-friendly.
Assemble a tenant handbook that contains either a table of contents or a subject index for easy reference. Include easy-to-understand directions for the common issues that tend to come up — repairs, pets, roommates, and so on. For ideas on information to include, visit www.tenantsinfo.com.
Could You Repeat That, Please?
Repetition helps all of us remember. Help train good habits by staging your communications with your tenants throughout the tenancy.
Start at leasing time with an overview of what will be expected from the tenant.
Include those responsibilities in the lease — but don’t stop there:
Provide a house rules sheet or handbook at move-in — a quick reference guide that the tenant can keep in a handy place.
Send out monthly email reminders of any scheduled maintenance or events — for instance, it’s time for a property inspection. Maybe it’s an informational email describing events in the neighbourhood — just communicate with the tenants on a regular schedule.
Some landlords find it is helpful to send out rent reminders at the end of each month to increase the likelihood of on-time rent. This is also a good opportunity to get in front of the tenant.
Send out move-out cleaning tips or a checklist a month or so ahead of time so the tenant has a better chance of getting the necessary work done.
Be A Superhero, Not a Villain
As a fallback rule, any time a tenant can’t remember what to do or has a problem, let them know they can always call their landlord. Take time to be available to discuss issues. Don’t react emotionally, but rather explain your view: “No, I’m not comfortable installing a large dog door because I’m concerned about your safety, and removing it will leave a big hole in the door. My next tenants may not have a large dog. Let’s look at other options.”
Be the one your tenants turn to rather than someone they fear, and you have the best chance of avoiding damage to the property, or other income loss.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.