This is far from a complete list, and it is in no particular order of importance; plus, it is subject to change. But following these commandments will likely mean we will be more successful as rental owners and managers.
Always treat tenants with respect. I know, some of them haven’t earned much respect, but treating them with a lack of respect doesn’t do much good. Remember, in the end, we have the more powerful weapon. We can evict.
If you mess up, apologize. I mess up daily. If I ever doubt that I do, all I have to do is ask my wife. Nothing is gained by trying to be right if you are wrong. So if you make a mistake, say so and fix it.
Under promise and over deliver. We have all heard this before sometime or other. You were going to fix that broken widget anyway, but say you’ll have it done within 48 hours then get it done in less than 24. You are going to give them an answer about whether they met your rental criteria, but tell them you’ll have it done within three days and get back to them in one. Do it the other way around, and people get a rightfully poor impression of you and your business. Under promise and over deliver, and people remember you as being right on time and doing better than you said you would.
Fix it right. That is a corollary of under promising and over delivering. It’s easier and cheaper to do it right the first time than it is to have to keep going back. That’s also the case with contractors you hire to fix problems in rentals. Sloppy work reflects badly on you even if you didn’t do it. After all, you hired that idiot and should have known better and checked on him. Fixing it wrong brings into play the 2nd Commandment.
Maintain the property with dedication. Just think about how much money you have invested in that piece of real estate. In order for it to increase in value, it has to be maintained with dedication. Be dedicated to your investments and their tip-top condition.
Say thanks. We tend to forget about our good tenants because the irritating ones consume our attention. But the vast majority of tenants fall under the classification “good.” Thank them.
Thank them for taking care of their homes. Thank them for telling you when something breaks. Thank them for being good neighbors. Thank them for anything you can think of. It’s easy. Send a “thank you” card. All you have to do when you send the card, and this part is important, is write exactly what it is you are thanking them for.
Tell your tenants what’s going on. This one goes along with the 1st Commandment, treating your tenants with respect. If there is repair work to be done, tell tenants when and how it is to happen. If a building is to be painted, let people know the dates and what inconveniences they might face. If you are going to be gone and they will need to call someone else to deal with repairs and such, tell your tenants when it will be, who it will be, and how to get in touch.
Study the competition. Renters who are moving are going to rent from someone. If you don’t know what your nearby properties are offering, looking like, updating, you have put yourself at a real disadvantage. “Well, so and so down the street is offering a month’s free rent and just updated all the kitchens.” If you know about it already, you will have a counter for it. If it comes as a surprise, you have probably lost a tenant.
Ask how you’re doing. Successful companies regularly survey their customer base and those who might be their customers to find out impressions of the company’s products and service. That’s how they get better and serve their customers better. Nothing says we can’t do the same thing. It doesn’t have to be a long survey, just three or four questions about how well you are doing with attentiveness, repairs and other customer service. Use a scale from one to five with one “Needs Much Improvement” to five “Best Landlord Ever.” Leave a space for comments, too.
Know what your tenants are buying. They are only incidentally buying a place to live. They could live lots of other places, but they chose you. They are buying the benefits of living in your property that maybe some others don’t provide. Those could be a secure home, a home they can be proud of, a landlord who actually cares about them, respects them, tells them what’s going on, and says “thanks.”
Pay attention. I saved this one until last, even though it might be the most important in any list of good rental-property commandments. Here’s why. When you pay attention, you see things, hear things and find out things that you probably would not if you were sitting home watching sports or Home Shopping Network on TV. Those things you can find out at rental owners and apartment associations, from news about local activities that affect rental properties, and from regular property inspections and surveys. Paying attention can help make the rental property business more successful and keep you ahead of the competition and in the running for the most qualified tenants. Observe these commandments and watch your success meter begin to creep up. Follow them enough and other landlords will be asking how you did it. You can tell them if you want.