April 6, 2016

It is essential to be an amazing landlord if you want to be a successful landlord. It costs a lot to attract and keep good tenants and the cost of removing bad tenants can be exceptionally high. Not only will you have repairs to do, but the vacancy expense adds up quickly as well.

Really, the best tenants are the ones that stay for a long time, pay their rent on time, and cause minimal problems.

To achieve this, you need to manage your relationship with the tenants in order to make them think they are lucky to have a great landlord.

If you are still searching for your first rental property or multi-family, or perhaps you have one or two but can’t find the right deals, you need to read my article on finding great deals using the internet.

A few tips to becoming an Excellent Landlord

Some of these are quite common, as you see on this article about being a good landlord. But, what does it mean to be ‘nice’ or ‘not be too nice’. I’ve compiled a list of the things that I’ve done that have been successful.

This list is by no means all-inclusive and it also doesn’t mean you need to do everything all the time for every tenant. You should have some systems in place you do for every tenant, and then you can pick and choose in order to manage the landlord-tenant relationship as necessary.

1. Good Landlords Maintain the property in Great condition

From lawn maintenance to cleaning, your property needs to look good inside and out. Nothing screams “Lazy Landlord” more than an overgrown lawn and obvious deferred maintenance.

“I swear it will be clean when you move in” – Not a Great Landlord

Instead, make sure you cut the lawn weekly while showing the vacant property. Tenants will often understand if there is work being done, but when they show up to collect the keys and move in, make sure the building is clean from top to bottom and everything is exactly how it should be. The tenant’s should be proud to move into your apartment and they should be proud to tell their friends about their great landlord.

2. Have a Good Lease and Tenant Screening Process

Their first impressions of their new landlord is of the property showing, the tenant application, and the lease. It is essential to be the most professional landlord than you can be during these steps. I highly recommend checking out the free landlord forms page which has 48 sample forms you can use as a template to help you nail that first impression.

Your solid tenant screening process will also make them feel comfortable that their neighbors also have been thoroughly screened and are trustworthy. Additionally, problems between tenants can quickly become problems with the landlord, so it’s essential that every tenant you put in is great and can get along with the other tenants in the building.

It is very important to have a great lease as well. This lease will show the tenants what the rules are and what they can or cannot do. The more formal this is, the more comfortable the tenant will feel with the landlord and their decision to rent from you.

I won’t go into detail in this article, but every tenant should be required to get renter’s insurance. Please read more about that if you’re curious why.

3. Contact the Tenants Regularly and Be Prompt With Maintenance

Tenants like to be left alone, but they also like to know that their landlord cares about their well-being. By checking on them from time-to-time, they know that you are one of the few landlords that care about their tenants.

Some tenants don’t like to bother the landlord, so they may not tell them about repairs – even if they are very important repairs. Regularly contacting the tenants will give them a forum to tell you about necessary repairs.

It also feeds into my next point – be prompt with repairs. Forgetting about their needs shows you don’t care but promptly fixing their problems separates you as a great landlord from the mediocre.

4. Offer a Reward to Extend The Lease

This is something you see in larger apartment complexes, so why not implement it for yourself. You can offer a free carpet cleaning or apartment cleaning to the tenants if they renew their lease. First of all, it makes them a little more likely to renew, thus reducing your vacancy and turnover expenses. Second of all, it get’s a yearly cleaning done that will make it much easier to turn-over when they do move out.

5. Send Christmas Cards and Small Gifts

Someone recommended this to me a few years ago so I tried it out. I would give a card and I usually just buy some chocolate and individually wrap a small handful for each unit. The tenants absolutely loved it! You will be the first landlord to ever give them a Christmas or birthday card or gift, and they will tell all their friends about it too.

6. Give rewards for Saving You Money

I have a 4 unit building where the water can’t really be sub-metered. I watched as every quarter the water bill just crept higher and higher. Instead of just raising the rents to cover it, I sent a letter to all the tenants explaining that if they didn’t keep the water bill down, I would have to raise the rents.

The following quarter the water bill had dropped by half! I saved over $300 in that quarter alone. So, I sent a thank-you card to each tenant with a $25-50 gift card (depending on unit size) to say thanks and ‘share’ the savings. I spent about half of the first quarter worth of savings with the gift cards, but the low water bills continued on for another 2 years.

The tenants became fiercely loyal to me as their landlord and would even tell the other tenants to be careful with their water so they wouldn’t cost us more money!

7. Provide Address Labels, Deposit Slips, or Very Easy Access to Paying Rent

There is nothing more annoying to a landlord than to hunt down tenants for rent. Tenants also hate hunting down their landlord in order to pay them. Make this process super simple.

I’ve even set up a new bank account near one property just so an old woman didn’t have to go far to deposit her rent.

However you collect your rent, make it easy and fast so the tenants can think about things other than paying you.

8. Provide a Move-In Packet with Change of Address Form

Simplify their lives by providing info on their utility providers, cable companies, and even a change of address form. Moving is quite stressful and difficult, so make their lives as easy as possible.

9. Follow Up With a Welcome Letter or Postcard

Just like in sales – follow up is key. After a few weeks, send a follow-up letter telling the tenant how happy you are to have them there. Always make yourself available to answer questions. Make sure the tenants know that their landlord wasn’t just interested in their money and immediately forgot about them.

10. Maintain Boundaries and Always Follow Your Processes

You can politely maintain your professional boundaries with the tenants and also maintain friendliness. If the tenant is late with rent, make sure you follow your process and send them their notice to quit. You can be polite and explain that it’s a formality and won’t mean anything once they pay, but trust me, they won’t be late again! You can also find some resources about dealing with tenant damages.

Also, some tenants will keep asking for more and more as long as you make yourself available. It is important to maintain a boundary and sometimes tell them that you can’t help them with that particular issue, but provide a phone number to someone who can help them.

Remember, when you are a great landlord, it usually results in having great tenants. Of course you can’t prevent all problems from happening, but you can avoid any conflicts resulting from your own negligence or personality conflicts between yourself and the tenant. Even if you only have 1 or 2 rentals, your tenants don’t know that. Treat it like a business and always be professional. Know what type of landlord you are and manage the tenant – landlord relationship.

Interesting note – Some great landlords have been immortalized. You can see on this wiki page that one landlord had a monument erected in his name and the whole town was named in his memory. I wish I could read about his methods!

Now that you have implemented these techniques – welcome to the Great Landlords List. How’s it feel to be part of the club?

About the author 

Eric Bowlin

Eric is an investor that achieved financial independence at the age of 30. He started in 2009 with the purchase of his first triplex and now owns over 470 rental units. He spends his time with his family, growing his businesses, diversifying his income, and teaching others how to achieve financial independence through real estate. Eric has been seen on Forbes, Trulia, WiseBread, TheStreet, Yahoo Finance and other financial publications. You can contact Eric by emailing him at [email protected] or with this contact form

  • Eric, these are great tips. You hear so much about bad tenants but it takes a lot of effort and creativity to be a good landlord. I especially like the idea of the reward for extending the lease. When you’ve got good tenants, going a little extra distance can make a big difference to them.

    • Thanks! I agree. I found that the tenant-landlord relationship can break down for a number of reasons…sometimes it’s because of the landlord too.

      What sorts of other techniques have you seen that work?

  • Hi Eric!
    Thanks for sharing this post. We have great tenants and we find that when we work hard, they appreciate it and treat our property well. They also seem to help each other more (we have two four unit buildings right next to each other). They also see my husband there working every few days to make their home look great. He is very responsive if they need anything repaired and he fixes things with quality replacements, so it is unlikely things will need repair any time soon. We treat our tenants like "clients" – and we have earned a very good reputation because of that.

    • Hi Vicki!

      I’m really glad you liked the article. You mentioned something very interesting – treat the tenants like clients. I think there is some good takeaways to that statement and people should incorporate some of the ‘client’ mentality when dealing with tenants.

      I think if we can screen out the bad ones, then we can really enjoy a positive relationship with the good ones.

  • This is great advice Eric! I’m sure this will make any landlord seem like a SuperHero. I love the example of rather than raising rents, sending a letter to your residents explaining the water issue. Plus you sent them a bonus with savings! By implementing a lot of these points, we’ve kept tenants for 4+ years.

    • Thanks!

      It serves the same purpose to me. Reducing costs or raising rents gets me to the same numbers.

      By sharing a little back with the tenants, they saw that I appreciated their efforts.

  • Hey Eric,
    I have read most of your articles, all were very helpful and informative. This article has enough information to become a great landlord. Landlords or home owners should know their responsibilities. Thanks Eric 🙂

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