We never saw ourselves as landlords – it just wasn’t part of our plan. However, circumstances said otherwise, and now, 30 years and several rental properties later, we’re happy to share with you the tips that have made our job easier and our tenants’ lives happier and healthier.
All landlords should interview their prospective tenants and ask for relevant references. However, we go two steps further. Firstly, we drive by our short-listed tenants’ current addresses. Are their curtains pulled back in the middle of the day? Do they care for the grounds? Is there rubbish lying about the property? The fact is, if your prospective tenants are not looking after the home they are currently occupying, it’s unlikely they will look after yours. We also take time to check out their social media pages if they are accessible to the public – there’s no hiding your past when you choose to display it for all to see.
Setting up a property
When preparing a property for incoming tenants, we leave out the ‘clues’ that suggest the standard of housekeeping we want them to (a least try to) aspire to. We leave a fresh can of oven cleaner and one of carpet shampoo in the kitchen cupboard, a spray bottle of glass cleaner in the shower, a rubber squeegee in the bathroom, and a yard broom on the deck. The subtext should be unmistakable – but it still doesn’t do any harm (especially if your tenants are young) to point out these bits and bobs on the day they move in.
Window safety catches
A well-ventilated property is a healthy property – but tenants can’t achieve the impossible. By ensuring there are safety catches on all opening windows, you are encouraging your tenants to air out their home even when they are away at work.
All conscientious landlords inspect properties regularly. However, if you want inspections to be meaningful, let your tenants know, in advance, just what the focus of these inspections will be. Don’t make the list arduous – although you will be looking over the whole property, list on the tenancy agreement just 2-3 main points. We focus on: a mould-free bathroom ceiling (hence the squeegee in the bathroom), mould-free curtain backings (in other words: “tenants, please remember to draw back your curtains during the day and ventilate the property well when weather permits”), and a grease-free oven.
Prior to the colder months, we always contact tenants to let them know how much lower their power bills will be if they regularly clean out the filters on their heat pumps. This reminder is good for your tenants and good for the heat pumps (the motors of which have to work overtime if filters are not dust-free).
Keeping the good ones
Good tenants are like gold – cultivate their patronage and encourage them to stay put by raising rentals only when absolutely necessary, and providing them with a property that you would be happy to live in yourself. Treat them occasionally (such as giving them a box of chocolates at Christmas time or following a successful inspection), and regularly remind them how much you value what they are doing to help keep the property in good shape.
Mind your language
When discussing the rental property with tenants and prospective tenants, steer clear of terms such as ‘rental’ and ‘the flat’. The fact is, your property is going to be their home, so use the word ‘home’ often in your conversation to encourage them to take pride in their new surroundings, and to look after it as their own.