Landlording & Rental Properties

6 Simple Tips to Help Keep Your Tenants Happy (& Paying)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Finance, Real Estate News & Commentary, Business Management, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Marketing, Mortgages & Creative Financing
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Keeping your tenants happy is the key to success in a rental property business. It takes a significant amount of time and money to find and retain great tenants, and if you’ve finally found a good fit, you want to do everything you can to make them stay. However, it’s not always easy to find a balance between doing your job properly and keeping tenants happy.

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Keep Them Informed

A little education can go a long way in making things easier for both you and the tenant. Just because you don’t think a tenant will like a rule doesn’t mean you should hide it from them. Being honest about policies from the very beginning is the best way to develop a relationship that everyone can trust.

Perform Repairs Quickly

Give tenants a property they can be proud of. The quality of the property is largely a reflection of the kinds of tenants you’ll attract. Doing repairs quickly and upholding a reputation of keeping the property in tip-top shape are what will keep your tenants coming back to sign a new contract.

Related: 10 Not-So-Obvious Ways to Thoroughly Screen Potential Tenants

On the flip side, there’s nothing more frustrating to a tenant than hitting a stone wall every time they turn in a maintenance request. Long processes and slow responses only make tenants angry.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Though many landlords are able to avoid some of the biggest issues with tenants, make sure you're prepared to handle the worst situations. It can be critical to have appropriate landlord insurance in the event of damage to property or a break-in.

You’ll also want to have a plan in place for handling these situations if they arise, including a procedure for the tenant to follow. Your tenant will appreciate the time and effort you put into keeping their property safe and comfortable.

Send Reminders to Pay Rent

Instead of sending your tenant a nasty email when their rent is overdue, send them a reminder email a few days before the due date. You can do this through a scheduled, automated message so you don’t have to worry about remembering yourself. Reminders are great for both you and the tenant because you get rent on time, and your tenant doesn’t get a late fee just because they forgot one month.

Maintain an Open Door Policy

Set office hours and leave the door open during that time for tenants to come in and discuss any problems or concerns they might have. Make sure they know you are only available after hours for emergencies. However, be kind but firm if one of your tenants forgets and calls you way after hours. These are just small ways that you can remind your tenant why they love living where they do.

Related: Zen & the Art of Property Maintenance: How to Gracefully Handle Tenant Repair Calls

Respond Quickly to Communication

Anytime someone calls, emails, or asks a question, try to respond as quickly as possible. Effective communication is key in keeping tenants around. Mandate a policy of responding to all forms of communication within 24 hours. If you’re going to be out of town for a few days, or you don’t want to spend your weekends rifling through emails, simply let your tenants know you won’t be in the office for a specific timeframe and you’ll get back to them as soon as you return.

You’ll be amazed how much a little effort in communication and preparation on your part can significantly reduce the headache that would follow without it.

What steps do you take to keep your tenants paying and staying?

Let us know with a comment!

Larry is an independent, full-time writer and consultant. His writing covers a broad range of topics including business, investment and technology. His contributions include Entrepreneur Media, TechCrunch, and When he is not writing, Larry assists both entrepreneurs and mid-market businesses in optimizing strategies for growth, cost cutting, and operational optimization. As an avid real estate investor, Larry cut his teeth in the early 2000s buying land and small single family properties. He has since acquired and flipped over 30 parcels and small homes across the United States. While Larry’s real estate investing experience is a side passion, he will affirm his experience and know-how in real estate investing is derived more from his failures than his successes.
    Wendy Harris Real Estate Investor from South Lyon, Michigan
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Great ideas! Here are a few more suggestions. Make sure you also always answer the phone and communicate in a professional and cheerful manner. I’m renting at the moment myself, and I always dread calling my landlord because they always sound like they are tired and pissed off at being interrupted and can’t be bothered, and that’s just the start of it. I came within an inch of not renewing my lease just because I find them so unpleasant to deal with. Hire maintenance people who don’t look and act like thugs or prison escapees, and who are well-groomed and reasonably well-dressed and neat for that occupation. No one, particularly not women, the elderly, and/or the disabled, especially those who live alone, wants to let people who look and act creepy into their home. Don’t just complete requested repairs quickly, but be proactive about maintaining the property overall, *especially* if you are asking top dollar. Don’t wait for someone to have to call about burned out lights in common areas or about garbage that hasn’t been picked up or hallways and lobbies that haven’t seen a vacuum in weeks or worse. Do not, under any circumstances, enter your tenant’s home without at least 24-48 hours advance notice, except in a true emergency. I don’t care *what* your state law says you can or cannot do, nothing will lose the trust and goodwill of your tenants faster than not knowing when you are going to come barging in, whether they are home or not. Your name may be on the deed, but while someone is paying you rent, they are paying in no small part for the quiet enjoyment of their home, unmolested. Do not violate their privacy; that house or apartment is functionally theirs, and not yours, for as long as they pay the rent and live there.
    Karen Bickford from Bolton, Massachusetts
    Replied over 5 years ago
    More great advice Wendy!
    Darren Sager Investor from Summit, NJ
    Replied over 5 years ago
    I agree Wendy. Making sure you maintain the property and having it be a place where people WANT to live is a great way to keep your tenants and reduce turnover. You’ll pay either way but maintenance of the property usually costs far less than turnover! And what a great comment about not hiring anyone who someone would raise a red flag about their personal safety.
    Wendy Hoechstetter Interior Designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Thanks, folks. I’m dealing with all of the above now (and more) since I’m renting myself after selling my house last year, and it makes me crazy. Particularly when you have single female tenants, disabled people, and the elderly, being able to feel safe with the employees matters big time. And please pay them enough to actually attract and keep the better ones. Safety doesn’t just start and end with how the employees look and act, either; it carries over to the entry policy in a very big way. How can anyone feel safe if they have to worry about people coming into their homes unannounced whenever they want, whether they are at home or not? Some friends of mine moved out of one of the most expensive units in the building after maintenance walked in on them unannounced one too many times, the last when in her robe after a shower. A gorgeous $2400+ unit then sat empty for more than 6 months. State law does allow them to do that, but I wonder if they really thought that was worth it. I know there are far worse landlords and buildings out there, but seeing how these people manage this building has been a real lesson what *not* to do if you want to retain tenants. Sadly, they consider this one their flagship – and it is by far one of the most expensive rental buildings around here, with rents something like 70% above the neighborhood average, and in the best part of one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town. I think I should be able to expect the exterior to be cleaned and the interior vacuumed more than every other week for this kind of money. Two others have moved in the last few months because of the maintenance issues, and because of the constant turnover (and increased noise) since they have clearly started courting students, who are of course doubling up. Turnover doesn’t add to a feeling of safety, either. With a constant stream of new faces, it’s impossible to keep track of who actually lives here, and that is very disconcerting, to say the least. Don’t even start me on the elevator, which is itself a major hazard that they just refuse to replace even though the elevator people have said it simply cannot be fixed any more because of its age. Yes, I know that’s expensive – but this building was built by them in 1961, so it’s been pure profit for a long time now. It would be a lot cheaper than the lawsuit that will happen when (not if) someone gets seriously injured. Don’t be that landlord! The only thing that is really keeping most of us adults here is that the apartments themselves are incredibly spacious and comfortable, with excellent architectural bones, and they really feel like houses. There is simply nothing else on the market like them, certainly not in this most prime of locations. These issues are trying all of our patience however. The students don’t care; they just crash here for a semester or two (or less) as students do, and always take the stairs.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 5 years ago
    All great advice. When I was a tenant, I found that landlords who abided by “Give tenants a property they can be proud of. The quality of the property is largely a reflection of the kinds of tenants you’ll attract” intuitively followed the other pieces of advice as well. Regarding ” Just because you don’t think a tenant will like a rule…” If you have a rule like that, maybe you should examine it. Good tenants do not object to reasonable rules. If you are doing everything else right, maybe the rule has a problem, especially if your last and best line of defense is the meaningless “That’s the policy.” If you cannot give a good reason for the policy, perhaps the policy should go. “It’s policy” is never an acceptable reason.
    Wendy Hoechstetter Interior Designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Good point, Katie. “The law allows us to do such-and-such (or doesn’t prohibit it); it’s *our* property and we can do what we want with it” also doesn’t wash. Golden rule, folks. Karma can be a you-know-what.
    Pippa Clark
    Replied over 5 years ago
    As a tenant I find performing repairs quickly the most important point.
    Wendy Hoechstetter Interior Designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 5 years ago
    That and doing them properly.
    Darren Sager Investor from Summit, NJ
    Replied over 5 years ago
    All good points you made Larry! And some great additions by the BiggerPockets community. It’s so important to do repairs quickly. We want tenants to pay on time and little things are big things to tenants. They don’t want to be having to deal with an issue day over day. Hence one of the reasons why I have the 24hr service on all appliances and mechanicals in the house. They can call direct and arrange to get them fixed when it happens and not have to rely upon anyone else to get it done.
    Wendy Hoechstetter Interior Designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Little things are going to be even bigger things to them when your tenants are former homeowners (whether downsizing empty-nesters or otherwise), or people who still own other property. A lot of older people in particular move into rentals when they downsize out of the big family home because they are tired of dealing with the hassle and expense of upkeep and property taxes, and are just ready to have someone else do it. It’s not much of an advantage if it’s like pulling teeth to get it done, though, or the workmanship is so sloppy we simply don’t want to even look at it.