3 Tips to Transform Your Tenants From Apathetic Residents to Raving Customers

by | BiggerPockets.com

I have an easy question: What is the best way to maximize revenue for a rental property? I can tell you that reducing vacancies is the key. Some would say that raising rents is important, and I agree that it is. But consider that one month’s worth of vacancy equals 8% of your revenue per year. You stand to lose much more in vacancy over the long term. This sounds simple, but keeping your units full of on-time paying tenants is the best way to stabilize a rental.

So how do you get there? I see it as a two-step process. Step one is careful selection of new tenants through a repeatable screening process. Step two is retaining good tenants through what I call “tenant retention efforts.” My goal is to turn all my tenants into “raving fans” of where they live and of their landlord. Today I am going to talk about three strategies we use to make that happen.

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3 Tips to Transform Your Tenants From Apathetic Residents to Raving Customers

1. Take care of issues quickly.

Want to get your tenants in a lather? Try taking too long to address maintenance issues. There is no quicker way to tick a tenant off and encourage them to move. Tenants want their concerns to be addressed, and want to know that if they have a problem in the future you are going to deal with it, quickly. If you can’t afford the repair at the time, be in communication with the tenant so that they feel heard.

Tenants also want to know that you are committed to keeping the property in good condition even if there is not a pressing emergency. Do preventative maintenance walkthroughs to make sure things are in good working order. If it’s a multifamily, keep the lawn and common areas in good condition. Make sure the snow is shoveled in the winter in a timely fashion. These things aren’t hard; they just take budget and scheduling. Doing them will make your good tenants feel like you care about where they live.

2. Make it feel like home.

Some tenants are just renting an apartment or a house. Others would call your property their home. I have some tenants that have been with us for years. They decorate for the holidays. Units are clean, and they did some things to personalize them. Maybe they repainted a room or added something to spruce the place up. I had one tenant redo their kitchen on their own dime. These people will never leave, as long as I take care of them.

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

So how do you create that feeling of home for your tenants? It does take the right equation of things outside your control. The 25-year-old fresh out of college may not drop anchor in your unit for 10 years. The newlyweds living in a 1-bedroom may have a baby someday. You can’t control these things, but you can create an environment that encourages people feeling comfortable enough to stay long term.

Simple strategies include doing some simple things to dress up the outside of the property like basic landscaping or lighting. In most units I will allow tenants to have a pet or two, as long as they pay our non-refundable pet fee ($250) and pet rent ($25 per month). Some other complexes don’t take pets, so their probability to move goes down.

Another strategy that works is to remove bad neighbors. If I find that a tenant in one of my multifamily buildings is causing problems with the other tenants, I address it quickly. We once bought a multifamily and soon found that one of the tenants was suspected of drug activity and was constantly disturbing the others in the building.

Although this tenant’s rent was paid on time, I made it my personal mission to get them out as soon as I could. I was able to catch them on a technicality in their lease and had them out a few months after ownership. The other tenants were extremely grateful, and all of them have gladly signed lease renewals with rent increases included.

I will even engage the neighbors of buildings we own if they are taking away from my tenant’s sense of “home”. I have called the local township many times on properties next to ones I own for everything from trash in the yard to illegal activity in the units. Your tenants may not feel comfortable engaging their neighbors and will eventually move if the neighbors cause enough problems for them.

3. Reward good tenants.

I make sure that my good tenants know that we are happy with them. We actually have something called a “Raving Residents Program” at our company and tell tenants about it when they move in. Each month we take the names of all tenants who paid their rent on time and enter them into a drawing. Once a quarter we draw a name and give them a $50 gift card, and once a year we draw a name for a flat screen TV! Here is a picture of me giving away the TV last year.

tenant award

For the amount of units we own, it is not a large investment per unit. Tenants get so excited about his program that they will call to make sure we got their rent on time and to check to see if they won!

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

If you don’t have that many units, find some other way to make your tenants feel appreciated. I have heard some landlords send their tenants birthday or holiday cards. We have given some tenants a waiver on paying their rent late if it’s their first time. Bottom line, find a way to show them you are grateful for their good tenancy.

To wrap it up, there are many factors to making money as a buy and hold landlord. Whether you self-manage like we do or have a property manager, taking initiatives to keep your good tenants in place long term is the best way to keep revenue up.

So let’s get a conversation going! Do you do any of these things or something similar? Think I’m off base here?

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

About Author

Matt Faircloth

Matt Faircloth, Co-founder & President of the DeRosa Group, is a seasoned real estate investor. The DeRosa Group, based in historic Trenton, New Jersey, is a developer and owner of commercial and residential property with a mission to “transform lives through real estate." Matt, along with his wife Liz, started investing in real estate in 2004 with the purchase of a duplex outside of Philadelphia with a $30,000 private loan. They founded DeRosa Group in 2005 and have since grown the company to owning and managing over 370 units of residential and commercial assets throughout the east coast. DeRosa has completed over $30 million in real estate transactions involving private capital including fix and flips, single family home rentals, mixed use buildings, apartment buildings, office buildings, and tax lien investments. Matt Faircloth is the author of Raising Private Capital, has been featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast, and regularly contributes to BiggerPockets’s Facebook Live sessions and educational webinars.


  1. David Roberts

    We give tenants a 100 gift card when the move in. I think it builds great rapport. I got the idea from an investor friend of mine. He also gives his tenants christmas gifts every year. I don’t go that far, yet. But we try to address every issue immediately. If we can’t we always tell them we are working on it and follow up daily. I think making sure tenants know you care is key.

    We have wonderful tenants in all our units. Screen hard, and then treat them like you appreciate them! They are your paying customer!

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey David,
      Wow that’s a serious tenant appreciation policy! We used to give tenants a gift basket when they moved in but got away from that. I prefer to reward them for “good behavior”. Giving them a gift at move in is a nice way to establish a positive relationship with tenants, but I wonder if it helps your collection and vacancy rates. What do you think? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Dawn,

      We have around 100 units but I think it makes sense with less also. Heres my math. A flat screen TV sounds like a huge purchase but it’s actually not. I didn’t say you have to tell your tenants how big of a flat screen, LOL. you can get a 24 inch for around $140 and a 42 inch for less than $400. So let’s say you are moderately generous and go for a TV around $350. Then add the 4 gift cards at $200 each for a total investment of $550 for the year or just under $50 per month. This is not a big investment once you get a few units out there and is worth every penny if it helps incentivize getting the rent paid and makes the tenants feel appreciated!


  2. Christina Fusch

    My fiance and I have started building positive customer relations on our first SFR. We left flowers and a “welcome home” card on the kitchen counter for when the tenants moved in. They noticed and thanked us. We have our calendar marked for our first anniversary with them. 🙂

    Thanks for the article and ideas Matt!

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hi Christina,
      Good idea with the card and the flowers! I love that you called it their home in the card. It’s a good way to establish that up front. Glad you enjoyed the article and be sure to get them to sign a renewal document with you when you pass that one year anniversary!


  3. Rumen Mladenov

    I give Christmas gift cards to my good tenants. $100 if they have been my tenants a year and pay on time with no issues, $50 if they have been tenants for under a year, and zero if they have history of late payments or other issues. I also refund a late fee once a year if the following month is paid on time.

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Rumen,

      I love that you have a “naughty or nice” list on Xmas, ha ha. Do you tell your tenants about this program? If not make sure you let them know so that they know their is an incentive out there for on time payments.


  4. Susan Maneck

    I give my tenants $25 off the rent when they pay early, yet I’ve got only one tenant who does this routinely one day she paid just on time and left the husband with the money, a husband that was never on the lease. When I went to pick it up, I found she had taken off the $25 even though she had not paid early. I advised her husband that the regular rent was $700. I also told him, I would need to add his name to the lease. We got to talking and I found out the reason he was not on the lease was that he and his wife had a big argument about her moving to my house. They had only been paying $550 at their previous house and since he was working as a carpenter off and on he was against moving. When I asked why then had his wife wanted to move to a more expensive place, especially since it was in the same neighborhood, I was told “Your houses are the nicest even though they are more expensive.” I returned a couple of days later to pick up the additional $25 owed and I found him in the backyard repairing a broken spigot which I didn’t even know about. I told him to forget the $25 that I’d trade it for putting in the new spigot. He then pointed out to me that the gutters I had put in were attached to rotten fascia. I told him if he wanted to fix for that I’d reimburse him for the cost of the materials and $15 an hour for his labor. If his work is good, I’ll probably use him on other carpentry jobs.

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hi Susan,
      I never did the discount for paying early but have heard that it works for other landlords. I also try and avoid crediting rent for work on the house but it seems like it worked in your case, so congrats! If you end up hiring that tenant I would pay them for their work directly, not in further rent credits. i have tried that and found that its better to keep the two separate.

  5. My husband and I are renting apartments while we finish our degrees, and we always try to be ideal tenants. Finding landlords or management companies who will take care of issues quickly really does make us feel like we made the right choice in our rental. Getting discounts or rewards for paying rent early and taking care of the property would be really cool!

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