Landlording & Rental Properties

7 Ways to Be Landlord of the Year (& Retain Your Best Tenants!)

Expertise: Commercial Real Estate, Personal Finance, Real Estate Marketing, Business Management, Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Mortgages & Creative Financing
230 Articles Written

Being an efficient and diligent landlord is a must today. Here’s some angles to take.

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

The best approach to being a landlord or property manager is often hotly debated. Some still side with playing bad cop — the stern warden who doesn’t care what the story is. Others have found amazing success in being incredibly generous. The truth is that you do have to be a professional and responsible rental property owner. You have to protect your assets and family finances.

At the same time, many real estate investors are finding the greatest success in going all out to deliver incredible service to their tenants. In fact, it is really a must for those investors who want to maximize their potential and sustain their success. Renters are finding more and more choices of places to live and will seek out those landlords who are reputable. Financially, landlords win the most when they treat renters well and win their loyalty. In fact, once you start taking a generous approach to property management, you might find that this is one of the best rewards in itself.

If you’re ready to blow your tenants’ minds, here are 7 ways to do it.

7 Ways to Be Landlord of the Year (& Retain Your Best Tenants!)

Perform proactive maintenance.

Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference. You are going to have to make those repairs or upgrades sooner or later anyway. You also know that it is cheaper and more efficient to tackle things early. Too many landlords don’t — with disastrous results. On the other hand, being proactive tells renters you care about offering a quality property. This in turn helps to make them feel great about where they live.


Related: 5 Tips for Writing Rental Property Listings Your Ideal Tenants Will Read

Remember those special dates.

Send birthday cards for the whole family. Give holiday cards and gifts. For some, this may be the only love they get on these special occasions. Don’t forget couples’ anniversaries either. Send a gift card for them to get out to dinner or a movie. The better they get along and are glued together, the better it is for your rental property performance, too. I have even offered tenants gift cards on renewal of leases. Work towards avoiding those turnover costs associated with tenant move-outs by utilizing this method. 

Cut them a break.

Some people haven’t learned to be great renters or money managers yet. That’s often why they are still renting. But everyone runs into life challenges. Family members get sick, workers get laid off, and emergencies come up. When you can, cut them a break. A simple one-time waiver of a late fee can go a long way.

Return deposits fast.

The majority of tenants count on getting their deposit back in order to move on to the next place. That makes it really difficult for them when landlord’s stretch the limits of the law in sending deposit refunds weeks or months later, or find any excuse to keep their money. Do the opposite. Hand them a check on move-out day(if the unit is in reasonable condition, without any damages).

Offer discounts for friends and family.

Don’t just rely on your good efforts above to win you referrals. Give them more motivation by offering small discounts on your other rentals to their friends and family members. Or where legal, pay them a small referral or finder’s fee.


Related: How to Create a Rental Property Listing Geared Towards Top-Notch Tenants

Give them a chance to buy it.

Instead of losing tenants when they are ready to buy a home, why not give them a chance to purchase the one they have been living in? You can still structure the deal to be a win-win for you and them, while giving someone the life-changing chance to be a homeowner.

Introduce them to real estate investing.

What has real estate investing done for you? Wouldn’t you like to give that gift to someone else? Turn your tenants onto real estate investing — and find ways to help each other. Just make sure they don’t try to turn around and house hack by sub-leasing your unit to someone else!

Landlords: How do you go above and beyond to attract and retain top notch tenants?

Let me know with a comment!

Sterling is an multifamily investor specializing in value-add apartments in Indianapolis and other Midwestern markets. With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling w...
Read more
    Sharon Vornholt from Goshen, KY
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Nice article Sterling. Sharon
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 4 years ago
    No, thank you Sharon! What was the biggest takeaway for you?
    Marquis Harrison from Jacksonville, Florida
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I agree, this is definitely a great article with some really nice points. I’ll be sure to keep them in mind and implement them when I begin leasing rental properties! Thanks, Marquis
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Awesome. Glad I could contribute Marquis! Are you currently leasing properties you own?
    Marquis Harrison from Jacksonville, Florida
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I’m not currently leasing yet. I’m still building my education and funds before I purchase my first rental property.
    Jack Knochel Investor from Huntersville, North Carolina
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Great points Sterling! We have a management company that handles our properties except for one small commercial spot. We handle that and have definitely had to bend some but its been well worth it. She pays, eventually every month and keeps the place up nice and is not looking to go anywhere else.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 4 years ago
    That is great to hear Jack. What was the biggest takeaway from the article for you?
    Robert Steele Investor from Lucas, Texas
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I agree with the premise and like to think of myself as great landlord. At least that is what my tenants tell me. But I disagree with many of these points. * Perform proactive maintenance. Absolutely. Mainly for your wallet. It makes the tenants feel good too so it’s a win win. I sometimes also do upgrades while the tenants are still there. Such as putting in hardwood flooring. It makes them happy, sets me up to charge higher rent the next time it goes on market, and I don’t have any vacancy while doing it. * Remember those special dates. I think this is cheesy. I know when I get birthday/Christmas cards etc from my insurance agent, etc I just toss them in the trash. I know that they are just sucking up to me for business. * Cut them a break Be very careful about this one. If it’s a long term tenant that has always paid on time then OK. Otherwise if you give them an inch they will take a mile. * Return deposits fast Definitely DO NOT return the deposit on the same day. There are things you will not see on the first pass through. In fact you may not notice some things for a week or more. Trust me on this one. Making the tenant happy after they leave and you never see them again doesn’t really support the case of retaining good tenants anyway. * Offer discounts for friends and family Sure why not. If you were going to pay a realtor fee anyway. You still need to do your regular screening of course. * Give them a chance to buy it. Am I trying to improve my tenant retention or am I literally going for some prize called ‘Landlord of the Year’. If I sell my rentals to my tenants then I will no longer be a landlord! Plus, if your strategy is so bad that you let your tenant decide when you exit an investment then you have more serious problems. Finally, even if you want to sell and the tenant wants to buy – don’t hold your breath. If I had a dime for every time a tenant told me they wanted to buy I’d have retired years ago. * Introduce them to real estate investing How does this help with tenant retention?
    Nate T. Investor from Tempe, Arizona
    Replied about 4 years ago
    That pretty much summed up my reactions.
    Jas Russ Investor from Plano, Texas
    Replied about 4 years ago
    This is spot on. Preventative maintenance is a must but all of the other stuff basically erodes the landlord/tenant relationship and creates a bunch of busy work with no net benefit to anyone.
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I guess it depends on your view of what the tenant/landlord relationship should be. Most of what Sterling recommends shows tenants that he respects them and is grateful for their part in helping him build his wealth. That does not sound like erosion to me.
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Tenant retention is great. However, I do not think landlords should, by omission or commission, hang onto good tenants by interfering with their own dreams, plans or ambitions. Most good tenants are saving up for the day they can buy a house. If they like your house so much, why not let them buy it at a fair price? Letting a tenant buy is also certainly not the same as letting a tenant decide when you exit an investment. You can use the money to buy another rental. As far as quick return of deposits, when I was a tenant, I was more likely to recommend a unit to my friends if the landlord returned my deposit promptly. Sterling was not advising same day return. It is not quite right to frame every question as a choice between two extremes. There is nothing wrong with introducing tenants to real estate investing. The tenant might even become part of your investment team. As far as cutting tenants a break, I like it when a tenant present both the problem and a possible solution, such as the time a tenant’s employer delayed the paycheck which also contained a bonus so the tenant proposed paying for two months when the paycheck arrived. So what if the first months rent was two weeks late. The second month’s rent was two weeks early.
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I would be careful about offering to sell the property to the tenant. I, too, thought this sounded like a great idea until I tried it. Every single time, the tenant decided to move out. It seems to make them think that I plan to sell the house they are renting and they decide to move while it is convenient to them rather than possibly have me sell the house at an inconvenient time. A few of them checked into getting a loan and then discovered that they qualified to buy a much “nicer” home than the one I was renting to them. They purchased a home, just not mine. I tried to impart this wisdom when some houses I was managing fell into an estate situation. The heir wanted to sell the houses gradually over a 2 year period as tenants moved out. She asked that I let all of the tenants know that she would be happy to sell the houses to them, and I told her that I would recommend against doing so unless she wanted all 8 houses to become vacant simultaneously. She notified them anyway, and 6 of the houses were vacant within 2 months. Sigh. Feel free to try it – you may get different results, but this is my experience with over 20 years of investing.
    John Cross from Aberdeen, North Carolina
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I have found that open communication with the tenants is the best policy. I have had all my tenants tell me at least 90 days in advance if they plan to move, if they have a family issues or if they want to renew. I will admit that generosity is not free i.e. new appliance’s etc. However, I look at new appliances and small upgrades as a way to ensure the tenants renew. If you give the tenant an option to upgrade an appliance of their choice (you give a couple choices) or to have something done to their liking, they feel an obligation to stay since you have made the upgrade for them. However, I make a very clear distinction up front about ascetically pleasing changes and functional maintenance such as plumbing, electrical etc. and that keeps expectations in check and the relationship friendly and professional.
    Erich Raulfestone
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Great article! I have been in customer service industry in one form or another for about 12 years now I guess. This hits a lot of really great points and simple things you can do to make anyone feel great! I’m going to be more diligent about doing a few of these. Thanks!!