5 Ways Landlords Can Achieve Better Tenant Stability

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Tenants are the lifeblood of any landlord.

Therefore, attracting and keeping quality tenants is one of the major keys to a landlord’s success. Attracting and keeping quality tenants also leads to what I call tenant stability, and it should be a goal for all landlords.

Tenant stability is just what it sound like: tenants who remain in your properties for a few years. Tenant stability is a great thing. It provides us landlords some assurance that we are not going to have to constantly re-advertise, repair and re-rent our properties, and it greatly improves our cash flow.

What can landlords do to achieve tenant stability? Several things come to mind.

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5 Ways Landlords Can Achieve Tenant Stability

1. Instate a Good Screening Process

Tenant stability begins with your screening process.

I am sure that most of you will screen your applicant’s credit and criminal history. But do you also look at how often they move? Are they moving year after year or generally staying in place? If they move often, ask why. If no good reason for moving is provided other than “they like to move,” it should be a red flag to you.

Related: 3 Tried & True Ways to Keep a Tenant Staying & Paying

After all, why go through the time and trouble of renting to them when their history shows they are very likely to move again, leaving you in the same place you are now?

2. Make Sure Your Lease Encourages Stability

Tenant stability should also be built into your lease. Unless you are in the vacation rental or student housing business, try to tie your tenants down for at least a year, maybe two. Short term leases are generally a no-no, but on the other land, anything longer than two years in a residential property may deny you some flexibility later on.

3. Establish Tenant Stability at Your Lease Signing

Tenant stability also begins during your lease signing process. Whenever you sign a lease with a new tenant, make sure you set up a meeting in a quiet location where all the provisions and terms of the lease can be thoroughly discussed. Use some of this time to promote tenant stability.

First, be sure to explain that a lease is a legally binding contract. As such, the tenant is legally bound for the full amount of the lease. For example, if the rent is $1,000 per month over a one year period, explain that they will still owe the full $12,000 amount even if they decide to move before the term of the lease is over. Point out that you can take them to court and get a judgment for the full amount. And while you may not collect it all, you will at the very least put a major ding on their credit.

Secondly, have provisions in your lease that hurt them financially if they choose to break the lease. You can, for example, charge a lease breakage fee of one month’s rent. Furthermore, you could add a provision that the tenant agrees to surrender their security deposit (check with your local laws here to be sure you can do such a thing). The goal here is not to be mean, but to achieve some stability by getting the tenant to think long and hard before they decide to break their contract with you.

Of course, if there is some sort of hardship, or if the need to break the lease is not of the tenant’s fault (such as a long distance job transfer), you can waive some of these requirements, especially if you think the property can get re-rented quickly, and it is returned to you in a superb condition.

4. Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Tenants

Of course, tenant stability also comes from how you treat your tenants.

Related: 5 Tenant Characteristics It’s Wise to Discriminate Against

Do you maintain your properties? Are you quick to make necessary repairs? Do you quickly address any concerns or complaints from your tenants? Nothing will chase away a good tenant faster than a negligent landlord. Keep your properties in good condition, and communicate with your tenants.

If you like your tenant, have a system in place to offer another lease renewal when the lease term is about to expire. If your tenant likes you and is happy in their home, they will most likely sign up for another year. But you have got to be sure you offer it to them, as many tenants are used to a month to month conversion or assume that you are not willing to resign them. In sum, ask and you shall receive.

5. Adjust Your Rent Accordingly

Another technique is to keep your rents just slightly below market. Many tenants often think the grass is greener at some other property and will start looking around towards the end of their lease term. If you provide a decent property that is slightly under the market rent, they will be less likely to jump ship even after looking around.

Conclusion

Tenant stability is something all of us landlords would love to achieve. It would be awesome if all of our units were filled and would stay filled with quality tenants for years to come. However, that rarely happens.

That does not mean, however, that there is nothing to can do to try to achieve stability. By following the advice laid out above, you will go a long way towards achieving a moderate amount of tenant stability.

What suggestions do you have for holding on to your good tenants?

Let me know with your comments!

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.

15 Comments

  1. So this is kind of picky, but I’m an attorney – cut me some slack.

    “if the rent is $1,000 per month over a one year period, explain that they will still owe the full $12,000 amount even if they decide to move before the term of the lease is over. Point out that you can take them to court and get a judgment for the full amount.”

    This is not really true. You have a duty to mitigate your damages – that means re-rent to someone else. You can’t just let the unit sit vacant and charge the old tenant. You can (probably) get a judgment for rent until the unit is re-rented (but you do have to make an effort) plus your re-renting costs.

    Good article.

    • Geoff Van Dusen on

      In Albuquerque, many years ago, I had my lease written (for this example) rent for one year of $12,000.00 payable in monthly increments of $1,000.00. The tenant vacated after 3 months, I had the property re-rented another month after that. Hired a lawyer to sue them for the rent, he also tried to talk me out of it, I wouldn’t get the full year and I would end up owing him more than I get. Well, surprise, I was awarded the full amount (less what they had paid), garnished the wages, PAID IN FULL. As the Judge said, it was how it was written that made his decision.

  2. Richard Guzman on

    Very good to read article!

    I have heard that #4 can go a long way in tenant stability. Showing genuine care and taking care of issues accordingly is important. Remembering your tenants during the holidays and other occasions may go a long way too I have heard.

    Thank you!

    • Kevin Perk

      Richard,

      What you have heard is correct. Little things mean a great deal sometimes. Like treating a minor repair with urgency or just sending a holiday greeting. Tenants like to know that they are more than just an income stream.

      Thanks for reading and for the kind words,

      Kevin

  3. Jennifer Kurtz on

    A++ 100% right on! I absolutely agree with the part of going over the lease and explaining everything in legal and professional terms but this also gives an opportunity to reassure this new tenant that they will love their new apartment or home and to let them know they can communicate via phone, email, etc when they have something that needs fixed. This is also a great way to create stability, because it shows that you care about the property and are not a slumlord. I’d rather have a tenant who is always needing a new faucet screen (or aerator) than someone who never calls and just leaves with all kinds of stuff going wrong inside that you didn’t know about. Gives you an opportunity to see inside. Do quarterly inspections and call them safety inspections. This IS safe for them and the property to check on filters, smoke alarms, and fire extinguishers – and again, let’s us make sure all is kosher.
    Consider sending cards around the holidays, just wishing the tenants a wonderful holiday season or seasons greetings (but no religious holiday specifically to be on the same side). Good customer service is providing a good relationship and people are generally less inclined to break that just to try some other very similar rental. You show them stability and unless they have some big life change (marriage, increase in family size, work relocation, or buying a house), they may show you stability as well. All those points made here certainly encourage that! 🙂

    • Kevin Perk

      Jennifer,

      You make some very good points. Thanks for taking the time to share them. The lease signing meeting is a very important part of the business for many reasons besides tenant stability. It is the one time when you can really lay down the law so to speak.

      But then also treating tenants like a person, responding to their needs and acknowledging holidays goes a long, long way as well.

      Thanks for reading, sharing and for the kind words. I do appreciate it,

      Kevin

  4. You certainly make some good points, however I don’t necessarily agree with tenant retention being so important in today’s environment.

    During the recession with negative (or flat if you were lucky) rent growth many renters moved up an asset class. With the low new supply we experienced during the downturn, it has led to strong demand, low vacancies, and phenomenal rent growth over the past several years. I’m often increasing rents anywhere from $150-$300 per month when renewal comes up based on market rents. That “lower class” renter that may have moved in during the downturn can’t afford these increases, they can maybe only afford a $50 increase. If I have $1,000 in turn costs, I would much rather have that renter move out and get somebody new in there at a much higher rental rate. And look at the math on value you have created:

    (A) $200 increase x 12 = $2,400 less turn costs $1,000 = $1,400 gain
    (B) $50 increase x 12 = $600 gain

    Apply a 6% cap rate to that and you are looking at an increase in value of $23,333 in scenario A and only a $10,000 increase in value in scenario B. Obviously when supply picks up (like it’s doing in the best markets) and demand decreases this changes the thought process, but in today’s environment if your renter can’t afford the market rate, get them out and put someone new in there. I often have multiple renters to choose from and almost no downtime.

  5. Great points, but you absolutely need to clarify #1. I’m not sure that just because someone moves year after year is a legal reason NOT to rent to them. If they qualify financially, credit score wise, criminal background check, etc. I’m not sure it is legal to decline their rental application just based on the fact they have moved around a lot. Now, if you find out through your screening process they have moved a lot because their landlord does not renew their lease for late payment history, complaints against them, evictions, etc., then you have reason to not rent to them.

    • Kevin Perk

      Frankie,

      I am nice too. After all being nice goes a long way. But you also have to be firm. You are running a business and business is just that, business.

      So don’t loose your niceness, but learn to be firm.

      Good luck and thanks for the comment,

      Kevin

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