During a recent Street barbeque, I listened with interest as a few neighbours were discussing their renting experiences and challenges experienced.  I stayed quiet for as long as possible (which for an extrovert is no easy feat!) before engaging in conversation to identify learnings I could apply to my own rental properties as well as share my thoughts as a landlord…

Two of the main criticisms were constant increases of rent (at lease re-signing point) and un-responsive landlords / property managers.

During the barbeque, I explained that the rent charged should meet the market and if they believed it was too high; of course they could decide to move house.  If priced above market, the owners would soon realise they have to meet the market to have quality tenants.  As expected, the tenants didn’t want to move each 6mths and I think the debate around ‘fairness’ of rent increases will be difficult to ever resolve between landlords and tenants…

Finding and keeping quality tenants can save landlords more than just dollars.  Reduced stress and no sleepless slights worrying about advertising expenses, re-letting fees, lost rent, potential unexpected maintenance / repaid bills, how to meet ongoing property / mortgage expenses, souring new tenants etc are pretty good benefits!

What did interest me was hearing about tenants experience with property managers and lack thereof with landlords.  I was interested to hear that the majority of tenants had never met the property owners.

As an owner of several investment properties, I visit them every 6 months and wherever possible, request the tenants be present.  This enables me to build personal rapport, show them I care, gives the opportunity to casually enquire about the property manager responsiveness and seek information as to if they need anything doing around the property.

The cost of travel (flights etc) is tax deductible and the other positive for this flight enthusiast is I also get to earn frequent flyer loyalty points!  Of course property manager costs are also a tax deduction.

It is essential to find an effective property manager, who knows the industry, responds promptly to mine and tenant queries, provides photos and detailed inspection reports as well as makes payments in a timely manner.

As a gesture of ‘goodwill’, I send Christmas cards to my property managers and tenants each year.  I also include a gift card for bottle shop, supermarket, electronics etc.  This has proved very beneficial and I believe my properties are looked after that little bit better in return…

I try to be as flexible with my tenants as possible and realise that my asset is also their home.  Without getting taken for a ride, I am happy to discuss pets, putting up of pictures etc.  I usually tell them (face to face preferred) something like “as long as they return to original condition before moving” etc.  Basically I ask them to have respect and I am happy to give them some leeway in return.

One discussion that did greatly surprise me was a single father who had lived in the same place for 7 years.  He had never met the owner and (after approval) had made several improvements (some capital) to the property, e.g additional lighting to outside area, extensive garden development etc.  If that was my property, I would be making a special effort to say thankyou and keep that tenant!  He received no card, call or thankyou note.  Perhaps the property manager hadn’t informed the owner, but as an owner, I believe I need to take a somewhat active interest in my property assets….