Make Friends With Your Tenants?

How often has one of your tenants surprised you in a bad way? They did something that, as a landlord, you had to find out about. Like assaulted another tenant, dealt drugs, dog jumped through a screen window.

Then you talk to other tenants and find out that this was common behavior by this tenant. The tenant was aggressive or not friendly, they had a lot of people coming and going from their unit late into the night, their dog was wild. Why didn’t you know this?

Property managers are often of two schools of thought on this. Lots of them think it’s not a good idea to get close to tenants because then they ask you for favors and appeal to your empathy for their situation when they can’t get the rent in on time.

Other property managers, though, make it a point to get to know the tenant. But to make friends? No, to assure the tenant that they are looking out for them. There’s a big difference. Tenants want to know their property is being well taken care of. Not just clean and everything works, not just that you’re screening them to keep out bad tenants, but that you’re proactively watching tenants.

Getting to know tenants is one of the most effective ways to head off the bad surprises. And walk-throughs are key to that. Landlord/property manager walk-throughs, not you as the owner unless you’re the landlord too. Tenants outside socializing with friends or each other, join their conversation and make sure they know who you are. Coming and going from their cars, say something to strike up a conversation. Good tenants like to know you’re there. Tenants who don’t like you talking to them, that’s a red flag.

Even better, identify key tenants who can be your eyes on the ground. Not to be spies or informants – or maybe a little – but tenants who will share what they see. If their neighbor is throwing cigarette butts on the ground, they might know who. Late night activity in a unit, loud parties, misbehaving dogs, friends showing up with bags of laundry, tossing the mattress outside, and especially other tenants who all the tenants avoid because the person is loud or angry – you will learn who they are.

Then you have to take action. Confront the offending tenant. Let them know what they’re doing has to stop. Even give them a formal notice if it’s warranted. But make them know that you know what’s going on. Because bad neighbors are a big reason good tenants move out and protective property managers are a big reason they stay.