While you should always treat your property like a business, keeping tenants in the long-term is really about building trustful relationships.
Your property is an income-earning asset, and you have an investment strategy you need to stick to. That being said, never lose sight of the fact that the tenants who call your rental their home are an essential asset as well.
A happy tenant is a long-lasting tenant – one more inclined to renew their lease, which is a win for you since you won’t have to scramble to fill your property with new renters.
Happy tenants mean a steady flow of rental income for a long time and prevent vacancies. So, how do you keep tenants happy then?
Here are five key areas to focus on to ensure your tenants are satisfied and keen to stay in the long run.
1. Stay on top of maintenance and be proactive
No one likes a leaky roof or a loose kitchen tap. Least of all tenants who are paying the rent with the expectation that these things will be taken care of ASAP. So, when it comes to the question of ‘How to keep tenants happy?’ – staying on top of repairs is a must.
Being punctual with property maintenance requests is a sure-fire way to show your tenants you care, and it can truly make or break a tenant-landlord relationship.
But promptly responding to maintenance requests is only half the battle. It would help if you were proactive. This means conducting regular inspections to ensure everything is in tip-top shape!
Tenants only really care about two things: paying their rent and getting their maintenance requests sorted in a reasonable time frame. That’s why always staying on top of repairs and issues with the rental should be a top priority.
The goal with proactive maintenance is to spot issues before they become a problem. So when you eventually do have to turn over your rental, you’ll save both time and money.
Make sure that your property manager conducts routine inspections and that they’re making suggestions for how you can solve maintenance issues preemptively.
2. Be responsive when your tenant reaches out
Part of keeping tenants happy is just as simple as being courteous and communicative.
Let your tenants know how they can contact you or your property manager if they need to. And when they do shoot you a query or a request, make it your business to respond in a timely and respectful manner.
Did you know most tenants expect a response in under 2 hours?
This doesn’t mean that you must drop everything you’re doing to get a sparky to fix a busted light. If it’s not an urgent matter, a simple text, call or email of acknowledgement – that you’ll start taking steps to address it – will suffice. They want to know that they’re being heard and that something is being done.
3. Equip your rental property with the features tenants want
It’s not enough to offer up your property and assume that renters will take to it like flies to honey.
If you want to find and keep good tenants, you’ve got to make your rental feel like a home.
The latest research shows that tenants prefer properties with:
- Hardwood flooring
- Central air conditioning
- Stainless steel appliances
- Bathroom upgrades
- Kitchen backsplash
- Updated cabinet hardware
Granted, these upgrades do come with some upfront costs but can warrant an increase in rental yield. Plus, when you think about the money you can lose from a vacancy, they’re a very worthwhile investment.
In the end, this is how you get tenants faster and make them stay, so trust us when we say that eliminating those vacancies will make the rental renovations and improvements pay for themselves!
4. Always be one step ahead with lease renewals
Early bird gets the tenant! An essential step to keeping your tenants long-term is to be ahead of the curve on lease renewals and consider giving some incentives.
By giving your tenants ample time to think about whether they want to leave or stay, you’ll show them that you care about their interests with the bonus that you’ll know if you need a replacement to fill your rental.
The issue is that with renewals can often come rental increases. Something that never fails to make the hair stand on the back of a tenant’s neck.
That’s why it’s essential to work with a real estate expert to figure out the appropriate rent increase (if any).
Alternatively, you may also consider asking the tenant to sign a longer-term lease at a reduced rate.
If they renew every six months, extend the lease to a year. If they continue yearly, consider extending the lease to two years at a reduced rate.
While you might lose out on profit from an increased rent, it can be worth it to keep a reliable, long-lasting tenant.
If the lease renewal doesn’t come through, you’ll know that a vacancy is coming, and you get the chance to find a new tenant with reasonable notice.
5. Respect their privacy
Unless your tenant has a problem, they likely don’t want to hear from you. So, it would help if you respected that as best you can.
It shouldn’t be that tenants keep complaining that you’re walking in on them week-to-week. There are tenancy laws that entitle renters to “reasonable peace, comfort and privacy”.
Of course, there will come times where you’ll need to gain access to the property for one reason or another. Just know that there are rules in place for how much notice you should give and how often you can enter the premises.
Keeping your tenants happy can have a lasting financial impact on you and your investment property. Small investments such as proactive maintenance and rental renovations could mean the difference between a short-term and long-term lease.
These are essential things to consider when weighing out the risk of having your property sit untenanted for an unknown period
What to Do if You Suspect Your Tenant is Doing Something Illegal
Investment property owners who come to us suspecting that there is illegal tenant activity going on in their investment property have usually noticed a few things. Perhaps a peculiar chemical odour or a sudden spike in utility bills. They might even be wondering if the tenants live on the property!
Either way, you find yourself in a sticky situation where it’s hard to confirm if there is an illegal activity in the new rental or if you need to evict your tenant.
Illegal tenant activity is sticky. In addition to the hours of the necessary paperwork, it often costs landlords tens of thousands of dollars in damage repairs.
Luckily, there are ways you can protect yourself against illegal tenant activity and the damage it can cause.
In this article, we’ve highlighted the steps you can take to confirm if your tenants are using your property for illegal purposes and what to do if they are. We’ve also outlined the best ways you can prevent illicit activity tenant from happening before renting your property out.
Difference between illegal tenant activity and breach in the rental agreement
Let’s go over some textbook definitions first. You must understand the difference between illegal tenant activity and breaches in rental agreements, as many property owners confuse the two.
You might be surprised to hear that dents in your yearly income are not always caused by illegal tenant activity. Most insurance claims landlords make are actually in relation to default on rent payment, which is not unlawful tenant activity but rather a rental agreement breach.
So, what’s the distinction?
What is a breach of the rental agreement?
A breach in the rental agreement means that a tenant has not followed the agreed-upon articles you both signed off on in the tenancy contract. Typical examples of this are:
- Rent arrears
- Tenant subletting on Airbnb
- Making changes to the layout of the rental property, such as knocking down a wall
When breaches in the rental agreement happen, you (the landlord) are entitled to either give the tenant a chance to rectify the mistake or evict them. Whether you need an eviction notice or not depends on how severe the breach is and what state you’re in.
If there’s a conflict between you and the tenant over the result, it’s typically brought to the Tribunal.
What is considered illegal tenant activity?
On the other hand, illegal tenant activity is any use of the property that breaks Australian law. Unfortunate, but typical examples of illicit activity tenant include:
- Dealing or growing illegal drugs on the rental property
- Abuse, harassment or domestic violence
- Storing stolen goods on the rental property
Evicting a tenant for illegal activity is well within a landlord’s rights, and in most states, tenants can be evicted without notice in this instance. But, when criminal activity is happening, the police should be involved, and they will handle the issue.
For owners, a breach in the rental contract is a matter between you and the tenant, and the Tribunal might be involved if you can’t reach an agreement. On the other hand, illegal activity has very little to do with the tenancy agreement and calls for the police or authorities to be involved.
So, the main difference between a breach in the rental agreement and illegal activity from a landlord’s point of view is that once the illicit activity is confirmed, the police must be notified and often manage the situation. At the same time, a breach in the rental agreement is a matter between you, the tenant, and the Tribunal if it comes to it.
How to confirm illegal activity
You can’t contact authorities just on a hunch. Suppose you suspect that your tenant is doing something illegal, such as dealing or growing drugs on your rental property. In that case, you need to make a few steps to confirm your suspicion or until you have reasonable amounts of evidence.
Just make sure that you remain respectful of your tenant’s privacy as you go about this. Start by reading up on our breakdown of tenant’s rights and responsibilities by state.
Regular inspections of your rental property are usually how you would pick up on suspicious tenant activity. Generally speaking, it’s your best and simplest chance to have a good look around.
Signs of illegal tenant activity in a rental property
During your next inspection, here are a few things to look for to confirm illegal tenant activity:
- Characters that your tenants live at the property and that it’s not being rented out to someone else or used as a storage location.
- More extensive modifications or instalment of fixtures in the property, including changes to piping, electricity boards and wiring, locks, and sweeping security changes.
- Water damage to walls, floorboards and carpets.
- You would find items in a science lab but not a home, like beakers, tubes, gas cylinders, lithium batteries, and chemical containers.
- Large amounts of chemicals like baking soda and paint thinner.
- Strange chemical odours.
- Signs of rubbish or vegetation being burnt on the premises.
- Drastic changes in utility bills.
- The smoke connector is disconnected or removed.
If you feel uneasy about inspections, consider taking someone with you. If your tenant has threatened you in the past, report the tenant to the police and don’t undertake any inspections.
If you feel threatened, don’t conduct any inspections. Instead, contact the police.
But the thing is, you can’t always wait around for the next inspection.
What you can do, is ask the neighbours if they’ve noticed anything. Ask them how they’re getting along with the new tenants, and they will usually share anything that has come up. If they make any complaints about the tenant’s behaviour or comment on visits at weird times or chemical odours, then you have clear red flags you should take seriously.
Remember to document your observations as meticulously as you can. Take extensive notes and save receipts and utility bills. Keep a record of all of your findings.
Your tenant is conducting illegal activity on your property – what now?
If you’ve confirmed your suspicions or have enough evidence to genuinely suspect that there’s illegal activity going on in your rental property, it’s time to move forward with the eviction process.
Here are the actions you need to take to evict the illegal tenant and get your property back to appropriate renting standards:
- Report the tenant to the police. Again, you must have legitimate evidence to support your suspicion. Otherwise, you could get penalised. At this point, don’t get in contact with the tenant. If you fear this might put you in danger, you can contact authorities anonymously.
- Notify your insurer. Let them know the situation preemptively to hear how well you’re covered and the process that lies ahead for you.
- Wait until the authorities have reached out to you and if your suspicions were confirmed. They will carry out the eviction process. Make sure you have a written confirmation that the tenant was evicted.
- Use our new tenant checklist to get your property back to appropriate renting standards. Your landlord insurance should cover most damages or things like forensic cleaning.
If it’s a simple breach in the rental agreement, you have reasonable grounds to evict the tenant. Go to our blog article on evicting a tenant, and you’ll find the step-by-step process with all the resources you need for notice periods, eviction forms and so on.
What if the illegal tenant activity isn’t covered in the rental agreement?
Essentially, evicting a tenant for illegal activity is very straightforward if it’s a criminal offence, even if it isn’t covered in the rental agreement. You can still contact the authorities, and they will carry out the eviction.
If it isn’t an illegal activity, like if the tenant is subletting the property on Airbnb, then your hands are essentially tied if you didn’t specify that this was not allowed in the contract.
This is why it’s so important to have a rigid and professional rental agreement and that you go through the process of signing off on it.
Another thing to note is if your landlord insurance covers illegal tenant activity. If it doesn’t, then you might be looking at severe out of pocket expenses. Check the fine print of your insurance policy and consider changing insurer or upgrading if it doesn’t.
Protecting your property before leasing it
You can always make preemptive steps and measures to safeguard yourself and your rental property against illegal activity.
Finding the right tenant is the most crucial part of this, so when you’re looking for a new tenant, you have many opportunities to prevent any unwanted behaviour on your rental property in the future.
Use our tenant selection guide to minimise the risk of getting a problem tenant and prevent unwanted behaviour.