For investment property owners, long-term tenants are worth their weight in gold. As it turns out, much of the anxiety of rental home ownership goes away when you know your tenant will pay their rent on time and treat your property with respect.
Long-term tenants bring lots of other benefits as well. Landlords spend less time and money managing the turnover process with long-term tenants in place. And because their properties are vacant less often, they also enjoy more stable rental income. Perhaps most importantly, long-term tenants are reliable. Any rental property owner knows that every new tenant comes with question marks, even when their application is stellar. So, when you have a sure-thing in place, it’s in your best interest to keep them there.
So how can landlords find long-term tenants and keep them once they move in? It all starts with your screening process.
Screening for Long-Term Tenants
Of course, any discussion of the tenant screening process comes with a big caveat: always follow the law. Every municipality has its own rules. Some cities, like Portland, have stringent regulations that limit how much choice landlords have when selecting tenants. Others set general guidelines and allow landlords or property managers to choose the best fit within those boundaries. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when screening for long-term tenants.
Potential tenants who will be stretching to pay their rent every month may not be a good long term option. As a general rule, look for tenants with a monthly income that’s three times greater than their monthly rent.
A potential tenant’s credit score is an excellent indication of their commitment to paying their financial obligations. The higher the score, the better. Applicants with scores in the 500’s or low 600’s likely have major credit red flags in their financial history.
Past criminal history is another potential sign of instability, especially when the convictions are for violent felonies. While everyone deserves a second chance, landlords should carefully consider criminal convictions before approval.
If you have the luxury of choosing between multiple qualified candidates, there may be other clues that indicate an applicant could be a potential long-term tenant.
Does the applicant have a long-term history with their employer, or do they hop around from job to job? Stable employment typically means the potential tenant will be reliable and looking to stay local.
Ties to the Community
Is the applicant involved in the community? Do they have kids in local schools? Strong community ties make it more likely a tenant will be looking for a home rather than just a place to stay.
Does the applicant’s rental history show a series of short-term stops? Or, are they proven, long-term renters? This may be your best indication of their rental future.
Once you’ve selected the best possible candidate on paper, you cross your fingers and hope they live up to your expectations. However, developing a roster of long-term tenants doesn’t end with the screening process. There are lots of things landlords can do on a day-to-day basis to encourage great tenants to renew their leases when the time comes.
Managing for Long-Term Tenants
Too often, the landlord-tenant relationship is adversarial in nature. Tenants often deal with unresponsive or unfair property managers, so many of them believe landlords only want to get as much money as possible from them before they leave. Conversely, landlords become rule enforcers who only deal with their tenants when something goes wrong. In reality, landlords and tenants need each other, so the two sides should look to create a positive relationship with open and respectful communication whenever possible. There are many ways landlords can model this behavior in their everyday actions.
Offer Long-Term Leases
The first place to start when searching for long-term tenants is to offer long-term leases. Stay away from month-to-month rental agreements, which encourage short-term renters. Instead, provide at least a six-month or 12-month lease agreement to encourage long-term tenants.
Be a Good Communicator
Nothing is more frustrating for a tenant than an unresponsive landlord. That’s why you should provide your tenants with accurate contact information and follow up with them promptly. If you’re a part-time property manager, manage tenant expectations by setting office hours for non-emergency requests. However, you should always aim to respond to questions and concerns within 24 hours.
Respect Your Tenants’ Privacy
Don’t show up to your tenant’s home unannounced, especially if you don’t have a good reason to. If a tenant believes you’re always looking over their shoulder, they’re never going to feel like their rental house is a home.
Address Repair Request Quickly
Nothing will turn a tenant against a landlord faster than an unaddressed repair request. While their leaky faucet, running toilet, or broken heater may be just another thing on your to-do list, it’s an issue they live with every minute of every day. Quickly addressing repair requests will show you care about your tenant’s qualify of life and make them more likely to continue living in your rental property.
Consider Reasonable Requests
If a good tenant asks if they can plant a garden or paint a wall, you should give it serious consideration. Many property owners opt for an automatic no when these requests come in. However, if you consider reasonable requests in good faith and make allowances for the ones that improve your tenant’s experience, you’ll build goodwill that may pay off when it comes time to renew a lease.
Make Smart Home Improvements
Aside from location, amenities can often be the deciding factor for people choosing between potential rental homes. Simple and inexpensive upgrades to your kitchen and bathrooms can make your rental home more attractive. Installing in-unit washers and dryers can also be a huge plus for renters who are tired of running to the local laundromat every week.
A Great Property Manager Promotes Long-Term Tenants
Another important factor for encouraging long-term tenants is to have a great property manager to handle all the details. Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew understands the value long-term value tenants bring to property owners. Not only do we perform all the screening tasks before placing a new tenant, but we also provide excellent service for our tenants once they move in. That includes clear and responsive communication, quickly addressing repair requests, and helping owners make smart improvements to improve their property’s value and attractiveness to tenants.
If you’d like to move off the placement carousel and transition to long-term tenants who care about your property as much as you do, we can help. To learn more, contact Darla directly at (503) 515-3170 or fill out the contact form on our website. You can also follow Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube for helpful property management tips and the latest news on the local rental market.