What Today’s Renters Really Want
Living in a rental property has many benefits; the absence of a mortgage hanging over your head, a measure of flexibility in your living situation, and of course, you don’t need a huge amount of cash upfront to put down a home deposit.
In Australia today, approximately one-quarter (26%) of households are rented privately.
But this isn’t to say that rental living doesn’t have its downsides, and one of those downsides can be regularly having to deal with the person who actually owns your place – your landlord.
The tenant-landlord relationship can be a tricky one sometimes, and one that takes a certain amount of cooperation from both sides.
However, most modern renters have a fair idea of what they want and expect from their landlord, which can take a bit of the guesswork out of your communications.
Here are a couple of examples of what the modern renter will usually expect from their landlord.
Prompt responses to enquires/requests
In the wired, socially networked world we now live in, there’s really not many excuses for leaving a tenant’s email unanswered for a week, or not returning their phone calls for days on end.
If a renter has an enquiry about touching up some paintwork, or a request for the kitchen sink taps to be fixed, it’s considered polite to return the communication as quickly as you can.
We’re not saying you need to drop everything the second your tenant emails or calls you, nor are we saying each request has to be followed up the instant it’s received, but a small note or text letting the renter know that you’ve received their enquiry goes a long way in keeping your tenants’ trust.
Which leads us to the next point…
Concerns to be heard & taken seriously
Nothing is more frustrating to a renter who feels as though their communications or concerns aren’t being heard by their landlord. And nothing causes a tenant-landlord relationship to sour as quickly either.
Again, we’re not recommending bowing to each and every minor worry your renter has (particularly if you feel that they’re being altogether unreasonable), but a little often goes a long way when making your tenant feel comfortable in coming to you with concerns.
A prompt follow-up is usually a good way to do this; for example if extreme weather has caused a hole to open up in the ceiling, don’t leave your renter collecting drops with a bucket for weeks. Furthermore, if you respond well to major concerns, the renter may forgive you for leaving some of the smaller problems be.
Tenants see their landlords as problem-solvers, as fixer-uppers and ultimately, as an authority on their home, so make sure you’re a reliable one.
A clearly laid-out contract
This one should be a fairly obvious point, yet too many landlords overlook its importance.
The contract is the defining document of your relationship with this person, so you won’t want to make it too vague.
Renters will often complain that they didn’t know they weren’t allowed to do something because it wasn’t stated explicitly that they couldn’t.
For example, you might have stated that pets such as cats and dogs weren’t permitted, but the renter assumed that their lizard or budgerigar is OK. Or that you’d said painting the living room wasn’t allowed, but the tenant figured putting in new picture hooks would be fine.
Often, these small things might not be a problem, but it’s worth having some specifics in writing just in case it turns out to be an issue further down the track.
Honesty is important for all relationships but is especially true in the landlord-tenant one.
Just as the tenant expects that you will take their concerns seriously and respond promptly, they also expect that you will be honest with them.
While you should be making every effort to drop by and fix up that dripping tap in the bathroom, perhaps you just don’t have time this week.
So be honest with your tenant – tell them that they might have to live with a leaky tap for a few more days.
Stay true to your word, and definitely don’t tell them you’ll be over with a box of tools tomorrow afternoon if you have no intention of being there.
A human face
This point is one that cuts both ways.
A human face, a spot of empathy and some flexibility not only makes you a more pleasant landlord to work with, but it makes it harder for your tenant to pull any nasty tricks on you.
Renters expect that their landlords are people as well, just like them, and will understand if unforeseen circumstances cause them to, for example, miss rent one week.
Of course, if this is becoming a regular issue and is causing you inconvenience, by all means speak to your tenant about it (see the point above), but a renter likes to know that you’ll understand why they’ve made the mistake they have. Another good example is giving a few more days notice for inspections or open houses.
Your renter will appreciate the extra time they have to spruce the place up, and in the case of open houses, you’ll appreciate that the house will be shown off to its very best advantage.
It’s a two-way street, but showing your renter your ‘human side’ can only smooth relations.
While each of these points might have a different real-world application for individual circumstances, the overarching point is just to ensure you and your renter maintain a certain level of trust in each other. No relationship is going to be perfect, sure, but hopefully with a few of these pointers in mind, you’ll be able to navigate the turbulent nature of a rental housing situation successfully.