Have you heard of the term ‘happy wife, happy life’? Well, a similar saying goes for our tenants… ‘happy tenants, happy life’.
After all, if our HMO’s are full we are achieving maximum cash flow, aren’t we? And if our tenants keep leaving we have all the additional costs of voids and set up costs eating into our profits. Our tenants are buying a product that they live in, so if they are happy why should they leave?
Usually, the only reason my tenants leave me is because they have a new job or partner, which means I get a very low churn rate. This leads to more consistent income with very few voids.
So here are my 10 top tips for keeping tenants happy:
1. Know All Your Tenants By Their First Name.
Do you know people who you may have just met once, but when you meet them again they know your name, remember you have kids and seem to be genuinely happy to see you. Those are the people we instantly warm to as they have obviously made the effort to remember who we are.
2. Drop The Word ‘Landlord’.
Think of yourself as a business owner and your tenants as your customers. When I first became a landlord I have to admit to being a little miffed when a tenant would call me with an issue at a property. Even being pro-active about maintenance was a chore I really didn’t want to engage with. That was until I changed my way of thinking. As soon as I started seeing my tenants as customers my attitude totally changed. I started to see an issue as an opportunity to show my customers how much I value them. Think of yourself as a caring host, enjoy serving your customers and they will definitely stay longer.
3. Think Comfort.
The two items that we tend to use most in our own homes when we relax are our beds and our sofas – Do any of you sleep on a budget mattress? If you buy the cheapest mattress your tenants won’t ever have a really comfortable nights sleep, buy an uncomfortable sofa and your communal (Co-)living spaces won’t be enjoyed. No matter how trendy your HMO looks, it won’t perform its essential functions properly and therefore you’ll find you’ll have a higher turnover of Customers. Oh and when it comes to heating, no one likes to live in a cold house, so fit good insulation and don’t try to penalize tenants for wanting to keep warm in winter. I use an internet-enabled system that stops tenants abusing the system, but also allows me to ensure the house is comfortable at all times.
4. Visit Your Properties At Least Every 8 Weeks.
This is not only important from a maintenance perspective as it allows you the opportunity to check for issues, but it also reassured your customers that you still exist, that you still care about the home they live in. It’s also an opportunity to say ‘Hi’ to your customers.
Now obviously we don’t want to get phone calls at 2 am and to be honest, that’s never happened to me in over 6-years owning HMO’s, but heating does go off (usually it’s just low pressure in the boiler) washing machines break down and things occasionally break. Don’t instantly waste energy trying to apportion blame to your tenants, shit happens okay! If a problem gets reported sort it. You obviously need to prioritize some things more than others, but there’s nothing more infuriating than a service provider who firstly tries to shirk responsibility, but who also don’t communicate effectively and respond effectively. Often breakdown in customer relationships stem from poor communication.
6. Be Proactive When It Comes To Maintenance.
If you want to keep tenants for longer your product needs to be maintained in good order, you really can’t let standards slip otherwise you won’t be delivering upon expectations. If you let a house slip into disrepair you will lose good quality tenants and start getting low-quality ones, product deterioration and tenant churn rates will increase.
7. Start With The End In Mind.
If you want happy customers who want to stay longer then this process begins right at the planning stages of your refurbishment/ conversions. Do not leave the interior design to your building contractor. Plan your interior space with functionality as a priority- So for an HMO bedroom to perform its function properly what would it need? How should it best be laid out so that it functions properly?
8. Have A Bath.
This may seem like an odd one but all of my houses have baths. If you were to visit my houses there are little t-lights around each one…someone definitely loves having a soak.
9. Select Your Tenants Carefully.
A harmonious house is a happy house, so just shoving a load of people together just because they pass a set of referencing tick boxes doesn’t mean everyone is going to live together happily. The advantage of having a well-presented property is that if you don’t like the look or feel of someone you can always wait for another to come along. But put the wrong person in a shared house and after a while you’ll lose all of them.
10. Choose Your Letting Agent Very Carefully.
Ask any experienced Landlord this question ‘how many letting agents out of 10 will be good agents?’ You’ll probably get the answer ‘1, maybe 2!’ – so if your cash flow and future success of your HMO portfolio depends on you finding a good agent, then your chances are very slim. So take the time to select your agent carefully and visit your priories at least once a year just to make sure things are being looked after.