I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving break last week! I also hope you were able to take advantage of the great weather we had in November to carry out year-end maintenance projects in preparation for the coming cold weather. It isn’t yet too late to schedule gutter cleaning, furnace servicing, and other winterization projects to preserve your property and keep your tenants warm and dry.
As we prepare for winter and various holiday celebrations, we should also be planning for both our own vacations and any extended tenant absences. This is a good time to provide an updated contact list to your tenants including emergency contacts if they are unable to reach you. Likewise, it is also a good time to update your own emergency contact information for your tenants and remind them to advise you if they will be away from their unit for an extended period.
The holiday season can also be a time to reinforce the business relationships that landlords and tenants (should) have. It is interesting that while most of our friends and family no longer mail holiday greeting cards, my wife and I continue to receive an annual card from various individuals and companies with whom we have a professional relationship. This time of year, we receive cards from our dentists and optometrists, our financial planners, and even an airline lounge (we are frequent flyers). They often contain a handwritten note, usually expressing their appreciation for our business as well as conveying good wishes for the holiday season and the upcoming year. Although we don’t consider most of these people “friends” that we would invite to our home for a party, we do have a friendly, professional relationship with them.
So how is your business relationship with your tenants? Is it like your other business relationships? After all, for many renters the landlord is the entity with whom they do the most commerce each month. They may be spending as much as one-half of their take-home salary on rent. Given this, it is only natural that we might cultivate a positive, professional business relationship. The benefits of having such a relationship with our tenants can be quite tangible: We had a turnover in a one-bedroom at the end of October, and the tenant left the unit in a condition essentially identical to when she moved in two years ago. I was happy to return her full security and pet deposits (she had both a dog and cat). She is happy to have an excellent landlord reference as she starts her new life in another state.
Of course, not all tenants are as conscientious as she was. However, establishing and reinforcing a positive business relationship can go along way to reducing problems with our tenancies. While you may be using e-mail or an online platform to accomplish your maintenance scheduling or updating contact lists, a short note or card to your tenants at this time of year can be a very effective way of expressing your appreciation for their continued business. It also helps build a positive image for you as the landlord if you ever need to serve a tenant with bad news such as a notice of lease violation. Such a negative action is more likely to be perceived as a business decision rather than a personal attack when you have already established your credentials as a fair-minded landlord.
Although I cannot send a hand-written note to all the members of RHA Oregon, I wish each of you, your families, your customers, and your tenants a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous 2020.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!