How to: Set expectations and follow through consistently
Over the course of a day, a property manager may interact with current and potential tenants many times and in many different ways. Having a process for regular, clear, and accessible communication can save you time in the long run. Good communication helps prevent misunderstandings and assumptions and can help build strong relationships with your tenant community.
Communicating with applicants
The more information that applicants have about a building before they move in, the more likely they are to choose the right community for them. Applicants should be aware of whether your building is nonsmoking, if tenant insurance is mandatory, and what the guest policy is.
Make sure the central waiting list has up to date information to pass on to applicants. To reach market rent applicants, consider having a web site. If you don’t have one, consider making a brochure that you e-mail or mail out when people enquire.
Information on move-in
Moving in can be overwhelming for tenants. Make sure to ask the tenant if there’s anything they need in order to access the building or its services. Be prepared to give tenants information electronically, printed in large type, or to read it out loud if requested.
A tenant handbook is an easy way to give your tenants lots of information in one document that they can keep and refer back to. ONPHA has a free tenant handbook (bit.ly/onphaTH) that you can customize. It has information on moving in, paying rent, rights and responsibilities, your policies, safety and security, your neighbourhood, and anything else you choose to add. At lease signing, show the tenant what’s in the handbook so they feel comfortable opening it and using it as a reference in the future. If you’re giving the tenant an electronic copy and not printing it, open the document on a screen with them.
In addition to the handbook, you legally must provide your tenant with a copy of the lease and the Information for New Tenants brochure available from the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Some things are clearer on a walk-through. When showing your building, point out the fire safety features of the unit and the building. Explain the fire alarms and walk to the closest and alternate fire exits. Show them what to do in other emergencies like flooding, and how to report maintenance concerns. This is a good time to explain what happens during annual inspections.
To make sure you continue to be connected with your tenants, communicate consistently. Have a clear process for submitting maintenance requests, complaints, and notices. Make sure tenants know what action you’re taking when they submit things. Post information clearly such as advance notice of annual inspections, fire drills, and upcoming annual renewals.
Newsletters are a great way to reach your tenants. Sometimes, tenants take on the production of a newsletter and management contributes updates. If newsletters are too time consuming, consider having regular tenant meetings open to all tenants. This will allow tenants to express their concerns and for you to give updates.
Keeping tenants well-informed may take some extra time but it’s worth the effort to help them stay engaged in their community.