Building Relationships with Tenants

Think back to when you were in school. Typically, when a teacher was passionate about their job, students wanted to do well in their class. People respect the rarity of professionals who put their all into their work. This principle works for landlords too.

Tenants respect landlords who are passionate and good at what they do. That means working hard to give your tenants a positive living experience.

Respect is the most important thing you can earn from your tenants.


Some tenants are fantastic. They will be fantastic tenants no matter what maintenance you give the situation. Unfortunately, that’s not every tenant.

Some tenants try to get away with paying rent in increments throughout the month. Others will flat out pay you late or not pay you at all. That isn’t okay.

How do you get tenants to respect your payment date? You could strong arm them…or you could earn their respect.

Going back to the school metaphor, all types of students want to do well for the rare teachers I mentioned above. Even students who don’t do homework for any other class will put in an effort for these incredible professionals. That’s how you want to be as a landlord.

You want all tenants to pay you on time, including the ones who wouldn’t for other landlords.

Some tenants won’t have enough money to pay all their bills. That’s normal and understandable. You want to be the bill they choose to pay on time, not the bill they think can wait.

Bills like electricity, water and phone have immediate consequences. However, evictions can take a long time. Tenant typically choose to pay their basic needs with immediate consequences first, but they may make the decision to wait on the internet payment, the credit card purchase or just make a bigger effort to save up the money the month before so they don’t have to choose. Basically, if a tenant believes they can get away with making you wait, the tenant will make you wait.

More so, a lack of respect can lead to so much worse than late payment. When a tenant doesn’t respect you, they can get mad when you “nag” them for payment. They might retaliate by damaging your unit or just refusing to maintain the assets you have inside.

Building relationships with bad tenants can turn them into great tenants. You might not always find the best tenants in your search, but you can inspire any tenant to be one of your best.

How To Build Relationships with Tenants

The most important thing you can do is show your tenant you value them as people, rather than just their payment.

The Little Things Matter

A crucial factor to showing you value them is learning to pronounce your tenant’s name correctly. Preferably, learn the names of everyone living in your unit.

Building a friendship with their kids is strongly encouraged. An easy option is to bring the child a Happy Meal or toy. Of course, always get their parent’s permission.

To speak with a small child, bend down on one knee and talk to them face to face. Additionally, you should never have rough conversations in front of the kids (i.e. talking about why a payment is late, etc.).

Visit the tenant when they’re in the hospital. Attend funerals or viewings for the deaths of immediate family members. These little things play a big role in earning your tenant’s respect.

Another interesting way to make your tenant feel comfortable is to write them a welcome letter prior to move in day. You can include vital information that your tenant is probably looking for. This subtle gesture is a clear indication that your tenant can rely on you for help.

You are a character in this person’s story, and you want to be the kind of character that everyone roots for.

Rules Are Not Meant to Be Bent or Broken

Emergency situations, like those mentioned above, are the few moments in which accepting late rent would be okay. Nonetheless, it’s a risk. You don’t know how frequently things like this happen yet, and they could use these events as excuses in the future.

When you do grant flexibility, have your tenant sign some type of paperwork acknowledging that this is a one-time exception to your rules. Create some type of protocol. You don’t want your tenant to think it’s easy to back out of rent.

Next, make the rules clear from the very beginning and enforce them consistently. If you charge a late fee, notify them of their new balance as soon as they’re late. Don’t delay posting eviction notices for tenants who don’t pay by your latest accepted rent date. Follow through with your evictions. Send tenants who don’t pay what they owe to collections or sue them for the money. You need to be clear that you follow through with what you say you will do.

Quality Repairs Go a Long Way

On the same note, be a person of your word. When you say you will make a repair for the tenant, do so quickly. Don’t implement band-aid solutions that will need attention again in the future; fix things the right way. It will be cheaper in the long run, and it will make your tenants happy.

When there’s a repair that needs to be made that comes from simple wear and tear, make it. Should you have a policy in your contract that bigger repairs are the tenant’s responsibility, recommend people who you think will do the job well and for a fair price.

When you make a poor quality repair or don’t make the repair at all, your tenant will feel gypped, which can cause them to feel resentful and lose respect for you. That feeling of resentment can lead to late payments and retaliation on your property.

Repairs are costly and annoying, but making them promptly circles back to the most important factor: valuing the tenant as a person.

Do a walk through with your tenant when they move in and have them write down anything in the unit that is damaged. Do another walkthrough when they move out, but this time you’ll write down what’s damaged. Having them take note of everything at the beginning lets them know that you won’t try to pin things on them that aren’t their fault, but that they will be held responsible for any damages they do cause beyond normal wear and tear.

Be Professional

Always dress professionally when you meet with your tenant. While you want to have a positive relationship with your tenant, you want it to be clear that you are the authority figure. Dressing professionally helps you look the part.

Similarly, you always want to use a professional tone of voice when speaking. Never get emotionally upset with your tenant because you will lose credibility.

Natalie Calvo