This is an unprecedented time for us right now…so many people are being impacted financially, emotionally, mentally. There are many uncertainties in our own lives, but we don’t only have to worry about ourselves. As landlords, we also have to worry about our tenants. And I’m not just talking about rent payments here.
We are in a leadership position with our tenants, and we need to be pro-active in communicating with them to ensure they are okay, and help in any way that we can. This can look different for you depending on your relationship with your tenants, and your own abilities, but taking the lead to open communication with your tenants is very important for fostering trust and building your relationship with them so they feel able to talk to you about challenges they may be having.
What does this look like? That will depend on your own personal situation, and the portfolio that you hold. I know some smaller landlords who have picked up the phone and called their tenants to check in. At my pm company, we manage around 250 tenants, so personal phone calls are a challenge. We sent out a communication to our tenants, and as things progress and news changes we will continue to communicate with them by email. Then anyone who needs a phone call or a conversation –we provide that support.
What about our tenants who cannot pay their rent? We let them know that it’s okay. Yes, as landlords we have housing expenses that still have to be paid. But if our tenants just don’t have the money right now–getting upset about it won’t change the fact that they just don’t have the money right now. Let’s be kind and supportive, and try to work with them on this challenge.
The message to your tenants should be one of concern and support for them. If they feel you are being genuine and kind, they are more likely to work with you moving forward. The verbiage you use should reflect genuine concern and a win-win strategy.
The message lets them know that rent is still needing to be paid, and that you are willing to work with them on a payment plan and that you are also willing to help get them the support they need to help their family financially. Be concerned about them getting too far behind–not for your own personal interest, but for theirs. Make sure that when this is all over that they aren’t in a position where they will have to move. Focus on them–not yourself.
Educate yourself and be aware of what programs are being offered that may assist your tenants and provide them that information. Don’t assume that your tenants have access to the news on government programs and will keep up to date as they are released. Provide this information including links on how to apply to them. If they don’t have access to a computer or the internet–help them find a way. Let them know that they can connect with you if they are having challenges.
If you do set up a payment plan with them, put it in writing for them so that they have an outline of the agreement. Ask them to keep in contact with you if anything changes or if they won’t be able to meet the dates and amounts on the agreement.
In all that you do, act with kindness. Even great tenants are going to have challenges and we want to make sure that our relationships with them are not compromised during this time. When all goes back to normal, we still want our great tenants to choose to rent with us. Use this as an opportunity to build your relationships with them and solidify your reputation with them as a great landlord.