A landlord never wants to see tenant turnover. Tenant turnover is when one occupying tenant departs and another one signs a new lease. The time in-between is often considered especially damaging to real estate investments. If you’re a landlord facing this issue, then you need to take some quick and efficient steps.
Landlords and property managers everywhere deal with poor tenants, which means there’s an abundance of literature on the subject. Jered Sturm at BiggerPockets published his thoughts on tenant turnover and introduces what could be considered a rather unconventional view. Despite being a business, he argues, few landlords and property management companies view their residents as the customers they are. That can translate into unforeseen and otherwise avoidable situations.
Of course, discussing with your property manager is an essential first step. He or she may have a better idea as to why a tenant turnover rate is high, such as other occupants or the neighborhood — of course, the problem could be the property manager him or herself! But you as the landlord need to do some serious research yourself.
One of the first things you might consider is an audit of your applicant screening process. Appropriate applicant screening is one of seven cardinal rules of property management, according to Lucas Hall at Landlordology. He advocates for the proactive approach and believes 90% of issues can be prevented with proper screening. That means you must also know the legitimate reasons to reject a prospective tenant’s application. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects tenants’ rights and should always be respected. Fairness should be easy to uphold, however, that doesn’t mean you should have lenient standards. The consequences of bad tenants can be expensive. Your screening standards are the best way to obviate the need for retroactive interventions.
There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to property management. Adjusting your screening techniques with things like revised standards and an online rental application process is sure to help prevent future issues, but it won’t be enough. Tenant turnover means residents feel compelled to leave your property. Some departures could be the result of unrelated factors (e.g., career change, job loss, illness, etc.), whereas others could be the result of perceived negligence and/or incompetence. In a worst-case scenario, a tenant might not just depart — they might also file a lawsuit against you.
Keep Yourself Safe
Melissa Page, another writer for Landlordology, has already done you the favor of highlighting ten best practices for avoiding an expensive tenant lawsuit. Several of her suggestions not only prevent lawsuits but help you build better rapport with your tenants (i.e., customers). She encourages you to stay vigilant when it comes to property repairs and to keep tenants informed. Documenting everything and understanding all applicable laws are another two key takeaways. Rewarding compliant behavior and ensuring on-premise safety/security are taken for granted but just as important, according to her.
Ask for Advice
If you’re a new landlord (or even an experienced one), you can also never go wrong by simply asking for professional assistance. This could mean seeking out a lawyer, but it could also mean any external expert who might lend some further insight. Never underestimate the value of another perspective, especially that of a knowledgeable and impartial outsider.