How to be a good landlord

July 1st brought in some new changes for landlords in New Zealand in an attempt to make renting more fair and balanced. It hasn’t gone without a hitch, as some landlords are choosing to keep their houses vacant instead of bringing them up to code with insulation and other requirements. Unfortunately there are a lot of landlords (and landladies) out there that give the rest of them a bad name.

Being a good landlord is actually quite easy – and it’s the most reliable way to get good tenants, too. Here’s how to be the best landlord you can be.

Customise the lease and walk your tenant through it

You can find standard lease documents on the Government’s Tenancy Services website but the best landlords will tailor this to fit their (and their tenant’s specific needs). You can add unique rules (e.g. around pets, garden maintenance etc.) to avoid conflict in the future,  and the more detail you have in, the safer everybody involved is. Don’t just rely on a downloadable form; it’s a template, not a finished product. It’s also important to walk your tenant through the lease to ensure both parties understand who is responsible for what. This is how you avoid problems with blame down the track.

Know the laws

Many New Zealand landlords run their properties as “mum and dad rentals”, not professional businesses, so they fail to actually understand their legal liabilities. Leasing your home is a serious engagement – it’s literally the roof over someone else’s head – and you as the landlord must equally know and adhere to the laws around rent, deposits, repairs and maintenance, chattels, inspection, going on site, and the tenant’s rights. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau provides a good question and answer tool you can use when you’re stuck.

Be diligent with repairs

You may think you’re being cost-efficient with repairs and what you deem necessary, but your tenants will most certainly think you’re cheap. This will contribute to them taking less care with the property overall, so the best landlords are those who identify, inspect, and schedule repairs as soon as asked. Within a week of a tenant contacting you is a good guideline to have something sorted.

Keep communication open

The best landlords are those who are available to their tenants by text or e-mail. As the preferred modes of communication in the 21st Century, being instantly contactable through technology is how you keep tenants on your side. You won’t have a tenant harassing you at all hours of the day and night if you have followed the first three pointers for good landlordship. By keeping the line of communication always open, both landlord and tenant will feel at ease. Being available during the week will also dramatically reduce after-hours calls.

Respect the tenant’s privacy

The worst landlords are those who treat a property like others are merely squatting there, doing damage to their investment. A rental property is a tenant’s home. The deserve to feel safe and like it is theirs. This means respecting their privacy, not micro-managing or being in contact too often, and being largely invisible when you must be on site. Always remember, a tenant is probably paying you around $25,000 a year. They have skin in the game, just like you do.

Be professional

Always show up on time as scheduled, dressed appropriately to meet your tenants. These are professional meetings. If you are clean and tidy, they will assume you’ll want the rental home to stay clean and tidy. Impressions matter.

Be compassionate

All landlords will come across problems and sometimes disagreements with their tenants. Always take the high road, keep your cool, and be compassionate. Treat tenants like you would your employees: you should always be calm, collected, and ready to listen. Never swear or yell at your tenant, even if they are doing it. It’s important that they feel acknowledged. Your tenants are your customers, and you’ll achieve optimal results if they are left with the impression – as the old saying goes – “the customer is always right”.