Finding a good tenant is only half of a landlord’s job. The other half is managing the property with the tenant in it, which can be a demanding task. To make it a bit easier, many property managers create a “tenant manual.” Even though the rental contract outlines most of the tenants’ responsibilities, a tenant manual can be a great additional resource for the new tenants. Below are a few main sections you should consider including in your tenant manual.
Payment and Fees
Outline all the ways you accept the rent, as well as the dates when it’s due. In case your tenants lose your bank account number or are unsure which name to put on a check, have this information available in your tenant manual. Mention what happens if the rent is past due and if you allow exceptions in special circumstances.
List any other fees and charges your tenant may expect to incur, such as a fee for a missed maintenance appointment or a check processing fee. If you offer reimbursement for certain types of maintenance performed by the tenant, be sure to describe the conditions of this offer.
Changes in the tenant’s lifestyle
The conditions and circumstances under which your tenant originally signed the lease may change over time. They may want to get a second pet, may be expecting a baby or growing tired of their roommate. Use the tenant manual to explain which lifestyle or other changes should be reported to the landlord and what are the proper procedures.
Basic property features and diagnosis of problems
There are many things that can go wrong in a house, but not all are equally serious. Some simple problems can be fixed within five minutes, while others can be stopped before they turn into a big mess. Dedicate a section in your tenant manual to listing common household problems and solutions, covering plumbing, electrical, appliances and HVAC. They may seem like a common sense to you, but your tenants might not have the same knowledge and experience in home maintenance.
Describe where the main circuit breaker, gas and water shut-off valves are located. Include information about the common issues, such as resetting a tripped circuit breaker or dealing with frozen pipes. If you know that your home or property is prone to certain problems, make sure to specifically address them.
…and what your tenant should do about it
Outline the procedure for notifying you when something happens. Even if it can be fixed by the tenant without your assistance, you might still want to know what went wrong. A circuit breaker that trips all the time might indicate an electrical issue. And don’t forget to set the boundaries for your handy MacGyver tenants – they may do the troubleshooting, but most repairs should be left to a professional.
Home care and maintenance responsibilities
Help your tenants understand what is expected of them when it comes to maintaining your rental property. For example, such things as changing batteries in smoke alarms or closing A/C vents before winter can be done by the tenant. However, what about cleaning a pool or unclogging a backed up toilet? It’s often difficult to draw a line where your tenant’s responsibilities end and yours begin.
Regardless, your tenant has at least one responsibility – to keep your property in a good shape. To help them do it, list a few best practices and reminders on how to use the fireplace, dishwasher, HVAC system and other home features and appliances, especially if appliance manuals are not available.
Referral bonuses and other offers
If you own several properties, especially within the same area or apartment complex, encourage your tenant to refer their friends or family members. Besides the benefit of proximity, you can offer them a bonus in a form of a gift card to a local restaurant or discount on their rent. Don’t forget to mention any other special offers or loyalty programs you use to reward and retain good tenants.
This tenant manual answers many questions your new tenants might have, and it can greatly reduce the number of calls you’ll be getting from them. However, it’s still important for your tenant to know that he can talk to a human, too. Make sure you include number(s) your tenants can call for different questions, including emergencies. You can also make a table showing how fast you handle different requests. For example, missed phone calls will be returned within 24 hours, appliance repair technician will visit the same day, etc. This will give your tenant a frame of reference and help manage their expectations.
What are some of the items you find helpful to include in your Tenant Manual?