Property Management Q&A - Managing Tenants

By
05/09/2014

For this issue, our property management experts talk about advertising new tenants, interviewing them, and dealing with changed locks. Email your questions to editor@yipmag.com.au

Q: I want to give myself the best chance of attracting quality tenants for my property. How can I increase my chances of finding the right tenants using advertising? What is legally permissible in my ad? What should I highlight to make my advertisement stand out?

A: Great tenants are every landlord’s dream, so this is a fantastic question. Before we get to the advertisement itself though, you should make sure you are targeting the right audience by placing your ad in the right place. It is worthwhile spending some money up front to make sure you are placing your ad either online or in publications where the majority of prospective tenants look. You might use a combination of popular websites and print publications – it will depend on your area.

Next, consider the content of your advertisement – how can you make it stand out to attract more views and then convert each view into an enquiry? Firstly, have a think about your advertisement headline – it should attract attention and contain key words for your potential ideal tenants – eg spacious, value for money, newly renovated etc.

Once you have the reader's attention, you should briefly communicate the key features and the offer– don’t write an essay. Explain the interior and exterior features using descriptive and engaging words where possible and use bullet points to make it easier to read. Be sure to consider what you do and don’t include – not addressing certain aspects can raise questions and doubts in a potential tenant’s mind.

With the text done, try to include as many attractive but useful photos as possible. Be sure to provide images of every feature and room you have described, as missing images may suggest you have something to hide – such as structural problems. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!

People are busy and may look at multiple advertisements at once. An attractive, informative and detailed but succinct ad is more likely to hook potential tenants when compared to others.

Finally, while I urge you to be creative in your language, your descriptions must be honest and accurate. Giving false or misleading information is a very serious offence and one that could have you dealing with a compensation case.

INTERVIEWING TENANTS 
Q I have interviews coming up with some potential tenants and I want to make sure I make the right choice. What are the most important questions to ask when interviewing a tenant? Are there any specifics I should look for with regards to their presentation and demeanour? How can I tell if they will be good tenants?

A It is important to realise that the tenant screening process should begin the very first time they enquire about the property. Over the phone, you should start by asking some key questions such as:

  • Why are they moving?
  • How long have they been where they live now?
  • How long do they plan to stay in your property?
  • Do they have rental references who can verify their answers about their current tenancy?
Write down their answers. Do you consider their response to be satisfactory? Do you need to further investigate some grey areas? You should ask as many questions here as you feel you need to, before considering the second interview – the property inspection.

Upon meeting potential tenants face to face, you should consider their appearance – are they well-presented? Have they brought children and how are they managing their behaviour? Importantly, you should feel that they are honest and trustworthy, this is a good opportunity to ask them some more questions.

The final stage is their tenancy application and again there are some insightful questions that can be asked here:
  • When do the tenants plan on moving in if they were to be successful in their application?
  • What is their weekly income, can they afford the weekly rent plus living expenses?
  • Have they been blacklisted or had any matter brought before the tribunal in the past?
  • How many people will be living there? Will there be children and/or pets that may have an impact on your property?
Remember this entire process is vital to ensuring you are comfortable with your new tenants, so feel free to ask plenty of questions. Encourage your potential tenants to ask any questions of you that they may have. This may not only allow you to clarify any early misunderstandings, but it may also give you an insight into their values and what is important to them.

TENANTS CHANGING LOCKS 
Q Recently, upon arriving at my property for the scheduled routine inspection, I found the locks had been changed… by my tenant and without my consent. Is this normal, or even legal? I can understand circumstances where they may need to change the locks for security purposes but surely I need to be consulted beforehand? What are my rights and obligations here? How about the tenant? What should I do to gain access to the property?

A Firstly, it is important to know that what your tenants have done is not legal! As landlord, the law requires you to provide the necessary locks to keep the premises secure, while your tenants should have signed an agreement stating that they will not alter these locks without your permission. Ensure you have a copy of the tenancy agreement to show your tenants, if it is required – they may have misplaced theirs.

Your next step is to approach your tenants and find out what happened to cause this action and to obtain a copy of the new key. Be sure to hear what they have to say. In the majority of cases, tenants do things like this out of fear or lack of information about what to do.

The next step is to educate your tenants on their rights and obligations – this is where the copy of the agreement may be handy. In this case, unless there was an emergency or police matter (such as a break-in where keys were stolen), the tenant must gain your prior consent before changing the locks.

After gaining your approval, the tenants can change the locks (ensure they use a reputable locksmith) and must give you a copy of the new key within seven days of the change.

At the end of the day, you must decide if your tenants have justifiable reasons for their actions. You may wish to merely remind them of their tenancy agreement and their responsibilities as tenants. Alternatively, you may wish to take the further action in response to the breaking of the agreement - if you believe ulterior and unjustifiable motives are apparent.
 

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