Tenant Tips for Landlords: How to Make the Good Ones Stay

As a landlord, how do you keep good tenants?

The answer seems simple: give them good service.

But how?

In a 2010 book titled Landlord Marketing Secrets by Drew DeMasters, the author gets specific in answer to that question.

Referencing the 1980s Japanese organizational business master and professor, Noriaki Kano, DeMasters states that there are basically four dimensions that make up customer satisfaction. Each level seems intuitive, but DeMasters delves into them as related to the business of landlording. The levels are:

1) The basic

2) The expected

3) The hoped for

4) The unanticipated

To engender a basic level of tenant satisfaction, says the author, a landlord has to provide the fundamental things everyone expects in a home. These things include four walls, running water, heat and electricity—you’re clearly not even going to create baseline satisfaction in your tenant if you’re not providing them.

At Level 2, a tenant expects to have things like doors and windows with working locks, a decent-looking exterior and interior of the rental, laundry facilities or a hookup for their own, cable TV and a working phone landline, and a heating and cooling system in the single family home or apartment.

Sure, lots of tenants renew leases if you’ve just met the first two levels of tenant satisfaction. But what if you do better? What if you make them want to tell their friends?

The author states that at the Level 3 measure of satisfaction, landlords might provide amenities that tenants hope for: high-speed internet, a modern kitchen with granite countertops and lots of cabinet space, an electric garage door opener, a garbage disposal and perhaps even a home security system. Of course, those things cost money, and you probably wouldn’t provide them in a C-class property. Or maybe you would if you could provide them at a decent cost?

At the highest level of tenant satisfaction, DeMasters says a landlord might offer a fully furnished apartment, flat-screen television, new stainless steel appliances, or even theater tickets, a dinner-and-a-movie welcome basket, or tickets to a local theme park or tourist attraction.

Of course, you don’t have to provide ALL of those things to create deep satisfaction in a tenant and a desire on their part to renew their lease with you—even a few efforts at the higher levels can go a long way.

The point is that a landlord is in the service industry. Sure, you or an investor you work for has provided a tenant a product—a place to live and call home—but ultimately, the landlord needs to understand what drives customer satisfaction, and that’s treating them like you care about them as people.

And beware, the author states—you have to meet satisfaction expectations at the first two levels before you move up. It doesn’t make much sense to provide a flat-screen TV if the unit has no access to cable, or if you’re not responding quickly to maintenance requests and safety issues in the home.