Keep your vacancy rate in check by retaining your tenants

Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts | 3 min. read

Published on October 16, 2008

I don’t know about you, but I hate filling vacant units. Maybe hate is a strong word, but searching for tenants, screening tenants, and doing showings just to fill a single vacant unit is a major pain.

So what’s the easy answer to avoiding all this time and expense? Simple. Avoid vacant units in the first place by getting your current tenants to stay put.

Why spend the time and money to repaint, clean, and advertise the unit when you already have solid tenants who pay their rent on time? Though not always easy, in the long-run it’s almost always cheaper to retain great tenants than to find new ones.

So how do you keep great tenants? Again, the answer is simple. Just make sure you’re doing the commonsense stuff … that’s not always so common.

Make things easy

Let’s face it—life is complicated. But renting from you doesn’t have to be. Look for ways to make things easier for your tenants by taking advantage of the Web. For example, instead of making your tenants pick up the phone every time they need something from you, let them report repair items online. Instead of having them mail their rent check each month, let them pay electronically. Don’t have the mad programming skills to do it yourself? No problem. You can find a number of low cost options online.

Ask for feedback

It sounds simple, but the best way to know what your tenants are thinking is to ask them. Ask them how you’re doing and what you could do better. Ask them for their ideas and suggestions. And when you do get feedback from your tenants, acknowledge it and tell them how you plan to address their comments and suggestions. You don’t have to do everything they suggest but if you commit to doing something be sure to follow through.

Invest in the property

Many inexpensive improvements can go a long way toward making your tenants happy. Whether it’s repairing a broken light or repainting the hallway, improvements like these show you care while maintaining property value.

Explain rent increases

You may have happy tenants today, but their happiness will likely wane if you increase rents without first doing your homework. Be sure to check out your competition. (You can do this with just a few mouse clicks by going to to see what similar units in your area are renting for.) Then if your tenant balks, you’ll have the data to back-up your increase.

Give incentives to stay

Giving a free month’s rent is almost always an unwise decision but you may need to offer some kind of concession to compete with other properties. If competitors are offering incentives to get your tenant, a small incentive to keep them might be a wise investment. Sometimes leaving rent untouched is incentive enough. If your tenants know you’re refraining from raising their rent to keep them happy, they’ll likely see their stable rent as an incentive to stay.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s simple. Retaining tenants minimizes vacancies and turnover, saving you time and money. By making things easy for tenants, listening and responding to their feedback, maintaining your properties, explaining rent increases, and offering incentives, you’ll help keep those vacancy rates low—right where they belong.

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Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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