Landlord Tips

How to Keep Renters/Tenants Happy and Get Them to Stay

Greg Damis has been a landlord in Philadelphia for 35 years (since 1982) and an outspoken advocate in Philadelphia for Landlord rights. Below is some insight from his experiences: 
While some factors are beyond your control, such as your renter relocating for a new job, there are several things you can do to keep your reliable tenant happy and eager to renew. 

Why do renters stay? How do you get them to stay?

Renters stay put for a number of reasons: They may prefer the flexibility of renting, or they can’t afford to purchase a home in their desired neighborhood, or they’re waiting longer to get married or have kids (frequent catalysts for buying one’s first home). The good news is that if your tenant has been at your rental for more than a year, they’re likely to stick around a while longer: A comprehensive study of renters found that 40 percent of people who’ve been in their rental for more than a year have no plans to move within the next three years. Nearly half of them are happy with their living situation, including the price of rent and neighborhood, and a third don’t want to deal with the stress of moving.

What about the other half?

While half of long-term renters are happy with their rental situation, half are less than satisfied. The same study reported that of the long-term renters who are planning to move within the next three years, 55 percent will move to another rental. Don’t let that happen! If you’re lucky enough to have a good tenant, you want them to stay in your rental.

So what can you do, as a landlord, to boost renter satisfaction?

Here are 5 ways to keep your reliable tenant happy



Six Reasons Why Your Tenants Should Sign the Lease First

1. Don’t End Up With Multiple Signed Leases

If you send a signed lease to your tenant, and he or she never replies, then you’ve put yourself in a risky position. Let’s say a week goes by and you move on to another tenant. If you sign a lease with the second tenant and the first tenant returns a signed lease, then you end up with multiple signed leases.

By letting the tenant sign first, you are making sure you won’t end up with multiple signed contracts with different tenants.

2. Follow Industry Standard Practice

It’s standard practice that the buyer or consumer signs the contract first. In this case, the good being exchanged is the right to live in your rental property. Because tenants are the consumer in this situation, it’s standard practice to have them sign first.

3. Your Signature Will Make the Lease Final

As the landlord, you want your signature to be the last step that finalizes the lease. Once you add your signature to the signed lease, the lease is legally binding.

Keep in mind that once the lease is signed, you can still void the lease before the tenant moves in if the tenant’s payments fail (first month’s rent or deposits). This is a case where the lease could be easily voided even after you’ve both signed. This is much easier than evicting a tenant once he or she moves in.

4. Create a Sense of Urgency So Tenants Will Sign 

If you send a signed lease, then tenants won’t have a sense of urgency to sign the lease and send it back to you because their signature is the final step. They’ll feel comforted knowing you’ve signed and they have it in their hands. Essentially, you’d be giving them a high sense of security.

On the other hand, when you send them a lease to review and take action (sign the lease), then you are creating a sense of urgency for them to take that action. They’ll want to return it signed right away, so you can sign it and make it official.

5. Double Check There Are No Changes to the Lease

If you send the lease with your signature, tenants could alter the lease and claim you sent it that way. You need to ensure the lease you are signing is the correct version with no alterations.

This is another benefit of signing your lease online. When you send the lease to your tenants, it’s unalterable. Plus, it’s easy for tenants to sign and return to you. They can review and sign the lease anywhere, anytime on their computer, tablet, or smartphone.

6. Check the Names and Signatures on the Lease 

Imagine you send the lease to Bob, but you receive the lease back and the name and signature says “Jim.” If you sent that lease signed, you’d have a signed contract with the wrong person. When you have the tenant sign first, you are making sure you get final inspection of the name and signature before you sign.



Common Landlord Questions About Lease Signatures

What If I Already Sent a Signed Lease to My Tenants? 

Chances are your tenants will sign the lease and everything will be okay. But if you sent a signed lease and your tenants stop replying or never send the lease back, then you should immediately notify tenants in writing that you are withdrawing your offer to rent to them. You should send it via email and overnight mail to their current address.

Then, you can move on to renting to other tenants. And in the future, you’ll know to have tenants sign first.

Do All Tenants Need to Sign a Rental Lease?

All tenants above the age of 18 need to sign the lease. Every tenant who signs is legally responsible for terms and rules on the lease, including the full rent amount. If you’re renting to a couple, make sure both partners sign.

Do Minors Have to Sign a Rental Lease?

If you’re renting to a family, then children (under 18 years of age) do not need to sign the lease.

If you’re renting to a minor, then you’ll want to check your state laws. Most states require that a co-signer (typically a parent or guardian) also needs to sign the lease. Be aware that some states do not allow a minor to be held legally responsible for the terms of a rental lease, unless they are legally emancipated (meaning they’ve been granted independent status by the courts).

Do Co-signers Need to Sign the Lease? 

Yes, co-signers need to sign the lease. A co-signer is another person on the lease who is financially responsible for the full rent amount. Landlords usually have co-signers sign if they’re renting to students or minors. It’s a way to add security if you’re worried whether a tenant can afford rent each month. Once a co-signer has signed the lease, then he or she is also legally responsible for the full rent amount.

When Does a Rental Lease Become Legally Binding? 

The lease becomes legally binding when all parties have signed: the landlord and all tenants living in the unit who are 18 and older.

If you’re worried about situations where a lease needs to end early, learn about breaking a lease and grounds for eviction.

When Should I Send a Lease to My Tenants to Sign? 

Assuming you’ve selected the right tenants, the next step is preparing your lease to be signed. Your lease should be sent to tenants when you complete the following steps:

  • Research your state landlord-tenant laws
  • Customize your rental rules
  • Add important clauses, disclosures, and addendums
  • Thoroughly review your lease
  • Get ready for next steps

Typically, leases are signed 30 days before the new tenants move in.

What If My Tenant Signs the Lease And Then Requests a Change to the Lease? 

If a tenant signs the lease and then a change is made, then he or she will need to sign again. Any change to the lease alters the agreement and therefore the tenant will need to sign to agree to the new version of the document.

What If My Tenant Signs a Lease And Then Later Adds a New Roommate? 

If a new tenant is added to the lease, then all parties will need to sign the lease again. The new roommate’s name needs to be added to the lease and then all parties should sign again. This ensures that the document is accurate and all tenants are responsible for the terms on the lease.



Common Landlord Questions About Short-Term Rentals

What Can a Landlord Do to Gain Control Over Tenants’ Short-Term Rentals?

Fortunately, there are legal options. Landlords should first review the lease agreements they have entered into with current tenants for sublet clauses. A sublet clause restrains a lessee from receiving payment for a person’s occupation of the premises they rent. The restraint may vary from a flat-out prohibition of subletting to notification or approval requirements prior to subletting. Such language likely governs short-term rentals, which are subleases by their nature. If the clause is already included in current tenant agreements, landlords may notify the tenants of the existence of the clause and the consequences for failing to abide by the terms of their lease agreements.

If the lease agreements are without a sublet clause, then landlords should amend their lease agreements or revise their renewal agreements to include a provision governing subletting that is tailored to their specific needs. For instance, a landlord wishing to permit long-term sublet arrangements but prohibit short-rentals would require a lessee to covenant that the premises will not be subleased for any period less than 30 days. The sublet clause is a flexible tool for governing short-term rentals. 

What Can I Do About Short-Term Rentals If I Own a Condominium?

Owners of condominiums may be similarly concerned regarding short-term rentals listed by owners in their homeowners’ association. An owner frustrated with a neighbor’s short-term rental habits should review their condominium association’s bylaws and covenants, conditions and restrictions. It is quite possible that those agreements already have provisions governing the rental of units in the building, which would include short-term rentals. If not, the owner may desire to contact their condominium association to discuss the governance of short-term rentals by homeowners.

What If My Tenant Violates the Terms of the Governing Agreement?

Regardless of what a lease agreement or the governing documents of a condominium association might state, there exists a very real possibility that tenants and homeowners may violate the terms of the governing agreements. Without an admission by the tenant, there may not be evidence for condominium associations or landlords to substantiate claims of short-term rentals in violation of an agreement otherwise.

For example, in the City of Chicago, ordinances may offer support to those looking for proof of violations. A recently passed Chicago ordinance now makes it easier to track those listing their homes as a short-term rental by requiring the home-sharing service to provide the city a list of persons using the home-sharing service. Condominium associations and landlords may access this information to determine if short-term rentals are occurring in their buildings. The laws and ordinances governing these issues are new, and also are very specific to the state and/or local jurisdiction. Therefore, it is important to discuss such issues with counsel.