With so many different variations, we have to ask: is developing a relationship with tenants important? What kind of relationship should you strive for? How do you build it?
First, these relationships are undoubtedly important - if nothing else, because a strong working relationship means you can both communicate, you'll get paid on time, and the tenant feels that they can trust you to resolve issues that may arise. When it comes to the "type" of relationship, however, it's almost always going to be determined by the tenant (as long as you're doing your part), and whether or not the two of you "click" in a natural way.
On the landlord or property manager's side of things, developing a relationship with a tenant comes down to a few simple ideas:
• Be Professional - Have your documents in order, be where you say you're going to be, return phone calls, make the repairs you say you're going to, and so on. This is all about showing yourself as a trustworthy person with a process that works.
• Be Flexible - You can't always make concessions or bend over backwards for your tenants, but you should try! Understand that your renters may go through financial troubles, make mistakes, or otherwise strain the relationship. If you can be patient and flexible (within reason), they will do the same - and this lays the groundwork for an ongoing relationship of understanding and mutual appreciation.
• Be Friendly - Even if the relationship is "just business," you should still be nice! Make a point to be friendly and genuine with tenants. Your efforts to keep interactions pleasant, get to know them, and extend friendly communication will make them feel welcome and at home.
• Keep Records - On the "business" side of the relationship, it truly pays to keep detailed records of everything you possibly can. In the even of any problem, dispute, malfunction, etc., the more information you have, the better. Your tenants will know they can rely on you to have accurate info, and that builds more trust!
Beyond these tips, building a relationship with a tenant is really no different than any other relationship - personal or professional. It's about communication, listening, and getting to know one another. If you're open to letting the relationship unfold naturally, it will! It may be strictly business, it may lead to a legitimate friendship, and it may fall anywhere along the spectrum. As you get to know your tenants, try to gauge their approach as well. If they want to be friendly, reciprocate... If they want to keep it transactional, that's ok too!
Developing a relationship with your tenant (no matter what the nature or dynamic may be) is the path to a better overall experience for both of you. When you know each other, it isn't just about dropping off a rent check or fixing a leaky pipe - it's about knowing each other's needs and meeting in the middle.
Whatever kind of relationships you build with your tenants, know that it's an important part of making the entire experience better for everyone involved!