The 5 Cs: Hamilton Fraser’s key soft skills for landlords
Financial know-how, organisation, budgeting, negotiating skills, patience … being a landlord requires a varied skillset. But while the practical side of the role is vital, it’s important not to forget that it’s ultimately a business that’s all about people.
Our customer research reveals that tenants are both the best and worst things about being a landlord: a great tenant makes your life so much easier, a bad tenant could leave you with a financial – and literal – headache. Remember: tenants are customers, and you need to ensure that their customer experience is a positive one. Fail on this front, and you could struggle to both attract and retain great tenants.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five Cs of landlording: the soft skills that you should nurture to keep your tenants happy and your business running smoothly.
Are you giving your tenants the impression that you really care? Do you understand what they really want – what really makes them tick? Developing your active listening skills will instil confidence in your tenants that you understand their issues and that you have an active interest in ensuring they are happy. And this is key: as Landlord Action founder and Hamilton Fraser brand ambassador, Paul Shamplina, says, “A happy tenant is a happy landlord”.
Do your tenants have the best contact details for you? Even if your property is managed by an agent, do they have a way to contact you directly in an emergency? Are you responding to any questions or complaints promptly, in a timeframe that you would be happy with if the shoe were on the other foot? You’ll find more guides to keeping your tenant informed here.
For many, landlording is the first real experience of people management. And while we’ve said above that friendly, proactive communication is vital, there’s a fine line between being a friend, and being the one who is ultimately responsible for the property should anything go wrong.
Be too friendly and you may find it a challenge to stamp your authority when stating what tenants can and can’t do when increasing rent payments, or evicting the tenant if the worst comes to the worse. Confidence comes with knowledge which is why we encourage all our customers to skill up and learn as much as they can about landlording. The more you know about private rental sector legislation, tenants rights and schemes like CMP and the PRS, the better.
You can also get regular expert property industry advice by subscribing to Hamilton Fraser’s property podcast.
3. Conflict resolution
We hope that, for the most part, your experience as a landlord will be plain sailing – let your property, collect rent payments, repeat – but there will inevitably be issues to resolve down the line. Whether it is dealing with unpaid rent, handling situations where furnishings or appliances need to be replaced or establishing whether part of a tenant’s deposit needs to be retained when they move out, there are plenty of situations that could arise where your conflict resolution skills will need to be put to the test.
Your tenant needs to be satisfied that you will be objective rather than confrontational or defensive and that any disputes will be argued, from your side, in a balanced and fair way, giving solid justification for your decisions.
Effective negotiation is key to ensuring that, should a conflict arise, the situation does not escalate. Suzy Hershman, Head of Dispute Resolution at mydeposits, advises that “The best way to negotiate is face to face. The tone or intended meaning of the written word can often be misinterpreted”. mydeposits’ guide to negotiation offers more tips on negotiating.
At the end of a tenancy, for example, some landlords may need to enlist dispute resolution services if they and the tenant are unable to reach an agreement as to the proportion of the deposit to be repaid. In such a situation, levelheadedness and a focus on producing appropriate proof are key: it is important to remain objective and factual, during what can be a very emotional time.
Occasionally, your tenants may, unfortunately, be faced with unexpected problems: anything from being paid a day late and being unable to make their rent payment on time, to having to find somewhere else to live if your property is severely damaged by a storm or fire.
In situations like these, your normal rules may not apply. If for example, rent payment is late, speak to your tenant as soon as you can to find out why. Particularly with good tenants, exercise a degree of compassion where you can: if the rent is going to be a day or two delayed and there is a good reason for this, you are likely to accept the late payment.
If your tenants feel that you are compassionate and understanding, they are generally more likely to be happy in your property, to renew their rental agreement and accept small annual rent increases. However, it is crucial to react quickly and effectively to any issues to minimise the chances of them escalating. Ensuring that you have comprehensive landlord insurance in place will cover you for loss of rent or alternative accommodation should the need arise.
You may be a compassionate, caring person by nature, but your properties are your livelihood. A one-off late rent payment because of an unexpected change in circumstances is one thing, regular late payments are something that cannot be ignored. For most landlords, loss of rent has a great impact on their ability to pay their mortgage and rent arrears that are left to spiral out of control can have devastating effects on their business. As the landlord, you set the rules: how should you react if your rent is regularly appearing a week or more late (or not appearing at all), or if your tenant isn’t taking appropriate care of your property? To be a successful landlord, you need to lay out the ground rules clearly from the outset so there’s no confusion. The National Landlords Association has produced a useful guide to rent arrears which provides useful advice on what you can do should your tenant fail to pay the rent.
Where to start?
You may already have a good idea of which soft skills you possess in abundance, and which you need to work on. But if not, find five minutes to take a look at 16Personalities: a free personality test that will give you a detailed description of who you are, and why you do things the way you do.
You’ll be presented with both your good personality traits and the bad, showing the things you need to keep, and the things you need to work on for the most success in your role. And what’s more, you’ll also get an insight into other people’s personality types, which you can apply to your tenants, giving you an understanding: not just of how to build a strong landlord-tenant relationship, but of how to keep hold of good tenants and maintain that relationship.
For landlords, there’s more to the role than simply buying or inheriting a property and watching the rent payments roll in. And while you may possess the hard skills required to keep your tenants happy and your business running smoothly, don’t forget to hone your soft skills to ensure happiness for both you and your tenants.
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