5 incredibly cheap ways to retain good tenants

5 min read

With the rental market in a slump, landlords treasure good tenants who can pay on time. Right now, given the weak leasing market, it’s possible that some landlords value good tenants more than gold, and at least one or two of their children. There’s no tragedy greater than losing these tenants, so here are some affordable ways to retain good tenants:

  1. Don’t show your face just to collect money

Don’t be one of those landlords who only calls when rent is due.

If you keep doing this, your tenant will start to associate with one of life’s unavoidable sufferings. Do you really want your tenant to emotionally associate you with haemorrhoids or the flu? Yes, if they’re bad tenants and you want them to leave. Otherwise, here are some simple things you can do:

Send a Christmas card, Chinese New Year card, birthday card, whatever’s appropriate.

Every now and then, ask if things are all right. Try to have a real conversation, beyond “which tap is broken now?” Take an interest in people, it’s a free and feasible way to develop a relationship.

Even if you have a property agent, try to meet face-to-face, at least once in a while. This does wonders to dispel certain ideas that can form (it’s easier to think of your landlord as a major butthole, if you’ve never spoken to him).

This doesn’t just help to retain tenants. It helps to minimise disputes – when your tenant sees you as a person, that makes future arguments more civil.

  1. You don’t need to renovate to make an upgrade that pleases good tenants

Put yourself in a tenant’s shoes. Say you’re a 22 year old student, on a tight budget with few luxuries. Your main activity on weekday nights is being bored at home, and trying to remember what money looks like.

Which of the following would make you happier:

A cupboard that’s magically restocked with instant noodles, courtesy of the landlord

An Xbox or PlayStation to make life slightly less miserable

Parquet flooring

Now consider the cost of parquet flooring, as opposed to the other two. Are you getting the picture here?

Expensive renovations aren’t as effective for retaining good tenants as your interior designer thinks. Instead, focus on the little things (hint: latest Xbox console) – they’re more affordable, while still making your tenants happier.

  1. Reinforce the positive behaviour of good tenants

Sometimes, it’s not that good tenants leave… it’s that good tenants become bad tenants. They start to get a little sloppy with the rent, or take less care of the house than they used to. You need to stop this in its tracks.

Consider reinforcing the positive behaviour, so that they stay good tenants. Sometimes, this is just a matter of disguising a stick as a carrot. For example, $100 off the rent if they pay on time or earlier (which really just means there’s a $100 late fee, but you see how much more affirming it is this way).

You can also send tokens of appreciation, like fruit baskets and such, for good upkeep. Most tenants are used to faceless and uncaring landlords, so even this little gesture can instantly elevate you to superhero status.

(As to what rewards are good, see point 1. If you know your tenants, you’ll know what makes them happy).

  1. Use renewal incentives

This is more or less similar to point 2, but use it as a way to encourage renewal of the lease. Again, this doesn’t have to be expensive.

Renewal incentives can be rice cookers, those robot vacuum cleaner things, a drone, whatever you think will interest your tenant (lazy alternative: give whatever you claimed with your spare credit card reward points, which you will never use).

If your intent is also to upgrade your property, you can use this as a renewal incentive. Put together a list of possible renovation options (which you were intending to do anyway), and let the tenant pick.

The most powerful renewal incentive is, of course, to lower rental rates; but that’s a pricey gift.

  1. Be flexible

This is probably the most important thing on the list. Good tenants will stay if they feel they have a reasonable landlord – and reasonable often means flexible.

Say you don’t allow tenants to use the kitchen, due to your preference of not having a house that’s on fire. That can be the standard rule on most days; but how about making an exception for their spouse’s birthday, which is the one day they want to cook?

You could also make an exception to your “no parties to extend after 11pm” rule for the tenant’s year end party, provided it’s reasonably quiet.

Above all, you should communicate that you’re flexible about these things. You want the good tenants to know you’re approachable. Treat the tenancy agreement as an ongoing agreement, not an unalterable religious doctrine.

If that makes you frown, think for a moment about the cost of having a bad tenant; then compare that to the cost of an occasional compromise.

Check out other rental related articles here: Foreign tenant’s security deposit withheld by landlord – is there any truth to this? and The new landlord’s guide to subletting your flat

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Looking to sell your property?

Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.

One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.

Alternatively, you can jump onto 99.co’s Property Value Tool to get an estimate for free.

If you’re looking for your dream home, be it as a first-time or seasoned homebuyer or seller – say, to upgrade or right-size – you will find it on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal 99.co.

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Reader Interactions


    • Chris

      Since when are landlords in Singapore that nice or generous to their tenants? We’re simply cash cows funding their exorbitantly priced assets. I have been very disappointed with the disinterest that our landlords have had in us as undemanding and very respectfully house proud tenants who pay our rent on time & leave the property in better condition than when we moved in. Where are these landlord gems you speak of? 😉

      Love your humorous articles Ryan!

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