Now more than ever, landlords are having to quickly and safely adapt to the shifting desires of the rental population. Social distancing is changing the way property owners find and communicate with tenants. With new hurdles, uncertainty, and societal mandates that can change daily, property owners are forced to become more flexible than ever before.
Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies and tools landlords can leverage to navigate the current rental landscape.
Here are seven essential tips for streamlining rental operations and safeguarding your rental income during times of physical distancing:
Tips for Filling a Vacancy While Social Distancing
- Tackle property maintenance requests quickly and safely
- Offer online payment options
- Help tenants stay safe
Tips for filling a vacancy while social distancing
If you need to fill a vacancy, then there are ways to find and vet prospective tenants without sacrificing your safety or that of your applicants. To secure a new renter while social distancing, consider incorporating the following tips into your current tenant search:
1. Use digital listings
With stay-at-home orders in place, prospective applicants are less likely to be driving around, looking for “For Rent” signs. It depends on more than just a sign in your yard.
If you haven’t already, list your rental online, and post on multiple sites to expand your reach. This allows you to access a broader pool of prospective tenants and may increase the likelihood of finding the right fit for your rental property.
Pro Tip: Be sure to create enticing property ads to ensure you are attracting qualified renters that meet your tenant criteria. Learn more about how to write an effective rental ad.
2. Host virtual tours
To maintain social distance and offer more flexibility to your applicants, consider hosting virtual tours of the rental unit. There are multiple ways to show tenants an available space without meeting at the property in person. Independent landlords may consider:
- Recording a video tour to complement their rental listing
- Using a third-party tool to create a 3D virtual tour
- Hosting a live rental showing via Instagram or Facebook Live or similar video broadcast
Virtual tours allow you to highlight your property’s key amenities without requiring in-person walk-throughs. Prospective tenants will appreciate the convenience, and virtual tours may also make your property more appealing to a wider audience, therefore giving you more applicants to select from.
3. Meet applicants digitallyOnce candidates have turned in an application, set up virtual interviews. Opt for video chats; body language can be telling, and there are plenty of free platforms available for landlords to use. In the age of social distancing, video chatting platforms are experiencing a surge in usage, so prospective tenants may expect landlords to provide this method of communication.
It is likely that the population is becoming familiar with these types of technologies, and landlords can jump on the trend to provide applicants with a better view of a property while respecting physical distancing mandates.
Tools like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime make it easy for landlords to connect with prospective tenants.
During these initial discussions, you have the opportunity to ask important screening rental questions to start your vetting process (be sure to check the rental laws in your area), such as:
- What is your monthly income?
- Have you ever been evicted?
- How many individuals will be living on the property?
These initial questions can help landlords begin to determine whether the applicants meet some of the criteria of your ideal tenant, which may include:
- Monthly income of 3x the rent
- Clean eviction report
- Good credit
This digital meeting also serves as a great time to show off the property’s best features. Focus on amenities that will appeal to your ideal tenant. Families with several children may appreciate the additional storage, while Millennial tenants and Gen Z renters may be more focused on apartments and homes that incorporate the latest smart technology.
Don’t forget to highlight community benefits, as well. If the prospective tenant has children, talk about local schools. If they are a young professional, mention close proximity to nearby stores, bars, and restaurants.
4. Screen remotely with SmartMove
After a successful digital interview, you should consider running an online background check on your applicant. With online screening solutions like SmartMove®, you can access detailed tenant background reports showing information needed to make a more confident leasing decision.
Within minutes, TransUnion SmartMove delivers reliable reports including:
- Credit history: Learn how likely your tenant is to pay rent on time
- Income Insights: Shows your need to verify that your tenants make as much as they say
- Criminal record: To help protect your property, other tenants, and neighbors
- Eviction history: Determine if your applicant has been evicted from previous properties
Tips for connecting with current tenants while social distancing
If you’re looking for ways to stay connected to your current tenants and ensure your landlord-tenant relationships remains strong throughout this period of social distancing, then it may be helpful to consider the following strategies:
1. Tackle property maintenance requests quickly and safely
If issues arise, then address them as quickly as you typically would, depending on the request. Work with contractors who practice safe social distancing and use personal protective equipment (PPE) while resolving the issue.
If you make repairs yourself, then consider these practices:
- Wear a face mask or covering, gloves are recommended
- Maintain at least 6 feet of distance
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after entering the premises
2. Offer online payment options
Ask tenants to submit rent electronically to facilitate no-contact payment. There are many online payment portals designed for landlords and renters specifically. It’s easy to make the switch from in-person to online rent collection, as there are free and paid platforms.
While free options may work well for some landlords, paid platforms offer enhanced features to streamline the collection and overall rental management process. Subscription-based rent platforms may offer the convenience of:
- Direct messaging
- Document uploads
- Records of maintenance requests and receipts
Beyond social distancing, there are numerous benefits of asking renters to complete payments digitally. Online rent collection may help ensure you receive rent on time every month. If you rent to younger generations, such as Millennials and Generation Z, then this added rent payment convenience may be viewed as a perk and help improve tenant retention rates.
Help tenants stay safe
Landlords can help instill confidence in their tenants by communicating regularly, and disseminating important information as it becomes available. Be quick to respond to tenant concerns or questions outside of property maintenance requests, such as questions about rent deadlines or leasing details.
Friendly advice and helpful direction can go a long way to keep great renters happy (and from leaving). Streamlined connection and communication can do wonderful things for tenant retention. Provide suggestions for helpful apps that can offer assistance in times of distancing, such as contact-free grocery delivery services.
If you own a multi-unit complex, then you may want to limit access to shared amenities, such as swimming pools and gyms. It may be helpful to schedule times where a maximum number of people can exercise at any given time for enhanced safety. Note: be sure to connect with legal counsel or HOA on this matter before pulling any major triggers.
Screen Safe, Rent Safe
Maintaining a productive rental business during unprecedented times may mean changing how you manage property, but landlords should never compromise on tenant quality.
It’s crucial to screen every new tenant with a comprehensive background check before signing the lease. With near-instant access to full credit, criminal, eviction, and Income Insights reports, SmartMove gives you a more complete picture of who should be on your lease. In addition, SmartMove landlords will receive a ResidentScore®, which is designed specifically for the rental industry and predicts eviction risk 15% better than a typical credit score.
Tenant screening is easy with SmartMove. Simply provide your applicant’s email address and SmartMove will send an authorization request to your prospective tenant(s). Once verified, SmartMove scans through hundreds of millions of TransUnion records to provide you with only the data you need to make a confident leasing decision. Within minutes, you’ll receive a comprehensive screening report providing critical insights.
Sign-up for free now and starting screening today!