There are many reasons you may need to reach a tenant: past due rent, routine maintenance or inspection, or an eviction notice. Rental relationships depend on good landlord-tenant communication. Given modern life’s hectic pace, their response may be slow. However, it’s a problem if you don’t hear from them after multiple attempts.
Try to be understanding initially. There are possibilities why your tenant isn’t answering, including:
- Travel (vacation or work)
- Illness or hospitalization
- Family issue
- Working multiple jobs
Still, sometimes you need a response.
If you can’t get one, what should you do? There are some steps you can take to lay the groundwork for good communication. Furthermore, there are steps you can take if tenants don’t respond.
Set Landlord-Tenant Communication Expectations in the Lease
A preventative step in landlord-tenant communication problems is setting the expectations in the lease and escalating actions for non-response. For example, if you leave a message, be clear you expect a response within 48 hours.
While cell and work numbers are common to collect at the lease signing, ask for email too and preferred method of communication. With today’s technology, there are lots of options, including:
Younger people may especially prefer non-traditional communication channels, so it benefits you to be reasonably accommodating.
Optional Landlord-Tenant Communication
Consider having a list of required and optional communication. For example, the following should be required:
- Setting up inspections and repairs
- Past due rent
- Service interruptions
Other communication, such as rent reminders or community events, should be optional.
Giving tenants the option of filtering out some communications reinforces that when you do communicate, it’s essential.
You expect responsiveness, and so do your tenants. If tenants can’t reach you easily and get a timely response, they’ll be disinclined to be responsive. When setting expectations for tenants’ response time at the lease signing, let them know what to expect from you. Clear landlord-tenant communication expectations will benefit all parties.
Be reasonable about communication expectations. Giving yourself 48 to 72 hours or a week of response time while expecting their responses within 24 hours isn’t fair and doesn’t encourage communication.
Be Prompt with Maintenance Requests
Is maintenance response time related to tenant responsiveness? Yes, there’s a connection. Responsive, reliable landlords engender trust, which helps build positive relations with tenants. When they know you respond quickly, tenants are more likely to respond promptly too.
Rent Payment Services Options
Technology has given landlords many tools, including rent payment services, which can reduce late payments. Some rent payment services offer automatic payment deductions and send rent reminders.
Not all tenants want to use a rent payment service; some do. Millennials particularly prefer convenient technological options. Consider offering an incentive for those who sign up.
Options for Non-Responsive Tenants
You’ve taken all of the steps you can to lay the groundwork for healthy communications, but you still have problems with a tenant. What now?
Send a Letter
If other attempts aren’t effective, send a written notice (retain a copy, along with the date you sent it).
In the letter, note the issue, its importance, and that you’ve tried several times to communicate. Be specific, cordial, and clear. Also, mention what your next steps will be if they don’t respond.
If there’s no response within a week to 10 days, send another letter. Use a service that offers mail tracking, so delivery is recorded.
Document Your Attempts
It is important to document all of your communication attempts when you feel you are dealing with non-responsive tenants. Keep a clear, detailed log of phone calls, emails, texts, letters, etc., exactly when you tried, and the result.
If you are forced to evict tenants, you may end up in court. If so, courts require ample documentation that you tried your best to reach the tenant multiple times.
Should I Enter?
Only in an emergency! It may be tempting to enter the premises for maintenance or to confront a tenant, but it’s not prudent. If it isn’t an emergency, entering isn’t a good idea. If home, your tenant may be aggressive, or you could open yourself to lawsuits.
If you are worried about the health or safety of your client, ask the police to conduct a wellness check.
Know the Law
Know the law regarding late rent, communication attempts, entry without permission, and evictions.
Follow the steps precisely, including public eviction notification. Many organizations can give you advice and even carry out an eviction if it comes to that.