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Like a Virgin

'Virgin' tenants – those that have never rented before - can be a great opportunity.  No, not to exploit their ignorance (shame on you!) but to educate them.  Raise awareness of their rights and responsibilities, treat them fair, and they will be the best tenants you will ever get.  Imagine that, touched for the very first time by a great landlord, unsullied by another's bumbling, no 'landlords are evil' baggage – the possibilities are endless.

The best way to deal with new tenants is assume they know nothing about renting, and nothing about the Residential Tenancies Act.  My role is like a kindly Aunt revealing the facts of life.  Metaphorically speaking, I hold their hand through the process of tenant selection, signing the contract, and initial inspection.  Invite them to bring a family member with them to go over the contract.  Mum or Dad will help them out if they feel vulnerable, or can't understanding something, and it demonstrates my process is above board.  I've got nothing to hide.  Their fear is fading fast and every one is satisfied.   Would your sign-up process pass the parent test?

I let shiny and new tenants know the selection criteria for the property – it is never too early to prevent a bad tenant.  I tell them I will be checking referees, the tenancy tribunal database (after all, they may be 'born again virgins' with a dark past) and credit.  Why bother for the just-turned-18's?  It sets up expectations.  Would you default on credit if you may not get anywhere to live?  You could save them a lot of misery with a few small pointers at a teachable moment.

Could bad tenants exploit my transparent process to beat the system?  Yes, but such evil will express itself anyway.  The average person will be better for the knowledge.

I give them a booklet from Department of Building and Housing, such as 'Renting and You' – ask DBH to send it or download it in a heartbeat, they're free.  I mention the 0800 TENANCY (83 62 62) number for advice, and let them know how to complain, including 10-day-letters, if there is a problem.  You know what?  Armed with this knowledge, they have fewer issues than tenants that somehow made it through the wilderness with lesser landlords doing dodgy things.  Am I making it too hard for you?  Perhaps it's time to lift your game, or get an expert to handle it for you.

Money can be an issue for people new to controlling finances.  When I was a tenant, it was only my fourth (and final) landlord who said 'let's make your rent-due day the same as your pay day' – not the weekly anniversary of my move-in day.  While my budgeting skills were ok, this is good advice to most tenants.  You need them saving it all for you.  Many people live pay to pay.  They won't leave something in the account to cover the rent after expenses if rent doesn't come out as soon as pay goes in.  It is hard for them to survive fortnightly pay, or worse, monthly.  Yes, you can accept tenants paying monthly if they offer, you just cannot require it under the RTA.

Do have a policy of 'no tolerance for rent arrears', particularly for new tenants.  This is the best time to make clear the message 'No rent = sleep in your car'.  It's hard to get Sky TV in a car, so reinforce the idea of priority spending – needs then wants.  Spell out how to solve problems.  If you let them think all landlords are easy about late rent you do us all a disservice.

Another area to train virgin tenants is property inspections.  I've heard of a young tenant being 'honest' by having the house exactly as they lived in it day to day.  The landlord was less than impressed; the tenant should clean up at least once every 3 months.  I'm with them.  When sending out the notice of inspection, list what you will look at.  You may want to say 'I will be checking there are no leaks from plumbing, so please ensure kitchen and bathroom are clean and tidy so I can easily see any issues.  Also, I will need clear access to all rooms, so have rooms tidy'.  A block of chocolate and a thank-you note to give tenants is a good incentive that costs you little.  What if the place is a mess?  Console yourself with the chockie while writing a very specific 10-day-notice to remedy.  If you have a block of similar apartments, consider a newsletter saying 'congratulations to those who won the prize for the cleanest flat at our last inspection' in order to publicise the incentive to the not-so-goods.

Having your virgin tenants feel so good inside your property will mean they stay there long term, maybe til the end of time, particularly if they hear sad and blue stories from their friends.  Gosh, can you see it is worth the little bit extra investment?

Do also let virgin tenants know the limits of your generosity.  Yes, fix things that need to be fixed, but you need not do anything with non-urgent and unimportant things.  You are an investor, not a moneybag.  Also require tenants to obtain consent in writing before they make alterations, like repainting a wall – it can save a lot of grief.

Imagine you have inherited so fine tenants that have been treated properly by their first ever landlord.  Do you think they'll be better, and easier to deal with, than average?  The worst side-effect could be a $3 chocolate outlay every 3 months.  With thousands of dollars in rent coming in, is this too much to pay?

Virgin tenants needn't be a 'No' on application.  Instead, it is an opportunity.  Everyone has to start somewhere, make it a great start.  Thanks Madonna.


Our Philosophy

We are honest and act with integrity.  We think it is necessary to love what one does, leave things better than they were found and take time to enjoy the world while we walk it.   We bring quality to others in our dealings and treat people with respect.  
We think it is essential to have fun, so humour is always welcome at Rental Results.

Awards & Associations

We are a member of the Independent Property Managers' Association (IPMA), and Leading Property Managers of New Zealand (LPMNZ).

We are also members of the Wellington Property Investors Association and Jackie Thomas-Teague is the former president.