Bad landlords can make life miserable for their tenants, and they give landlords all over New Zealand a bad name.
For investors considering a rental property, the idea of being seen as the bad guy can be seriously off-putting. But it is possible to be an ethical landlord, providing a high-quality product to a happy customer, without any dodgy corner-cutting.
Buy a property you can be proud of
The economics of the rental market mean that cheaper, worse-quality houses are often those which make their owners the most cash. Choose a rental property that will be healthy and comfortable for your tenants – or get it up to scratch before you rent it out.
Be ready to spend
You’re only going to be a good landlord if you have enough money to pay for regular repairs and maintenance, including large unexpected one-off costs like a new roof. If the rental you’re considering will leave you stressed about every plumber’s bill, don’t buy it. Go for a lower maintenance house or wait to buy.
Dig into tenant applications
It’s easy to take the obviously excellent tenant, says Brian Kerr, author of The Complete Guide to Landlording in New Zealand. If you look more closely, though, you may find a tenant who ticks all the boxes and needs the house more.
“Do some research if their credit history is a bit patchy – maybe it was something minor from five years ago,” Kerr says. “You do want to protect yourself, but give those second-choice tenants a chance to prove themselves. Often those tenants will be the ones who stay the longest.”
Make sure your rental is well maintained
A top priority for an ethical landlord is providing a safe and secure home for tenants: insulation, smoke alarms and a lack of mould are an absolute minimum.
“Get onto repairs quickly and try to repair like for like,” says Kerr. “When I do a repair on a rental, I try to improve it at the same time. Fixing a shower? Add a shower dome to reduce dampness. Old leaky tap? Replace it, don’t just buy a new washer.”
Respect your tenants
Your tenants should be treated like valued clients, rather than as problems waiting to happen. Kerr says that means working with tenants when they have difficulties, explaining expectations to them clearly at the outset, and retaining great tenants with fewer rent increases. Ideally, a good tenant should also have some security of tenure if they want it.
“The good news is that most landlords are very responsible,” Kerr adds. “We shouldn’t think we deserve halos for doing the right thing – it’s simply good practice.