Tenant Onboarding

Tenant onboarding follows tenant selection as the next step in filling vacancies. The tenant onboarding program transitions the selected qualified applicant to the status of new tenant. The purpose of tenant onboarding is to acclimate the new tenant to the rental property by providing detailed information on rental policies, practices, rules and restrictions.

A well-developed tenant onboarding program is a comprehensive tenant guide to rental living at the selected property. The onboarding program is a key to a positive tenant rental experience, serving as a communication tool between landlord and tenant; a practical guide to the property features, amenities, and services; detailing the specific obligations and duties of landlord and tenant; and conducting the move-in unit inspection and checklist.

Studies have shown that beginning a new tenancy on a positive note can contribute to a more satisfactory landlord-tenant interaction during the tenancy and a better move-out experience at the end of the lease term.

Onboarding begins with welcoming the tenant to the rental community and setting the tone of the anticipated landlord-tenant relationship. Ideally the onboarding process is an interactive discussion between the landlord and future tenant to review and understand important rental policies and practices.

During the onboarding session, the landlord will discuss his rental expectations and standards allowing sufficient time for questions and/or clarification of policies and practices. It is important a tenant fully understands his/her legal obligations and duties by landlord-tenant statutes and the lease terms and conditions; rental policies; property rules and restrictions; rents, fees, and deposits; utilities responsibilities; good neighbor standards; noise and disturbance policies; renter insurance requirements; and property management services before signing the lease agreement. The landlord should make it clear that the tenant’s signature on the lease agreement is a binding legal contract between landlord and tenant. Each party to the lease contract has specific obligations for compliance and defined remedies for lease defaults.

If the future tenant is unable to meet rental terms and conditions at the time of the onboarding session, the landlord and proposed tenant should discuss the next course of action which could be applicant withdrawal from consideration for tenancy or in certain circumstances a negotiated alternative lease terms and conditions. The landlord should be thoroughly familiar with the state landlord-tenant statutes, fair housing laws, adverse action requirements, and laws applicable to consumer protections, anti-discrimination protections and other consumer/tenant legal rights and protections before making a decision that differs from his stated rental criteria. Written documentation of all discussions and subsequent course of action should be prepared and kept for retention.

The soon-to-be tenant wants to move forward through the orientation session, lease signing, and receipt of keys. Although a tenant may want to hurry through the session, a landlord should not shortcut his standard policies and practices orientation. The new tenant may not be a new renter – i.e., having rented other properties – but will likely be a new renter for this landlord at this property. Landlords set their own rental policies and practices for legal compliances and business necessity. A tenant must comply with the rules of a specific property as set by the managing entity for that property.

What are some of the important points to cover during the tenant onboarding session? Typically a lad will review the following key points with the new tenant:

  • Landlord and Tenant Obligations, Responsibilities and Duties per Landlord-Tenant Statutes,
  • Landlord and Tenant Obligations, Responsibilities and Duties per Lease Agreement,
  • Lease Terms and Conditions,
  • Lease Addendum as required,
  • Lease Violation Warnings and Notices,
  • Fees, Security Deposit, First/Last Month Rent,
  • Rental Rules and Restrictions,
  • Rents/Late Fees/Grace Period/Payment Method,
  • Pet Policy,
  • Noise and Disturbance Policies,
  • Good Neighbor Duties,
  • Utilities Responsibilities,
  • Parking Policy/Parking Pass,
  • Landlord Contact Information – Landlord Name and Contact Numbers,
  • Landlord Emergency Contact Information – Designee Name, Address, Contact Numbers,
  • Repairs/Maintenance Policies and Procedures,
  • Inspection Schedule,
  • Key Control Policy,
  • Housekeeping Standards and Landscape Duties,
  • Online Tenant Portal Services,
  • Tenant Support Services – Direct Staff,
  • Move-in/Move-out Inspections and Checklists, and/or
  • Move-out Notification and Procedures.

Additionally, the landlord will need to confirm that the information provided by the incoming tenant on the application form is correct and current for the tenant’s:

  • Place of Employment – Company Name, Address, Telephone Number
  • Personal Contact Information – Name and Contact Number
  • Emergency Contact Information – Name and Contact Number

After reviewing key information, all adults who will reside in the rental unit should acknowledge their understanding and consent to the landlord’s rental terms and conditions by signing the lease agreement. The landlord will then collect required fees, the security deposit, and pro-rated rent and provide a receipt to the tenant for funds tendered.

If tenant services are provided through an online Tenant Portal, the landlord should ensure the tenant receives training on how to use the online system and what services are available online, such as rent payments and maintenance requests. If possible, the tenant should register with the Tenant Portal during this onboarding session.

Following the lease signing but before keys or other devices (such as garage door openers or alarm codes are transferred) the landlord and tenant should conduct a move-in inspection of the rental unit per requirements in the landlord-tenant statutes applicable to the property location.

A detailed walk-through room by room of the unit should be conducted and any items requiring repair or maintenance should be noted as to the item’s condition and the agreed upon corrective action. During the walk-through the landlord can provide the tenant with the location and instructions for the care and use of system components such as the location of the breaker panel, the main water shut-off valve, water shut-off valves inside the unit, heating and air conditioning unit(s), water heater temperature controls and shut-off, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, or other supplied equipment. Additionally the tenant should be provided with instructions for the care and cleaning of unit appliances such as the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, microwave, etc. If an item in the unit requires special care for cleaning or maintenance, the tenant should be instructed with the necessary information for care, for example, hardwood flooring cleaning instructions. If the tenant will be responsible for landscaping or property maintenance, the landlord and tenant should walk the property to identify the areas of responsibility and the standard of care that is required.

The completed move-in checklist with any notations should be signed and dated by the tenant. A copy of the checklist should be given to the tenant for his records and the original checklist retained in the tenant’s file. The tenant should be advised that the move-in checklist as updated by agreed upon corrective actions will be used to determine the condition of the rental unit at the time of tenant move-out. Documentation of the unit move-in condition and condition of the unit at move-out may also include photos or videos made during the inspections.

Since the amount of information provided during onboarding can be overwhelming to the new tenant who is anxious to move in and get settled, it is a good business practice to provide the tenant with a move-in documents/information packet containing copies of all signed documents – lease agreement and addendum, move-in inspection checklist with notations of unit condition and schedule of corrective actions, and key control policy with attached receipt of key transfer – along with helpful tips and reminders of information that was covered during the onboarding session, particularly contact numbers, rent payment procedures, and maintenance requests.

An effective onboarding program can help a landlord manage his properties more efficiently by providing the new tenant with key information and resource services to help reduce the stress of move-in and adjustment to a new rental environment.  Long term benefits to the landlord utilizing an onboarding program are a better working relationship with the tenant during the lease term, and the likelihood that a good tenant having a positive experience will renew his lease.

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