You can’t have cash flow without tenants. For a real estate investor, rental income can provide an excellent and steady source of profit. That source can falter when a property stays vacant, loses tenants, or presents problems staying rented. Use the tips below to keep your rentals full and keep cash flowing in the right direction.

1. Be a Great Communicator

The first telltale sign of an unhappy tenant is usually that they leave. Work to pre-empt it by opening up lines of communication to create an early-warning system. This doesn’t mean you have to hire a speechwriter or take communications classes.

  • Leave a housewarming gift. A nice bottle of wine or chocolates may seem like an empty gesture. It’s not. It’s a signal that you’re approachable and available.
  • Reach out after 60 days. Asking “Is there anything I can do for you?” may seem scary, but a tenant who demands the moon can be told, “Well, here’s what I can actually afford.” Just having the conversation is enough to ease most tenants’ minds.
  • Send holiday cards. Holiday cards are just one more way to show you’re there for tenants as a living, breathing person.

2. Jump on Problems with Both Feet

Nothing scares off a good tenant faster than a landlord with a stoppered ear. Any time a tenant complains about an unplowed driveway or a broken washing machine, that’s an opportunity to make her happy. Even if an immediate fix isn’t possible, being accessible by phone and email goes a long way toward getting tenants to stick around. Lay out a timeline for fixes and apologize for inconvenience.

3. Good Fences Make Great Neighbors

Another way to keep tenants happy is to avoid unwanted surprises. Lay out all rental rules in advance, even if they’re fairly simple. Also, consider sending automatic “rent is due in three days” type reminders via text or email. Little nudges like this work better than nasty “rent is late” type notes.

4. Consider Giving the Green Light to Pets

Pets can cause some wear and tear on carpets, furniture, and even molding. That said, we love our pets, and they can really turn a rental property into a home. Allowing cats and dogs can make tenants less likely to think of moving on to greener pastures.

5. Go for Quality

At some point, that washing machine and refrigerator are going to break. If you replace them with the cheapest option on the market, you’ll send a message that you’re not committed to the tenant. In that case, why should he stick around? When you consider that higher quality items last longer anyway, springing for quality makes good financial sense.

6. Offer a Renewal Incentive

Finding a new tenant costs time and money. Show your tenant that you understand the value of her continued presence by cutting her in for a share of the savings. Offering a small rent bonus at renewal time can give a tenant a good feeling toward the property. Outline the deal in the rental agreement and send an advance reminder to keep it in the forefront of a tenant’s mind.