Using Your Rental Property Neighbors to Protect Your Interests

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Not too long ago I was looking at a property in a neighborhood that I wasn’t very familiar with. The numbers on the house seemed decent, but the neighborhood itself looked marginal at first glance.

So, as soon as I finished meeting with the seller and checking out the house, I went around to all of the neighbors to ask their opinion of the neighborhood; I simply knocked on the door, introduced myself, told them I was thinking about buying the house across the street, and I wanted to know if it was a safe neighborhood.

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Why You Should Talk to Potential Neighbors

Well, one thing I’ve learned about neighbors is that they love to gossip. In this instance, one neighbor complained about a bunch of teenage punks who went around shooting BB guns. Another neighbor complained that the person next to them was always noisy and playing loud music at night.

I discovered that many neighbors didn’t like each other, but that there were no serious crime problems in the area. In fact, every time I look to purchase a new house I always knock on all of the neighbors’ doors and ask them about the area and even what they know about the house I’m buying.

Then, if I end up buying the house I go to those same neighbors again and say, “Hi, I’m Jason, we met about a month ago and I ended up purchasing the house across the street from you. I’ve put some tenants in the house and I’m a very strict landlord so if my tenants are ever causing you trouble, please give me a call immediately and I’ll take care of the problem.”

This interaction establishes a good relationship with the neighbors

And, I can think of two instances where it’s really helped me out. One time, I got a call from a neighbor that one of my properties was on fire and he called the fire department. My tenant had left the house with a candle burning and it had tipped over on the mantle. Luckily, there was very little damage thanks to this neighbor.

Another time I got a call from a neighbor that my tenant was smoking marijuana all of the time in my property. This place happened to be a Section 8 property, so I called up the housing advisor and she paid my tenant a visit and I never had the problem again.

As you can clearly see, getting to know your neighbors is well worth it. They’ll be your “spies” to make sure your tenants aren’t trashing the house, burning it down, or hopefully doing any illegal activities. And, they’ll love you as a landlord because if they do have to report a problem, they know you’ll quickly take care of it.

Photo: Chromjuwelen

About Author

Jason R. Hanson is the founder of National Real Estate Investor Month and the author of “How to Build a Real Estate Empire”. Jason specializes in purchasing properties “subject-to” and has purchased millions of dollars worth of property using none of his own cash or credit.


  1. Excellent advice. I have found that just getting to know the neighbors a little bit can really help a neighborhood. If the neighbors know that the landlord cares and will work to keep quality tenents and improve the property, that gives them the little extra push or confidence to improve their property.

  2. This is real estate investing 101 and a great habit to get into right from the start. Whenever i am looking at property to potentially purchase, I always ask a ton of questions to everybody in the area. This means people working at the property or near the property, tenants going in and out, anybody nearby is good to pump for information. You can find out a lot about an area by asking nearby businesses too. I always go to the nearest open establishment and ask them what they think of the area, have they seen any bad people hanging out on a regular basis. I always try to uncover the worst about a place because I can always find a reason to make the purchase.

  3. Jason,

    I agree that it is good to know the neighbors. They offer you insight into what has been happening the years they have been there and perhaps clue you in on what the future holds. Great article.

  4. Absolutely! Neighbors were the “early warning system” on the tenant I had to ask to leave, and also gave me the reason to pull the plug on her. She had always paid her rent in full an on time –it’s hard to kick a tenant like that out in an economy like this — BUT her grandaughters moved in and the fights/disturbances/drugs started. In retrospect I should have taken the “cranky” neighbor’s very early complaint call more seriously, though that was before the grandaughters moved in and his complaint was that he didn’t “like” who was hanging out smoking tobacco on the front porch with her visiting son –kind of hard to create a ruckas about cigarettes outside and a guest (my “beginner” mistake not to have addressed the tenant about who was ‘”hanging out” at the house, though it wouldn’t have changed anything in the long run). FORTUNATELY I could give 30 day notice without stating a reason (at least in that county — VERY different in much in the rest of CA). The “no fault” 30-day notice was the sanity-saver as I fielded 130 (!) texts. My all-time favorite unsolicited text; ” says there were no guns–is that what the police report said?”. (Guns? Police report? What the…?) . Fortunately despite the drama she did leave without deliberately trashing the place and without an eviction. Interestingly there is still nothing on her record to warn a future landlord about her. Hmm. If you are thinking of renting to a little old lady from Chico with the initials “LW” shoot me an e-mail first.
    New replacement tenant is local, has excellent character references (from the neighbors!), and even unsolicited praise from his former grade-school teacher (coincidently also a neighbor). So far he’s an A+ tenant. Had a plumbing issue and his question was “who do I call?” rather than ” what are you going to do about it” — so far I really like this tenant!!!

  5. great advice. i dont talk to every single neighbor, but i have at least one neighbor for each house in my phone and they have my phone as well….great to know what’s going on. i always ask them how the tenants are behaving.

  6. I see nothing wrong with keeping tabs on your property and its tenants by staying in close communication with people in the neighborhood. Getting information about your tenants and their comings and goings from neighbors is less intrusive than, say, putting up closed-circuit cameras or covertly investigating the property yourself. Good tip.

  7. I agree a 100%. I have also used neighbors to keep an eye out on my flips while they are being rehabbed or when they are on the market to be sold in sketchy neighborhoods. I was surprised about how much useful information you can get from a neighbor if you just go up to them, introduce yourself and start talking.

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