Do You Own the Place? Why You SHOULD Tell Your Tenants About Your Ownership

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I have listened to many real estate seminars over the years where the speaker has touted the benefits of anonymity.  We were told that you should never tell your tenants that you own the property.  Instead, we were told to tell tenants that you work for a group of investors/owners.  This would provide you with several benefits, including:

  • Keeping prying eyes from easily finding out what you own.
  • Placing another “entity” between you and the tenant when disputes or questions arise.
  • Giving you empathy in the tenant’s eyes since you are just working for someone else too.

Frankly, I never really bought into this idea.  I incorporated my business several years ago and the corporation does hold title to most of my properties.  So technically when a tenant asks “Do you own the place?” I can say no.  But to me saying no was at a minimum disingenuous if not just an outright lie.  So I always said yes, I own the place, and saying yes over the years has brought unexpected benefits.

First, most of my tenants are fairly savvy when it comes to technology.  A few clicks on the World Wide Web would have revealed the truth.  So saying yes got us off on the right foot.  This can be incredibly helpful if there are ever issues later on.

Second, issues and problems with tenants tend to get resolved quickly.  Tenants know who can they can call and prefer knowing who they can go to when a decision needs to be made.  Tenants like this aspect of our business and tell us so, which helps with tenant retention.

Third, we have been able to build up a nice local brand name.  We tell our prospective tenants that not only do we own the properties, we also live, work and play in the same neighborhood.  We enjoy living in the neighborhood and hope they do to.  This has been a wonderful selling point for us and has attracted good quality tenants.

So yes, you can be anonymous and depending on your business structure, investment goals, etc you may want to be.  However, I have found that it was simply better to be upfront.  It gets me better quality tenants, who have stayed longer and taken care of our properties.

So what is your opinion of anonymity (if you care to share it J).  Do you hide behind a corporate wall or a trust?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo: bark

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


  1. I would rather go the middle ground on this matter. When a tenant asks if I own the property I’d say, “Yes, and no.” Then I would explain that I own it, but I also have partners. Although my LLC is a single-member LLC, I do still have partners. My wife is my partner, my lender is my partner, my insurance company is my partner, etc. So in other words, it’s not just me standing as a lone soldier in my business. And when a tenant does things they shouldn’t do (like not paying the rent) it affects not just me but everyone involved in my business. This is a team sport.

    How does this benefit me when relating to tenants? First off, they need to realize that they are not just hurting me when they break their lease. Secondly, this gives me power in negotiating with them. When they ask, “Can I pay the rent on the 12th this month,” I can always say, “I don’t know. Let me run that by my partner and get back to you.” This creates a buffer between me and the tenant. And I’ve had a few terrible tenants that I needed a buffer against! And of course, I’d get back on the phone and say, “I’d like to do that for you, but my partner isn’t willing to bend on that. And if you’re late you’ll definately have to include the late fee.”

    I once had a tenant that was demanding that I pay back all the rent he paid to me. He said that if I paid it back he’d leave the house as it was when he moved in, implying that if I didn’t refund his money that he’d trash it. So I used the above mentioned strategy, and simply said, “I can’t give you an answer right now. I have to talk with my partner and get back to you.” Long story short, he ended up moving out without incident and without me returning his money. On the last conversation he said, “Jerry, you seem like a very nice guy. If you want to go out and get a beer sometime like me know… the first one is on me. I don’t know how you can stand your partner who keeps poking you in the ribs all the time.” Yes, he actually felt sympathy for me!

    Moral of the story: Never pose as a stand-alone owner!

        • Kevin Perk


          Sounds like you have a good system.

          We say the same things to our tenants as well. We let them know that the bank, the guy who cuts the grass, the plumber who fixed their toilet, the taxes that provide their parks and bike lanes all need to be paid. Most do understand.

          Yes there are a few I wish I wish I had a “buffer” with and I am sure there will be some in the future, but for the most part it works out pretty well.

          Thanks Jerry and Kurt for reading and commenting,


    • Jerry, I agree completely with your approach and it really works well in my experience. Outside of real estate it works well too, I had the same format in a consumer products business I owned…you got some credit and more personal with some customers by them knowing you were “a” owner, but they also knew they couldn’t push you around like they might try if they knew you were the “only” owner and decision maker. That buffer is invaluable and can make your business seem like just that, and actual business which gives more credentials and respect as well.

  2. Andy Teasley on

    Here’s a helpful handy hint from Andy the Handyman,

    When I was just out of my first “real Estate Guru” class I had to go to a small engine shop in an adjacent town. While his employee fixed my engine the owner and I talked about RE, of course. Somewhere in the conversation he pointed across the street and said “you see all those beige houses? I own them and the tenants don’t know because I use a property manager. That way they aren’t over here every time something breaks, they call my property manager instead. The funniest thing is when one of them violates one of my rules (car on front lawn, loud party, prostitution) the property manager is there then next day, since they like to hang out here and drink free coffee they always wonder how the manager catches on so quickly.”

    Since there were about 12 matching houses I figured he knew what he was doing and I have used his technique since day one. As to truthfulness, since the owners of my LLC’s are two Irrevocable Trusts, the beneficiaries of which are my unborn grandchildren, I can honestly state that I have never met the owners.

    When I need to make an unannounced inspection, I grab my bag of batteries and my step stool, knock on the door and say “I’m here to change the smoke detector batteries”. My tenants don’t hide things from me because I’m just Andy the Handyman.


  3. Thanks for the different perspective on this!

    In your post, you say that you get better tenets who stick around longer- but you also say that you have always done it that way… so I am wondering how you know that you get better results?

    • Kevin Perk


      Anecdotal evidence. Some tenants say they like that we are upfront. Some say they looked at moving but did not like the fact that they did not know who the owner was and the fact that some tenants come back after moving out saying they wish they had stayed.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


    • Kevin Perk


      How many properties do you have (if you do not mind sharing). That system sure can pile on the paperwork. But if you like it and it works for you than more power to you.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  4. I can understand investors wanting to remain simply as Vague Name LLC. However, as a real estate agent, I feel like I need to be as upfront and transparent as possible with my own investment properties. Disclosure can be a great asset in terms of liability.

  5. I think letting you tenant know that you own the place is the right move. I believe the better relationship you have with your tenant the better they perform. I do try and draw a line and not get to personal, but I have found if they like you they pay their rent on time.

  6. I agree with your take. I don’t see a big reason to lie especially where it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to catch on too with a little research. My tenants know the costs that are associated with their property because I tell them. When there is road work and I get the bill, I let them know how much it was and that it comes out of my pocket. Same with any upgrades.

    I had a really good experience one time. I stopped over to pick up rent and the guy had two kids about 6 and 10 years old. The one kid asked, ” dad why do you have to give him money?” The tenant replied that I have to pay the mortgage with it and make sure everything stays right with the house. He got it and I liked it.

    Being the owner has never hurt me but I have seen benefits. As I grow it might shift but if I keep operating as I do now I don’t see that happening. Great post.

  7. That’s real good that has worked out that way for you. I just won’t feel comfortable risking that privacy with tenants and the anonymity that may come with it. I just want to be the property manager and agent for the owner because the owner “hired” me to handle day to day operations because he’d rather not deal with it.

    The owner only wants to have the final say on major issues that come up.

    • Kevin Perk


      I understand your position. Real estate investing is different for everybody and like I said before there is no right way to do it. Just do what feels right for you.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  8. “Things done in the dark always come to light” . This is my philosophy & for me only. I feel there are times where this is beneficial but should one ask directly, then to me there is no hesitation. I have always had a built in governor that makes me say what needs to be said..Sometimes that’s good and bad….

    • Kevin Perk


      Yes, I too sometimes just say what needs to be said and I agree, it can be good and bad.

      I also think everything will eventually come out, they will figure out who the owner is if they try hard enough. So why not start off on the right foot?

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  9. I wish my tenants didn’t know I was the owner! I live in one my 4plexes, and unfortunately they all know I am the owner. Even though I have a property manager they still think it is their right to come to me with their problems. I am a pretty empathetic person so sit there listening to their problems for 5 minutes wishing they’d shut up just so I can say, ‘um, did you call the PM?’nhe’s the guy you should be talking to.’ And I’m afraid to draw a headline on the, because they might trash my car, or cause some other problems.

    • Kevin Perk


      That is a tough one if you live in the building. I have been through that with my first duplex property.

      I think you are just going to have to try to slowly retrain your tenants. I know that will be hard and cause some discomfort, but you will have to draw the line or they will continue to take advantage. As long as their problems get resolved, I think your car will be safe. 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


    • Jesse Kropf

      I would agree with retraining your tenants. When they come to you, just ask them, “Have you checked with Dave? That’s his job.”

      Just like a business manager cannot be doing all the work for those who answer to him/her, so you cannot be doing all the work for your property manager. That’s what you’re paying them for.

      In my mind, it would be perfectly acceptable for tenants to “escalate” to you if they can’t get anywhere with the property manager, but then you would contact the property manager and defer the job back to him/her.

  10. Troy, as brutal as this may sound, you put yourself in that situation by living in your investment property. My suggestion would be to move off-site and rent out the unit you’re now living in. Then have all calls go to your PM like you originally intended. Problem solved.

    If the tenant in one of your units stops paying rent, are you going to let them stay they out of fear that they’ll vandalize your personal property? When you give tenants the upper hand like that nothing good will ever come out of it. It’s just a mess. Nobody should have to live in fear like that, especially because it’s fear of your own business! Separate yourself from your business and get some peace and sanity back in your life.

  11. Jesse Kropf

    I agree with being up front with tenants. If I were a tenant and found out my property manager was really the owner, and not being up front about it, I would feel like I couldn’t trust anything else they said either. Trust is foundational to healthy relationships.

    It’s better to “man up” and be the bad guy when needed. Respect yourself and your decisions/boundaries, and others will generally respect you too.

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