Five Ways to Eliminate Most Landlord/Tenant Adversity

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Several years ago when I was just starting out as a real estate investor, I remember talking with another much more experienced investor at one of our local reia group meetings.  A portion of that conversation has always stuck with me.  He stated that “The Landlord/tenant relationship is an inherently adversarial one and you have to treat it as such.”  Many years ago, I believed what the more experienced investor said.  Today, after many years of experience under my belt, I reflect back and wonder if that is truly the case.

Let’s first think about that landlord/tenant relationship.  You as the landlord are providing a good and a service.   The tenant is paying you for that good and service according to the terms of a signed contract, the lease.  You are responsible for providing a living space and services as spelled out in the lease.  In one sense, tenants are our customers.  But they are also a bit more than that.  They are also sort of trustees, holding our property in trust.  And as trustees they have a certain responsibility to return the property entrusted to them in good condition.

This relationship certainly has the potential to be adversarial.  Adversity is stressful and not at all a good business practice.  So, I try my best to avoid adversity.  We have worked hard over the years in our business to reduce adversity in this relationship.  These five techniques have worked well for us.

  1. Set the tone upfront.  Be professional, polite and respectful towards your potential tenants.
  2. Screen your tenants.  Not only with credit and background checks but also listen to and observe how they act.  Are they rude and obnoxious, or are they respectful and polite.  Do they show up on time for appointments?  If not, even if all else is perfect, consider not renting to them.  Remember, there is no protected class for jerks. For more information, check out our Ultimate Guide to Tenant Screening!
  3. If you decide to lease to an applicant, clearly spell out your lease terms and house rules.  Take the time to go over these documents with your tenants line by line.  Yes, actually read the lease to your tenants so they see and hear what is expected and what will and will not be tolerated.
  4. Respond to repair requests and other tenant issues quickly and professionally.  Even if it is just a text message.  It lets the tenant know they have been heard, which itself can go a long way to reducing adversity.  Unresponsiveness by the landlord is perhaps the number one complaint by tenants.  By not responding, you also allow the tenant to make up all sorts of responses in their minds such as “Well if he does not care about me, I do not care about this property.”  It can quickly go downhill from there.
  5. Know when to say when.  Let them know you do not do drama and expect them to act like adults and settle differences like adults.  Sometimes you just have to say no and not get involved.

So there you have it.  Five ways to reduce if not almost eliminate most landlord/tenant adversity.  Is the relationship inherently adversarial?  I don’t think so, but it can become that way if the landlord manages things poorly.  Plus, if you go into a relationship expecting adversity, I think you are going to find it.  What do you think?

Photo: david_shankbone

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. When I used to manage my own rentals, whenever I would meet tenants at the house for a showing, I would always make it a point to walk them back to their car. Not to be polite, but so I could get a look inside. I have found that the way people treat their cars is similar to how they treat their living space. If it was a pigsty, that was a big fat red flag to me.

    Sounds silly, but it worked for me. Great article, Kevin!

  2. Jeff Brown

    I always told them that I’m the best landlord ever when they adhered to the contract. That I held myself accountable to every word in it, and would do the same with them. I told them to expect results from me, never excuses, and the same went for my expectations of them.

    It was amazing how many never filled out an app after that discussion. Good stuff, Kevin.

    • Kevin Perk


      It is amazing how easily you can screen with just a few simple words like yours upfront. We do something similar and it is amazing how it weeds them out. Learn from this newbies!

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  3. No, I never see the relationship as adversarial. We both give and get.

    It’s amazing how much time is spent discussing tenant issues and how much complaining goes on about tenants. In our experience, only about 5% are ever a problem and that is mostly non-pay. True property destruction is even less than that.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. My newbie experience has been thank goodness for being advised to use the appropriate lease contract, and read it out to the tenants, sit down for coffee with them, that is what I have done, and even though issues come up, we work it out… my question….my latest tenant has taken to sending me multiple long and adversarial emails about issues…and I only responded one time….and then turned her email address in as spam….then she got a new address and started sending them again…I called her up and told her she needed to call me about issues and not email, because I will not read them or respond to them….so now I just delete them….but she had went so far as to print an email she had sent and then sent it to me certified mail! that is when I called her up and told her not to waste her time and money with that, because I will not respond to it. Her and hubby are having isssues, an it comes out in the emails, he moved her here from another state, and she ain’t happy, lots of drama, anyway….I would like ya’lls responses….I’m thinking I might need to sit them down again to go over the contract in details….I asked for and got pet deposit upfront etc from husband, and she keeps trying to ask for it back….well…like I said lots of drama etc…..what are ya’lls thoughts about what method you use to respond to tenants, phone calls, texts, emails, certified letters….thanks! Paul

    • Hey Paul, just my 2 cents, but I require my tenants to put all requests in writing via email so that I have a paper trail if needed. Otherwise, it can escalate into a “he said, she said” situation, and if worse case happens and you end up in court, you have proof of your response.

      Also, ignoring this tenant is probably only making her more aggressive. You need to deal directly with the issues at hand, either by referring them back to the sections in the lease where their requests aren’t acceptable (i.e. no pet deposit refunds until you move out and home can be checked), or acting on any requests that are deemed appropriate (like repairs, etc).

      At this point, if I were you, I would definitely get the husband involved and set them straight as to what are normal expectations on both sides, and that you don’t do drama and won’t engage with them if they continue to behave in this erratic manner (especially if she’s emailing you about their personal relationship issues).

      If they don’t comply, then you will have a choice to make about whether they are worth keeping or not. Good luck, sounds like you have a crazy one on your hands.

    • Kevin Perk


      Do not ignore the e-mails, letters and such. By doing do you are only making a bad situation worse. It seems to me that it is time to have a face to face with your tenant. Let them go over their concerns and then you can respond with what you will do and will not do. Remember, you are in charge here.

      However, with some tenants there is just no pleasing them. Sometimes you just have to say “You know what, this does not seem like the right property for you, I will let you out of your lease and you can go find a better home for you.”

      If they leave, then your problem is gone. Lesson learned (figure out where your screening was lacking) If not, you have set the line as to what you will and will not do and they will likely calm down.

      Have that meeting, and soon!

      Good luck,


  5. Susan Gillespie on

    Kevin, great first point. It’s so important to develop a good working relationship from the start. Treating others as adversaries is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    One of the best things I did as a new investor nearly a decade ago was to hire a professional property manager. I quickly learned the importance of a strong contract, documented policies, and treating all parties with courtesy and respect.

    Landlords and property managers are really people managers if they’re good at their jobs.

  6. I agree with Kevin – reply, but let/encourage them to leave.

    I too dealt with the endless texts getting rid of my first tenant (150 texts in less than 3 months – I counted!)
    I did respond to the texts, but the reply was always the same -, “sorry, but your tenancy is over on such & such a date”. If it HAD gone to court she would have had pretty much nothing from me except “please leave”, while I had priceless gems such as ” says there were no guns — is that what the police report says?”
    (WTH? I didn’t say anything about guns!!!! Police report? WHAT police report? YIKES!).

    • Kevin Perk


      Some tenants are, well…just a bit over the top.

      Good for you on “sticking to your guns” and not giving them any “ammo” to use against you. It is always best to be very professional in every situation.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting,


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