Landlords: Forget Being “Nice.” THIS is the Key to a Good Tenant Relationship.

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Many landlord/tenant relationships end up being rather adversarial. I hear many tenants say that they are moving because their current landlord is not nice. I have even heard newbies who are just getting into the landlording business say that one of their goals is to be a “nice” landlord, unlike ones they have had in the past.

So what is it that makes landlords grumpy? Does this lack of niceness just go with the territory? Perhaps. After all, landlording is not like most other businesses. With most other businesses, there is a one-time transaction, a one-time exchange of goods and services, and then the two parties go their separate ways. If one or the other does not like the transaction, they do not have to do engage in another one.

This scenario is not quite the same with landlording. Here, the transaction often lasts a year or more, with each side tied to the other. It can be very difficult to cut those ties if the transaction or relationship starts to go south. Plus, as landlords we get to see people at their most basic level — in their homes, when perhaps they are not always going to be on their best behavior or putting their best foot forward. We may even see our tenants at their worst or after a tragic event. These unique characteristics can make it really difficult for a landlord or a tenant to be nice all the time.

Because of this uniqueness in the landlord/tenant relationship, being nice is not what is really needed. Perhaps the “nice” part flows out of and is the result of something else. That something else is respect. Perhaps I will be nice if you respect me and my property. Perhaps you will be nice to me if I respect you and your home. So if respect leads to being “nice,” how does each side in the relationship earn and keep the other’s respect?

Related: The Speech You Should Be Giving to Every Single Tenant Moving Into Your Rentals

Let’s start with the tenant side.


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A Tenant Should…

Respect the Agreement They Signed

As a tenant, you likely signed a lease before you moved into your new home. That lease is a contract. It contains all manner of clauses and rules that you are bound to try and uphold. These include the rent amount, payment dates and length of tenancy, noise rules and others. By signing the lease, you give your word that you will follow it. Do your best to stand by your word.

Respect the Landlord’s Property

I work hard to maintain my property. The last thing I need is you or your visitors breaking things, trashing the place or just making life difficult for other tenants. Even little things like throwing cigarette butts on the ground shows disrespect. Please help me keep your home looking good. And if you do break something, own up to it. Don’t lie to me, as I can usually see past it anyway. I will respect you a lot more if you are honest.

Respect the Landlord’s Time

My time is very valuable to me, as there is only so much of it to go around. If I ask you to meet me at a certain time to look at a problem or repair or whatnot, please try to make it on time. I know your time is valuable, so please respect mine.

Not Bury Their Head in the Sand

Life is full of surprises. I know and understand this. I realize that things break, that people lose their jobs or get sick or have otherwise bad things happen. But please do not bury your head in the sand when bad things happen. Tell me. I may be able to help you. If you bury your head in the sand without talking to me, I have to assume the worst, which will likely make your situation even more untenable. Talk to me and let me know what is going on.

A lack of respect is not always just the tenant’s fault. Landlords are sometimes just as guilty. What should a landlord do to keep a tenant’s respect?


A Landlord Should…

Respect Their Tenant’s Privacy

Landlords, you cannot just barge in on your tenants any time you want. Your property is now their home. You have to schedule repairs, maintenance, whatever (unless it is an emergency) with them. Give them some notice; they will really appreciate it. Also, don’t share their personal information. Don’t tell prospective tenants who their neighbors are and don’t leave their info lying around where anyone can see or get ahold of it.

Respect Their Tenant’s Money

Put some of their rent money aside to do upkeep and repairs. Give their security deposit back when they move out if they deserve it. After all, it is their money.

Related: 12 Tips I’ve Learned From Screening Close to 500 Prospective Tenants

Fix Things

The lack of repairs is usually a tenant’s biggest complaint and can easily turn a landlord/tenant relationship sour. So please fix things when it is necessary. Don’t be cheap, because it usually ends up costing you a lot more later on, either in terms of more costly repairs or lower quality of tenants.

Always Be Professional

Don’t yell or scream or otherwise lose your temper. I know this can be very difficult at times, but you have to keep your cool. No matter what the tenant does or does not do, keep your cool and always try to be professional. You will only hate yourself for losing your cool later on.

Can you be a “nice” landlord? I think so, but I also think “niceness” will grow out of mutual respect. If a tenant respects you and your property and you respect a tenant and their concerns, the relationship will be on a solid foundation. How could you not be nice at that point?

[Editor’s Note: We’re republishing this article to help out landlords who have found BiggerPockets more recently. Let us know your thoughts with a comment!]

Landlords: What are the tried-and-true rules you live by when managing tenants? Do you befriend them or leave the relationship more professional?

Let’s talk in the comments section!

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. Terrence Arth

    Well said Kevin, and Andrew’s comment about fair but firm is also right on. It is, in fact a business relationship. Friends is not something I want to be with a tenant–not because they’re not nice people, but because it starts to cloud the relationship. There is a whole lotta room between being a nice person and being pleasantly professional.

    • Kathleen e Belarge on

      My landlord has been fair and kind at the same time right from the beginning. He is professional and keeps boundaries. I appreciate his kindness and have a whole lot of respect for him

  2. Roger that, I probably don’t do any of the above as I would ideally want for myself, I do try to manage things as they happen quickly. Most of those crisis situations I am pretty sure are better dealt with in the proactive sort of way.
    Thanks for the reality check.

  3. Dan Perrott

    Kevin – Nice article. You asked for the rules that I live by as a landlord…

    Rules that I use:

    – Rent is due on the first, late on the second. Everyone plays by this rule – no exceptions. Late fees and eviction processing is consistently applied in all situations. This is a business.
    – Never lease to friends or family. This is a business.
    – Land lording is a business relationship as defined by a legal document. Your business relationship is defined by the lease.

  4. Michael Boyer

    I can’t remember if it was Leigh Robinson, Jay P Decima, or Robert Irwin, but I picked up a similar, simple mantra from one of their books in regards to ideal landlord relationship with tenants: “always friendly, never friends”..

  5. Marcia Maynard

    Nicely done!

    I’d like to borrow your “A Tenant Should” part and make it into a handout for our move-in packet. I’ve told tenants these things, but you have put it in succinct and good form. We noticed a broken window yesterday that we must address with the tenant, so very timely for me to read this now. I’ll create that handout and it will go along with my invoice for the broken window.

    The “A Landlord Should” part is good as well and we practice in that manner. If I post these at my desk, it could serve to keep me on my toes. If these points are not kept at top of mind, one can slip up. I know I have slipped up a few times in the past 20 years and doing so came back to bite me. If I weave this into my pact with the tenant, it will hold me accountable.

    Occasionally we have a tenant who does become a friend. That has been quite rewarding for all of us. A friendship starts with mutual respect and being nice to each other. One such friendship led to our tenant becoming my property assistant. She passed away this summer and as I made preparations for her memorial service, I reflected on how marvelous it was that she came into my life, her wisdom, her laughter, the vacations we took together with my family, and the love.

    The only hard part is getting to the point where I can let go of the house, where she had made her home, so I can prepare to rent it again. Her belongings are gone but her spirit is with us. I decided to lightly furnish it and use it for lodging for visiting family, friends and as a short-term vacation rental for the time being. Had to convince my husband to do that, but he is on-board now and we are taking the time to do some renovation work on the house to make it even better.

  6. Ian Loew

    I am a new landlord and need some advice on the following issue. Tenant wrote me the other day stating…

    “Now that it’s getting darker earlier and winter is approaching, I am noticing that we really could use an outside lantern/ light at the back door. Also, if we could do a sensored flood light at the corner of the house by the back door/ driveway- that would be very helpful. Now that the two families mostly use that as an entrance, there is no lighting there and I am worried for all of our safety.”

    I do agree with the tenant but these are not simple repairs but upgrades to the property. Since I will need to hire an electrician I am anticipating costs to be $400 – $600.


      • Deanna Opgenort

        Ditto on the solar. Some even mount on the eaves, or have a solar panel that can mount on the roof in sunlight while the light is lower on the wall in a shady area. They will require some maintenance (the batteries need to be replaced every so often), but they aren’t that expensive.
        Hopefully you let the tenant know that you are grateful that they pointed out an issue so politely, and gave their request so clearly — tenants that don’t notice problems or who can’t be bothered to let me know there’s a problem are the bane of my existence.

    • Aaron Carter

      I use Mr. Beams motion sensor lights that I purchased on Amazon. You can buy a three pack for about $40 and it will take about 15 minutes of your time to install. No wiring required. They are battery operated and mine have been working fine for me in northern Minnesota for the last two years without having to replace the batteries.

    • Mary Ann Aulbur

      Since lack of these lights can be considered a safety and security issue and if something bad happened because of their lack, you may be responsible for costs associated with medical issues or loss of valuables. Since the tenant made a reasonable request, a judge may award the tenant damages if something happened in the areas lacking lights.

      Your addressing this issue improves your property, makes it more desirable for future tenants, and the current tenant will feel more comfortable. But–do not set a precedent for repeated upgrades.

  7. Marina Kimak

    Lots of good advice and common sense in all of your comments. I think “being human” is the one we should add to it. Not considering a possibility of being a friend with a tenant is relatively restrictive thinking. Friends come in all shapes and colors, sometimes tenant may turn into a great friend if you give it a chance. Don’t make it a rule of a thumb but keep the window open. It happened to us few times, without deteriorating landlord-tenant relation. Having only 1 day for paying a rent is kinda over strict too, isn’t it? What if the 1st is on Sunday, or my pay is late a day or two? Assigning rent payment from 1st to 5th may be more reasonable? And yes, I totally think you need to put it all in writing, what ever you expect and bring to the expectations, write it down and include it in the move-in package. There is no one way relationship in the world, so both parties should be equally responsible.

    • william scharf

      marina, i agree completely about the friendship part. i have had tenants over the years become great friends, one even helps me out with legal stuff every so often. any sort of friendship like this has to develop over time, after the mutual respect part is already established. a tenant who wants to become buddies right off the bat is a huge red flag, and we will do our best to keep a distance.

      i disagree about rent being due on the first being too strict. if the first falls on a sunday, the tenant is more than welcome to make the deposit on a friday or saturday. electronic payments don’t care what day it is, and if you give slips for a deposit-only account, the late deposit slot is always open. do credit card companies care if our payment is due on a sunday, but doesn’t make it in until a monday? no, they don’t. it has to be in prior to or on the due date. if you have a tenant that is late by one day, that can easily turn into a tenant who is late by several days, which can turn into an eviction. most states take several weeks to process an eviction. the sooner you post your appropriate notice, the sooner you can file, if necessary, the sooner you get your unit back, and the less money you lose. just because you post a notice doesn’t mean you have to file the eviction, but if you do, it’s nice to know that you don’t have to wait an extra 3 days, and likely an extra weekend. speaking for myself, i’m far more inclined to be lenient with someone who informs me before the first of the month that they will be late, than someone who does the whole head-in-the-sand routine, or says something along the lines of, “oh sorry, i totally forgot it was the first”. no, you didn’t forget. you were hoping we would forget 🙂

      if someone says they are going to be late, i explain to them that they will still get a notice, but we appreciate the heads up. depending on the circumstance, we may waive the late fee.

      our state does not require a grace period, so we do not have one.

  8. Robert Steele

    Great write up.

    I think being professional and respecting your tenants goes a long long way to a smooth relationship. The biggest facet of that respect is getting repairs done in a timely manner.

    If a tenant asks me for an upgrade or to change something and it is reasonable I try to accommodate it. Such as installing a blind, or painting an accent wall.

  9. Ayodeji Kuponiyi

    Great stuff here Kevin. Respect from both landlords and tenants will make the relationship truly great. I believe in being nice and cordial but remaining firm and strict with the polices. After all this is a business and it should be treated as such.

  10. Brenda E.

    Enjoyed the article. I am not a landlord yet but have been learning tons from BP listening to podcasts and webinars and reading these articles as much as I can. I am wondering how to obtain a thorough lease agreement. Do you write your own or are there examples on BP I just haven’t seen yet? My parents and in-laws have rental properties but NEVER had a lease agreement. Needless to say, it was/is a headache/hassle from day one. This has inspired us to have a detailed lease. Anyone willing to share an example? Thanks so much!

  11. Jerry W.

    Nice article. I have rented to friends without problems in the past, but now I have one that is going to bite me. He has been a pretty good tenant for about 3 years but has a job that has had salary reductions due the slowness of the oil industry. To make matters worse I know his wife has been fighting some health problems and cannot work. I know he has had at least a 30% cut in salary and he has 4 kids who I know by first name. He has been on the volunteer fire department with me for about 10 years. Nice guy. He has been late and a few hundred short and has caught the rent up, but I don’t think he will be able to now. I have needed some work done and have had him do some work for me to take off his rent. He does good work and I truly need a handyman but even that may not be enough to get him out of his mess. I have already figured out how far I will go before yelling uncle and starting an eviction. In small towns I probably know at least 50% of the people who apply to rent houses on at least some level. Saying is easier than doing.

    • Wait a minute…HIS mess? Because he truly wanted to have a 30% pay decrease and a wife with health issues. He’s helping you with maintanance, he sounds like a tenant with a model attitude that most landlords whine they don’t get. AND he’s caught up and squared away. I bet you’re the type of person who has someone like him work $10, an hour which, is technically, poverty level. How insensitive and ridiculous, this is why there’s a wedge in between tenants and landlords, think of it flip side. Well, obviously, you couldn’t and wouldn’t as you haven’t already and think of it as HIS mess. Have you ever lived on poverty level wages and then had someone with an elitist attitude, such as yourself, be the person who decides if you and your family is homeless or not. I hope someday you encounter this situation but right now you’re too comfortable in your income to really care.

      • I am a landlord with one rental property plus the home I live in. I do not earn a lot of money at my own job, but manage to keep up on repairs at the rental. I consider myself a fair landlord. I tried to work with tenants in the past who had various financial issues. I had to literally put tenants out on the street because I had no choice but to evict. I would risk losing my own home or the rental to foreclosure. This is a business. If you cannot pay you have to go. No excuses. I am about to start another eviction on a tenant who lost yet another job. I have to look out for myself and my family first. Sorry!

  12. Kevin Izquierdo

    Great article with concise information. Short, sweet and to the point, I love it. A ton of great info on the comment section as well.
    “Your property is now their home.” Very powerful statement that should always be kept in mind when considering cutting corners on repairs and other upkeep maintenance issues that come up.

  13. I see alot of posts from landlords pointing the finger at tenants first and foremost. There is a clear deterioration of a landlord/tenant relationship and it is truly because you, as landlords, don’t understand the tenants side. Can tenants wreck a place and cause you issues? Yes. However, all of the renters i have rented with and known, keep their place nice, exxept for one. It is THEIR home. Landlords have an incredibly unrealistic expection of wear and tear, which usually limits their market. That, and they don’t understand life. I have met many landlords who are just ridiculous when it comes to their expectations about life and circumstances. Remember, you have the option of having a home, of buying one. And your are pocketing extra money by renting. I have been a renter for years because I cannot afford my own home so, its either rent or be homeless. That is the situation us renters face. HOMELESSNESS. I’m sure you, as a landlord, can’t fathom how scary that is.

    If we ask you, as a landlord, to fix something it will almost every year increase our rent and we cannot afford that. Thats probably why the tenant did not disclose the broken window. Because a repair would up his/her rent. And $5.00 and up can make or break a person’s budget. Also, when you are not willing to renew a lease, now, the tenant has to pay security deposits, etc to another place THE SAME MONTH as your rent is due. You complain about money yet, do you have 4,000 + dollars to throw around? I doubt it. We have a recession and wages are stagnant.

    Also, this one kills me, what does credit checks have to do with bad renters? NOTHING. Credit was set up for credit cards, I will pay my rent first and foremost and go late on a credit card bill before I skip paying you. Because it is, again, MY HOME, and I face homelessness if I don’t pay. Duh. Get with the programs landlords, I have only encountered 1 bad tenant in all my years, the rest of us are truly good people who have either hit a bad time or can’t catch a break. If we could, do you think we’d be renting from someone? NO!

    • Jeff Barnard

      Let me address these issues one by one.

      1.) “If we ask you, as a landlord, to fix something it will almost every year increase our rent and we cannot afford that.”

      Whether they are a landlord or a tenant, a smart and prepared person should always have a budget. A smart and prepared landlord will have used the 50% rule when running the numbers for their investment property. As such, common repairs or even capex shouldn’t cause the rent to increase, as this has already been budgeted for. What should cause the rent to go up is fluctuations in fair market value for rent in your specific market, or inflation of the USD which is somewhat tied into fair market value anyways. So, as for the second half of your statement about not being able to afford an increase in rent, may I ask, do you not buy bread or milk any longer? You know, since they also adjust their price for inflation and fair market value? After all, most products were cheaper a few years ago…. We all still buy these products (including rent for some folks) because we simply budget for the increased cost.

      2.) “Thats probably why the tenant did not disclose the broken window. Because a repair would up his/her rent. And $5.00 and up can make or break a person’s budget”

      You seem to have a habit of making excuses. In this case, you are making excuses for this other guys tenant. This person could have simply not noticed it right away, or they could be hiding the fact that it broke. Either way, you immediately assume they knew, and hid the fact by not alerting the landlord and then go on to justify their action by stating if they told the landlord then they may be held responsible. Depending on how the window broke, there’s a good chance they should be held responsible. Meaning they should be honest and pay for it if they indeed broke it. Something tells me you do not agree. As for the 5$ “or more” causing a over budget scenario for the tenant, and I’m assuming you mean on a monthly basis; one of two things are wrong. Either the landlord has not screened the tenant well enough as they would be living by the skin of their teeth if they cant afford a 5$ a month rent increase, or the tenant has no business living in a place they can barely afford. Maybe both.

      3.) ” when you are not willing to renew a lease, now, the tenant has to pay security deposits, etc to another place THE SAME MONTH as your rent is due. You complain about money yet, do you have 4,000 + dollars to throw around? I doubt it. We have a recession and wages are stagnant.”

      If you are not being evicted, and even if you are, if you did not leave the place with damage beyond normal wear and tear, theres a good chance you will receive your SD back. Easily applied to your new rental… If you a suffering a recession and stagnant wages, perhaps you should consider renting in a more affordable place or find a new job or source of income, or ask for a raise or a number of any other things. Why is it your lanlord’s fault you can not afford the product they’re selling. No one forced you to live there. Do you get mad at the gallon on milk because its “too expensive”? A smart and prepared person would either FIND a way to afford it or maybe buy a cheaper brand, shop around, etc.

      4.) “what does credit checks have to do with bad renters? NOTHING. Credit was set up for credit cards”

      I had a gut feeling you were wrong. As such, a quick google search yielded the fact that credit reporting in the US had nothing to do with CC’s and everything to do with the creditworthiness of customers in regards to a Retail Grocer’s Association back in 1899 (before credit cards). It was and has been, and has evolved to be, a consumer credit reporting vehicle. That includes reporting for buying habits on products such as residential leases. Why shouldn’t it? Us landlords are taking a risk after all, just like the bank takes a risk loaning you money or the dealership financing you a car. Your employer even takes a financial risk by hiring you, that’s why they are smart to do a credit check as well. By running a credit check the landlord is simply screening a prospective tenant to ensure a long lasting and good standing relationship so everybody wins. Nothing wrong with that!

      5.) “the rest of us are truly good people who have either hit a bad time or can’t catch a break”

      Im sure your a nice guy, i wouldn’t doubt it in the least. I also understand everyone has pit falls in life. However, I wouldn’t recommend relying on “catching a break.” Luck isn’t something people are born with or something they stumble upon. Luck is created. It is created by being smart, prepared, executing due diligence, abiding to contracts and ensuring a smooth ride!

    • gabe gordon

      There are definitely bad landlords out there, that don’t repair things they should, and just want that check each month without working for it. If you have one of those, I would move out and find a better one, because they are out there. With that said, landlords deal and come in contact with hundreds of tenants each year through applications and the people they rent to. The fact you only know one bad tenant does really have much merit considering our sample size if relatively small.
      With that said, Yes life is hard, facing being homeless is hard, but landlords due face that, if landlords quit paying their bills they may not only lose their house for 10 others they have. Having to evict someone is tough is well, however landlords can’t foot the bills just because their tenant is having a hard time, or which is the case a lot of times, they made bad decisions.
      Tenant damages, tenant not paying, tenant lieing, are all apart of this business.

      While personally my main concern is consistent income and no recent evictions. I do look at credit. There are many reasons why landlords do this. Since the landlord does not know the prospective tenant personally, they have to go with what is on paper. Do they have a consistent job that will cover rent? Have they been evicted? Have they paid their past debts(credit). Are they currently over leveraged(credit)? While you may make rent your priority, other tenants make their car payment a priority, or just don’t believe in paying any bills on time(or at all). A credit report, can give a look at a tenants past behavior to try and predict future behavior.

      Good luck to you.

  14. Joshua David

    Ray I am somewhere in the middle. I agree – mostly except for the fact that many landlords are intact providing a service and its not uncommon to have a low cashflow situation where the owner is juggling bills to maintain the property as well. Having spent most of my life as a tenant I didn’t hesitate to paint, fix locks, repair minor damage, re caulk edges around sink and tub when there were water issues, unclog drains, sweep leaves and trash from the sidewalk. I thought that making your living place functional and you surroundings pleasant was just what you did. Years later, acquiring property with (nice enough) tenants, I assumed that everyone maintained their living space as such but quickly learned that this was not true. There were so many times I encountered issues where I had to hold back from saying “really folks?” Ignoring and not reporting dripping water for years to the point that bathroom needs a complete demolition for example. The list goes on. I have no resentment for the tenants as they are good people and always pay on time, but there is a disappointing level of apathy.
    I am going to suggest that the problem is systemic and what is needed is actually more affordable home ownership or partial ownership such as land trusts so that people feel enough sense of ownership to take greater responsibility for their surroundings.

  15. There really is no hard and fast rule, and while most of the points made are simply common sense the fact is that you do, as a normal human being, have situations sometimes where you invariably end up feeling like you have to take on the burden of someone else’s life out of sheer decency.

    We’ve had our fair share of nightmare tenants, but we also have people currently in our rental properties who we care very much about, and yes, one particular couple are considered friends because we’ve come to really appreciate them, not only as decent people but as renters who go above and beyond in terms of looking after the home as if it’s their own. Example? We gave up years ago expecting tenants to do the right thing by mowing the lawns, even with financial incentives in place to encourage them to do so, so I took on the mowing myself, partly because we couldn’t get a reliable lawn service for a couple of the homes (same again for one house that has a pool) and partly because it helps keep me fit and I get to see how well the houses are being maintained. This particular couple told me not to bother, bought a mower themselves, and not only do a good job with it but have also worked heavily on the gardens, even though it’s not their own property. The husband keeps tweaking things (asks first) and basically they’re making little improvements here and there that essentially benefit us in the long term, and often they won’t even ask us to reimburse them for the little things they spend money on, even though we’re always at them to give us the receipts. A few months before Christmas we ended up shelving our normal attitude towards maintaining a professional distance (as much as we can!) by inviting them out for a drink with some friends from the area (Daytona) to sign the new lease, and ended up having a whale of a time with them. Hasn’t changed the nature of the relationship so far as the property is concerned, and I think when they eventually move on they’ll remain friends. Of course though, we do realize that this isn’t the norm for us, and I think what has helped in this situation is that they used to own a home up in NY state which they rented out as well, so they’re trying to be sure not to be ‘typical’ renters. Just great people.

    Furthermore, with other renters who do stay on past the first year we have a little tradition of going round to the house with pizza for the signing of the new lease, and we ALWAYS reinforce the point with each and every renter about keeping the lines of communication open and simply being honest with us. We’ve had one woman (still with us after 6 years) who’s husband left her soon after they’d moved into one of our houses. Within months she was falling way behind on the rent, so much so that she eventually got to be behind by three months. By rights we should have evicted her long before that, but my wife and I kept looking at each other and asking ourselves how we had ever reached a point where we would countenance putting a mother, her two young children, and her frail old mother out on the street! Thankfully just at the time when we were considering have little other option but to actually put up the eviction notice she found herself a job, her church and family chipped in, and with a payment structure we drew up for her the tenant took to paying us every two weeks, instead of monthly, with extra thrown on for the back rent, and over the next year she gradually caught it all up. She’s certainly not the most ideal tenant, and we could probably write a book on the myriad excuses she’s given us for being late with the rent or why checks have bounced, but one way or the other we invariably get our money. We have another family, wonderful people, who lost everything they had when their young son was involved in a car accident that nearly claimed his life – and wiped them out financially, including losing their home. They’re usually meticulous about paying on time, but once or twice a year a new medical bill might come up and the tenant will call and ask us if we can wait a week or two or three for the rent. Every time she promptly gets it paid and everything’s back on track. They’ve been with us now for three years, and we hope they’ll stay longer, though I constantly joke with my wife that the house will eventually fall down the day they decide to move out from all the damage the kids are doing!

    Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our fair share of nightmare tenants, and there’s more than a few I wouldn’t have minded taking a baseball bat to! In those cases we’ve had no problem handing out eviction notices to, or simply not renewed leases with. We had one woman who came in with two kids to a house I’d spent months rehabbing only to abscond owing us a month’s back rent, doing considerable damage to the house (including to a freshly refurbished pool her youngest son left gouge marks in via the end of the pool-cleaning pole) and leaving behind pets that not only made a mess everywhere, but would have died had I not turned up early to change the locks – we ended up re-homing them. We also had another family who decided to change the same house from a three-bedroom house to four bedroom by installing a partition across the formal area then kicked up a storm of hatred when we eventually found out about it and refused to give them a new lease – trashed the house, left behind most of the furniture, etc – chasing them in courts is almost pointless, as we’ve found out before. You ruin their credit and leave them with a financial black eye for years – they don’t care.

    The moral of the tale for us is that yes, we do try to maintain a professional relationship, but more often than not we take each case as it comes. In numerous cases where hard and fast landlords would have evicted people we’ve stayed our hand, used our judgement, and done the right thing by people who’ve managed to work things out. Other we’ve learned very quickly to move on as soon as possible.

    90% of it boils down to making a good call when sorting through applicants – and perhaps not going for top dollar in order to maximize the pool of people to choose from. You may make a little less on a monthly basis, but how much money do you save at the back end by having tenants who look after a house and who you’ll happily keep on, instead of those who’ll trash a house beyond the security deposit and cost you more in lost rent while you’re fixing the place back up again? What we’ve really learned the hard way is that it’s this point in time when you really have to go with the head rather than the heart, no matter what kind of sob story you might be hearing or how well people may present. The worst moment I’ve ever had was when a man literally broke down sobbing in front of me after shaking my hand and proceeded to tell me how he and his children (the wife was deceased) had recently been thrown out of a foreclosed home that the owner had kept taking rent on right up until the sheriff had turned up to throw the unsuspecting family out. The man had farmed his two daughters out to a sister while he and his two sons were sleeping in their car. He practically begged me to let him have the house, gave me all his details, even asked if he and his sons could sleep on the bare carpet for a day or two while my wife tried to sort through his application. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was tell the man that I simply couldn’t do that, knowing of the ramifications once he had his foot in the door, but I promised him we would do our due diligence post haste to see what we could do. Long story short, the numbers didn’t even come close, the employer sounded dodgy, and I ended up having to call the guy in his car and say no – for weeks afterwards I fretted thinking I was going to read something in the local paper regarding the man committing suicide!

    Another thing we’ve learned as well is that there’s certain types of people to avoid, and we’re small enough that we can get away with ‘discriminating’ without being noticed. We steer well clear of ‘salesy’ people because we’ve been burned a few times by the type – they always end up being really arrogant, full of themselves, and just make life really difficult almost as a point of pride. We have also learned to run a mile from people who really lay on their faith when they meet us, especially if they spot my wife’s crucifix round her neck – I’ve taken to telling her to hide it when interviewing tenants! The woman who trashed our house and left behind the pets came in telling us about all her volunteer missionary work in Central America, her church, etc – ended up shooting through owing a great deal of money to people in the area. Same again with the people who put up the partition – double whammy there – the husband was a car salesman who really laid on their Catholic faith when we met them and always sent out emails with quotes from the bible appended to the bottom. Another point is that we definitely have a leaning towards couples with dual incomes, because the situation with single incomes is so fraught with peril, especially with working class or lower middle class families, that the situation can quickly go pear-shaped if a job gets lost. Finally, though we have in the past had a strong leaning towards couples with children (we tend to buy larger than usual homes for specific areas that are easy to rent out because families are always looking for that space) we tend to find that young kids do really take a heavy toll on newly rehabbed houses, especially if the parents don’t care, so of late we’ve taken to being a little more open to adult-only situations that simply give the houses a bit of a break from all the wear and tear. No more scraping off dried toothpaste or trying to paint over crayon on the walls!

    A final point. We are not typically hard arses about people sticking by the terms of the lease if they want to leave for some reason. Stuff happens sometimes, and as long as the tenant is willing to cover the appropriate rent until we can get a new tenant in place we’re always pretty flexible about letting people out of their lease agreements. We had one guy from Arkansas relocating to central Florida for business who fell in love with one particular house that we were renting, took a batch of pictures of the place to send back home to his wife in Birmingham, and agreed to rent from us a few days later. The minute his wife actually saw the house though she hated it (I was crushed – sob – I’d put in 6 months rehabbing a house my wife and I would live in ourselves in a heartbeat!) so we ended up letting the poor slob off from his wife’s ire by tearing up the lease and letting them go after a matter of a couple of weeks – shortest tenancy we’ve ever had! They did cover the rest of that month’s rent, and insisted paying for the following month as well.

    • Patsy Waldron


      I cannot even tell you how much I enjoyed reading your little essay! It gave me faith again that some landlords do business with a bit of heart and don’t blindly follow “rules” without allowing for the human element. We are not robots, after all…. Or are we becoming that? I am in the field of education, where there are rules and guidelines. I regularly have to make a judgement call on whether and how to apply them. It’s a delicate balancing act, to be sure, but at the end of the day I would prefer to err on the side of mercy.

      I had to laugh as I read the part about churchy people being the worst- I couldn’t agree more! In ANY activity/relationship (especially politics, lol), I am immediately on my guard if someone makes a big deal of their religiosity. What are you trying to deflect from by screaming your faith from the rooftops?! These people so often end up being the worst to do business with.

      Again, thanks for a good read! I hope to always have your generosity in dealing with those who are my clients.

  16. Pete Z.

    I try to be respectful and considerate also I will honor the terms of our Lease. I want my Tenants to be respectful and considerate and honor the terms of the Lease. For peace of mind if I get a bad feeling about someone in my gut then I will not rent to them. I have told my family and friends that it always, always has bitten me in the butt if I am too friendly with Tenants. Friendly but keep a distance. I know it requires discipline.

  17. gabe gordon

    These things are great and if they all happened in reality, land lording would be pretty easy.
    most of these things start breaking down.
    I know there are bad landlords out there, that don’t respect their tenants.
    But every new tenant I try to put on a clean slate.
    While I do have the relationship described with some tenants, the others the relationship usually starts breaking down on the tenant side.
    1. Tenant saying things they are going to do on x date, but don’t
    2. Respecting the property
    3. Respecting my time(I shouldn’t have to chase to get my money)
    4. Telling lies

    After these start to happen the relationship starts to break down and while you continue on and try to put on a good front. I have loss respect for the tenant at this point, and I am simply trying to manage the relationship to cause the least damage to the business.

  18. I once heard the adage ‘This is my house but it is your home’. I try to use this quote at the time when a tenant and I are reviewing the lease agreement together to re-enforce the concept of mutual respect for each other to set the right tone from the start in the tenant-landlord relationship. I have also made the comment to a tenant when they are moving out to please respect me enough leave the place as clean as when they moved in. It is never as clean as day one but have seemed to have had some success with not having tenants leave the units trashed. This is just a couple of anecdotes but in reality it is a series of positive tenant-landlord interactions that makes for a successful experience for both parties.

  19. Some comments:

    Respect the Agreement They Signed – Having rented for a while I find that, (i) contracts are often illegal and unfair and (ii) the process by which contracts are “agreed to” is problematic. Contracts are long, often presented at the last minute, major or exceptional clauses are hidden, and the tenant has often invested a lot of time before agreeing to a contract. Entering into a free agreement with full knowledge is one thing, being bait-and-switched into something under coercion with no ability to negotiate is another. If you want people to respect an “agreement” it’s important to actually have them “agree” rather than just sign.

  20. “I try to be respectful and considerate also I will honor the terms of our Lease. I want my Tenants to be respectful and considerate and honor the terms of the Lease.”

    You are willing to honour the agreement that you write. How strange 😛
    My experience with rental agreements is that they consist of six clauses that are legal obligations for the landlord, followed by about 50 clauses, 5 of which are illegal.

    • Deanna Opgenort

      Is this guy possibly for real?

      “Your honor, I shouldn’t be legally bound by this contract because I didn’t really AGREE with it. I just signed it because the landlord wouldn’t let me move in otherwise. And besides, the contract was really, really long.”

      Some people just aren’t safe without adult supervision.

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