Real Estate News & Commentary

The BiggerPockets Investor’s Values: Landlord/Tenant Relationships

Expertise: Real Estate News & Commentary, Real Estate Investing Basics, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Personal Finance, Personal Development
72 Articles Written

A recent article came out on Vice News, an article that we here at BiggerPockets feel portrays our community, business, mission, and members in a light that is both unfavorable and unfair. This article was published without contact with BiggerPockets, and we feel that it cherry-picked examples from our community to portray the tenant/landlord relationship in such a way as to stir emotions, and perhaps generate clicks, from a specific audience ready to believe the worst of real estate investors and landlords and, of course, a community for the same.

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In this article, I hope to set the story straight. I want to show off the wonderful community and positive culture we have here at BiggerPockets, as a company, as a community, and member to member. I invite Vice News or any other media company interested in learning more about what we do here to directly contact me at [email protected]

I hope I can deliver a more realistic portrayal of our world as President and CEO, a real estate investor, licensed broker, and landlord of 5+ years. I hope that prior to publicizing future news pieces with titles like “Inside the Wildly Popular Forum Where Landlords Plot to Screw You Over” that editors will ask their writers to at least reach out to me or one of our capable team members here at BP. I promise, I’m easy to reach, and I clear my email inbox every business day.

That aside, let’s get to the point here. 

BiggerPockets is a positive, values-based community that supports people. We know that building wealth, one step at a time, by saving, earning, and systematically investing is possible, and we encourage one another along the way, regardless of where we are starting in our life or wealth-building journeys. Our blog, podcasts, videos, and books provide perspectives from an incredible variety of sources, enabling deep learning by exposing users to opposing viewpoints from equally successful and promising investors. In our community, we invite as many voices as possible into the conversation and strive to provide the tools necessary to build business relationships founded on a core of strong ethics and respect. 

The Landlord/Tenant Relationship

Critical to this business is the landlord-tenant relationship. This is a relationship that investors value deeply and that we at BiggerPockets want to honor. We want to make it clear that BiggerPockets values a respectful tenant/landlord relationship and acknowledges the dual responsibilities of each party.

The business relationship between landlords and tenants is a partnership; both sides have obligations to the other. The landlord is responsible for providing a quality place for tenants to live, and the tenant is responsible for timely payment and for keeping the property in good condition.

On BiggerPockets, real estate investors collaborate to discuss real-world investing scenarios, including conflicts in the tenant/landlord relationship, and, overwhelmingly, our community members have productive, values-driven discussions. At the core of these discussions is a commitment to treating all parties with respect, dignity, and ultimately to ethical and professional business outcomes. 

I’ve been there. I know only too well the immense relief and gratitude that a first-time or newer investor feels when a seasoned pro with 10 years’ experience and dozens of properties chimes in with advice on how to solve a tricky problem. These folks overwhelmingly contribute with positive, ethical solutions to those problems. These discussions often help investors avoid problems that could arise for the tenant, and they de-escalate situations that could otherwise get out of control. Sometimes, our members advocate a firm approach, enforcing the lease without question, and other times, our members advocate leniency or creative solutions to solving problems. 

In no way does our business or community condone unethical, manipulative, or illegal practices. In addition to being morally wrong, these practices are simply bad business and do not lead to the sustainable, lasting wealth that we seek to build here on BiggerPockets. We believe that landlords who engage in such practices will never succeed and will ultimately fail. Ethical business is sustainable business, and the landlords who succeed on BiggerPockets operate fairly and professionally.

We value and encourage quality discussion in helping peer landlords screen tenants to select those who are able to abide by the commitments in their leases. We value and encourage discussion on how to enforce the commitments in landlord/tenant relationships. And, while a sad outcome and the ultimate marker of failure in the tenant/landlord relationship, we value discourse on how to professionally evict and take back property when contractual commitments are not upheld.

When issues in the tenant/landlord relationship arise, we believe our community provides the perfect place to factually describe problems and situations, and get professional, empathetic, and caring advice from peer landlords and investors. The positive energy and compassion for one another in our community is infectious. 

If you’re looking to build wealth on BiggerPockets, we invite you to discover for yourself the productive, positive, values-based discussions going on every day here in our community; then, take action, build wealth, and ultimately, give back to the next aspiring investor.

Who Are BiggerPockets Investors?

I want to close out by describing who the community members on BiggerPockets are. 

To some, the word “landlord” conjures an image of greed, someone who will heartlessly extort or foreclose upon the poor and helpless in order to make a buck.  

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your typical BiggerPockets landlord is a working professional who earns between $50,000 and $200,000 per year. A small minority (16%) of our users earn more than $200,000 per year. This isn’t a platform just for the 1%. This is a platform for anyone who aspires to build wealth, often one property at a time, over a period of many years of grind, hustle, self-education, and discipline. It is also true that only about 10% of our members earn less than $50,000 per year, and we certainly acknowledge that getting started in real estate can be difficult when one earns a lower than median household income. 

There are 90 million single family homes in this country. Fourteen million of them are rentals. Sixty percent of these rental properties are owned by landlords who manage just one or two rentals in addition to their primary residence. Ninety percent are owned by landlords with 10 or fewer properties. One to 2% are owned by institutions.

If you are a renter and you rent a single family home, duplex, triplex, or quadplex, chances are your landlord is a working professional or small business owner who saves, earns, and invests in real estate. Chances are your rental home is a huge part of their retirement plan, and they are not some 1 percenter with a vast empire of properties. Chances are they used a large amount of debt to pay for the property, and your rent barely covers the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance on the property.

The home you rent might be their former home or their parent’s former home, passed down. It’s possible that many people who are currently renters may one day soon become homeowners, and perhaps even keep that first home as a rental after moving—becoming landlords in the process. This is the path to becoming an investor that many on BiggerPockets take. These are folks who are not professional, full-time landlords; they’re folks who are figuring things out as they go along. 

These millions of landlords, mostly normal, working professionals and self-employed small business owners, run a thin line between profit and loss. They are exposed to risk when properties rise and fall in value, and they depend on the rental income to keep their portfolio sustainable. These are hardworking, decent people, who are looking to deploy their hard-earned dollars into investments outside of the stock market, Wall Street mutual funds, or low-yield bond portfolios. 

BiggerPockets is where they turn for help. Real estate is one (often of several) investment approach that these everyday Americans utilize to create financial freedom. These investors aren’t looking to cut corners or provide bad service or bad quality. In fact, it is in their best interest to do the opposite. Since they are taking huge risks and trying their best to provide a quality service at a good price so that they can build wealth, they have a responsibility to operate ethically and sustainably. In many cases, they are doing this while working full-time, which is why the BiggerPockets community is here to help.  

Here are three examples of folks who turned to BiggerPockets. These were ordinary people who were able to create extraordinary outcomes through hard work, self-education, discipline, and I’ll venture, a little help from the BiggerPockets community:


Ben Leybovich Ben is a former musician who was forced out of his passion and profession by Multiple Sclerosis. To support his family, Ben bought property and built a portfolio of hundreds of units. He has been successfully investing in real estate for over a decade at this point.

 

Tony Gayden – In 2008, Tony weighed 476 pounds and worked the night shift at Walmart, deep in credit card debt. Over the past 11 years, Tony worked off over 250 pounds, paid off his debt, increased his income, and used BiggerPockets to help him begin and grow a real estate portfolio. Tony today is closing in on $1 million in real estate wealth.
 

Palak Shah – After the birth of her two kids, Palak, a former engineer, realized she needed to achieve financial independence in order to spend more time with her family. Her first three years investing full-time, she purchased, renovated, rented, and refinanced properties, creating a multi-million dollar portfolio.

 

 All of these folks attribute at least a portion of their success to the community and information found on BiggerPockets. All of these folks have become independently wealthy, self-made millionaires or are on track to achieve the same. Our “Success Stories” forum contains countless more real journeys like Ben’s, Tony’s, and Palak’s. 

We invite you to learn from these folks who have started from every conceivable financial and life position and found success through real estate investing. Why not learn what we have to say? Next time you pay rent, why not ask yourself—how did my landlord become a landlord? Who is he or she? How can I find myself in the same position next year, or in several years? 

When and if you do ask that question, BiggerPockets is here to help. 

We’ll let you surprise yourself with the community and information you find here and with the results you achieve for you and your family.

Scott Trench is a perpetual student of personal finance, real estate investing, sales, business, and personal development. He is CEO of BiggerPockets.com, a real estate investor, and author of the ...
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    Account Closed Rental Property Investor
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Interesting article especially this line.."BiggerPockets is a positive, values-based community that supports people" My experience so far with BP... I was very excited to join the BP community. I was also excited to post a discussion in the forum and I was looking forward to having a real discussion about real estate. Instead I have been shocked and dishearten by some of your members' responses (especially from your moderator). As a result, I am not sure if I completely agree with your statement.
    Christopher Smith Investor from brentwood, california
    Replied about 1 year ago
    What specifically "shocked and dishearten(ed)" you, and what constitutes a "real discussion about real estate"?
    Jason D. Rental Property Investor from St. Petersburg, Fl
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thank you Scott for an very well written response. To support your point, I'd like to talk a little bit about my story. I am a married father of 2 daughters. My wife and I bought our first home in 2010, in Cincinnati, Ohio. After living there for a few years, I had an opportunity to move to Pennsylvania to be closer to family, so instead of selling our house, we decided to rent it. It made us a couple hundred dollars a month and we rented it for 5 years, never thinking of rental properties as a viable retirement plan. In 2017, I joined Bigger pockets, and almost immediately I was hooked! I absorbed all that I could and decided, after only a few months, that real estate investing was what I wanted for my future. I'm an auto mechanic by trade, and my wife an office worker. Combined, we make about $60k per year. We are not rich, we dont come from money, but we work hard, and failure is not an option. Since joining Bigger pockets, We've purchased 2 more rental properties, both needed extensive rehab (most of which I did myself after work and on weekends). My wife and I now see a different future for us and our family, one that, hopefully, includes an early "retirement" to become full time landlords. None of this would have been possible without Bigger pockets, and the supportive members that answer any question, and give guidance through any situation.
    Cameron Pendergraft Rental Property Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Monique, If you're referring to the forum post below where you posited a hypothetical scenario on investing, I'm seeing on every page of replies where people are giving you fair/honest and even supporting answers to your question. Yes, there are the grumpier personalities of BP that responded but even reading through their posts after being on the site long enough, you'll see that they're generally giving honest advice based on their past experiences, even if it means not being polite. https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/311/topics/733553-how-would-your-turn-500-000-into-5-million-in-5-years?page=2
    Alexander Felice Guy with Great Hair from Fayetteville, NC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I love this community. Friendly, fair, and helpful. If you look long enough on any internet meeting place, you can find things to dislike, especially if you cherry-pick. BP actually has a very low percentage of scoundrels around. Not all landlords are great to their tenants, but if you learn how to be a landlord from BP there is a much higher chance they will be because nowhere on BP do people advocate for unethical or sleazy behavior. This is why BP exists in the first place, to make better property owners, and they have done a fantastic job.
    Joe Splitrock Rental Property Investor from Sioux Falls, SD
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I have been a landlord over 15 years and an active BP member for 3-4 years. One thing people need to understand about BiggerPockets is that it is free for anyone to read or comment and there is no censorship. That means a rotten landlord or someone even pretending to be a landlord could come on the forums and say whatever they want about tenants. Like any internet forum, we get our fair share of trolls. The community, including myself, is fast to respond and call people out. It is really a self policing system. You get a variety of views, but it is hardly fair to cherry pick one view and imply every landlord thinks that way. Being in the rental property business so long, I have had countless wonderful tenants, but I have also run across some really bad experiences. People who lie, damage your property, don't pay rent, refuse to answer calls and stab you in the back after you tried to help them. I have had wife beaters, drug addicts and worse. A couple of those have ended in eviction. That is a legal process where the landlord goes to court and presents their case. The tenant also gets to present their case. Every eviction I ever had was due to considerable unpaid rent. Even after the judge ruled in my favor, the tenant is still given several days to leave the property - pretty fair. The part that the Vice writer doesn't understand is that a landlord is running a business. The rent payment goes to my mortgage, utilities, repairs and to put food on my families table. To put in terms the author understands, what if the author wrote an article for Vice and Vice refused to pay him? Would he continue to write articles? Is a freelance writer willing to work for free? My guess is the writer expects to get paid and needs the money to pay his bills. On the flip side, I doubt that he would continue to get paid if he didn't write articles. So there is two sides of responsibility in any business transaction. Just like my tenant is my customer and I provide a service. We both have responsibilities and if either falls short there are consequences. The writer took a one sided view that was prejudice against landlords. Maybe it was based on his own personal experience. Not to belittle his life experience, but there are millions of tenants in the United States and the majority are treated very well by their landlords. Just focusing on the negative seems divisive and unfair. That article will not help anybody. By contrast, BiggerPockets is aimed at helping people achieve financial freedom. People of all ages, colors, races, sexes and from a variety of backgrounds. There is also a BiggerPockets Money Podcast that is designed to help people get out of financial debt. Maybe the writer should listen to that podcast, which Scott Trench is personally one of the hosts. They are giving people tools to reduce debt, save money and improve their lives. The most common reason a tenant gets evicted is due to not paying rent. Eviction is a last resort when people are behind on rent. The solution to that problem isn't slamming landlords, but rather help people correct their financial situation. There is a simple explanation why this article was written. Like it or not articles like this generate clicks. I suspect 90% of the click through came from BiggerPockets, so the community he attacked is driving most the traffic. That was 100% his intention, so from that standpoint, we all played into the authors hand. I am proud to be a landlord and proud to be a moderator on BiggerPockets. This was a good blog post by Scott Trench and great work on the BiggerPockets Money podcast.
    Jeffrey Bower
    Replied about 1 year ago
    "Since they are taking huge risks and trying their best to provide a quality service at a good price so that they can build wealth, they have a responsibility to operate ethically and sustainably." I agree with you. There are a few bad apples, but for the most part, it's a business that serves a customer—and owners want to make them happy while minding their profits.
    Jim K. Handyman from Pittsburgh, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I have been a landlord for seven years and have been fixing houses for thirteen. My wife and I are in business together and we are hardly corporate landlords living high on the hog. My wife and I limit our household expenses to under $35K per year. Our eventual goal is to retire to face our declining years without the terror that most today look at skyrocketing medical bills and home care with. We hope, after we're gone, to endow a worthy charity that has long struggled without a solid funding base. I was quoted in the Vice article and absolutely no effort was made to contact me about it. Bigger Pockets and its users have worked together to teach me how to be a better, wiser, small-scale landlord providing more value to my tenants than someone working in landlording unsupported by this community. I hope I will be able to give back to this community and other landlords for many years to come.
    Scott Trench President of BiggerPockets from Denver, CO
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thank you for the comments! Monique - I am sorry to see that you did not enjoy your time on BiggerPockets, and I'm sorry to see that you closed the account. Best of luck and we welcome you back if you decide to rejoin in the future. Jason - thank you for the inspiring story and support! You rock, and I have no doubt you can continue to apply that to a great financial and life outcome for you and your family! Alex - thank you for the support! Joe - what can I say? You have been a true contributor and have embodied the values of BP for many years. Thanks for all you do and we are lucky to have you! Jeffrey - thanks for the comment and agree 100%. Jim - As discussed in the forums, you have been an invaluable resource and selfless giver to the community for years. We appreciate everything you have to offer and hope that you continue being you. We are always grateful for you and I personally have learned and laughed tremendously from what you share.
    Pili Yarusi Rental Property Investor from Westfield, NJ
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Bigger Pockets has been with my husband and I through every step of our real estate journey. This community has provided guidance, education and support. The podcasts, forums and tools have assisted our journey from completely new and beginner investor to the seasoned professionals we are today. And we CONTINUE TO LEARN. CONTINUE TO GROW. There is always more to learn and this community delivers rich content regularly and consistently. It grows with it’s older members while guiding the “newbies” into taking action that is educated. Bigger Pockets doesn’t promise real estate investors millions but for any investor looking to really get ahead in this arena... BIgger Pockets is a resource too amazing NOT to be apart of. Thank you to Scott Trench and the creators, employees and members for all your help through the years. I have made some life long friendships and professional relationships because of The Bigger Pockets Community. With Gratitude, Pilialoha Yarusi
    Lauren Do Specialist
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I started getting into Bigger Pockets in Nov 2018. But, I personally had to take a break from reading the Bigger Pocket forums because I found there were too many people acting unethically, treating tenants like they were dirt under their shoes. There are people on the forum who encourage that behaviour and there were fewer voices speaking up for what is right. Bigger Pockets is a wealth of knowledge and the staff and 'upper levels' are amazing. I agree that the comments are cherry picked, but I bet they didn't have to look for too long to find those comments. I don't hold Bigger Pockets accountable for posts made by anyone on a public forum, but my personal experience with unethical behaviour on the forums did affect how I interact with Bigger Pockets. There is a loud part of the Bigger Pockets forum community who feel that "ethics don't belong in business" and I don't have any time for those kinds of people. I now avoid the forum, particularly any comments regarding tenants, and stick to the 'success stories' and the official media produced (which is amazing. I love you Mindy!!)
    Terry Lowe
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I hope those “unethical” landlords keep reading Bigger Pockets and begin to see that they can become “ethical” landlords and make the same or more money. We are all on a learning curve, and what I see on BP is a very dedicated group of people who truly want to help each other, even their competitors. Not many businesses are so willing to help the next person. BP is mostly a very positive, helpful group who wants the best for this industry.
    Laurie Franks
    Replied about 1 year ago
    As a current renter who plans on owning a home again and then turning it into a rental, I truly appreciate most of the articles I've read on BiggerPockets. I really appreciate all the free knowledge and education sharing as well as the inclusiveness offered to all. I am starting to speak up now when I read here about strategies that I think are unethical and manipulative. Overall, I've learned very important information here that will help me as I transition from a renter to a landlord, and I'll also use my experience of being a tenant to inform my approach to being an ethical landlord.
    Dave Rav from Summerville, SC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Scott, Thank you so VERY much for representing us well. I especially like your open approach to inviting Vice to contact you. Tell them to contact me too. Their write-up definitely appears to be an attempt to stir up controversy and has a bias. My hope is they listen to your article, or better yet, another larger outlet publishes your response.
    Darrell Bratton Rental Property Investor from Bowie, MD
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I am a working professional who is building my retirement income. I invested in real estate before knowing about Bigger Pockets and I self managed my one property. I did not know what I was doing and property was being run into the ground. Since joining BP, I have hired a property manager and started putting money into my rental. I have learned so much since joining BP and if I keep following the great people that I have met, I will be ready to retire in seven years at the age of 65. Lastly, I was homeless in my past and I now I am a homeowner.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I am going to bookmark this post and link to it every time somebody mocks or criticizes me for promoting the Golden Rule, especially in our dealings with our tenants, particularly since the power differential in the relationship is greatly in the landlord's favor. I did not see the Vice article, so a link would be nice.