Is honesty really the best policy?

32 Replies

Hey ya'll I am looking to get my first property and will be house hacking it. My question is whether I should let the tenants know that I am the owner of the property or tell them I'm just a manager.... I've heard nightmare stories about giving them your phone number and letting them know your the owner, but at the same time I don't believe a relationship built on lies will be a good one. What do ya'll think? Have you had any experience with this or what would you suggest? Thanks for taking the time to read this any and all comments are greatly appreciated because I really have been struggling with this.

First, they would be able to find out that you are the owner anyways if they decided to look at the public records (don't know why they would).  Seems like you would be creating an awkward situation if you actively lie to them.

Second, I don't know if it will save you any headache to simply say that you are the manager living next to them.  They will still be coming to you for everything that needs to be done (probably even changing a light bulb since you are right next door).

I think house hacking is a great way to get into investing, but you are going to have the headaches of living next to your tenants.  I would personally be honest with them if it ever comes up.  I wouldn't necessarily volunteer that I am the owner, but if they asked I wouldn't lie about it.

If you are managing it yourself, they will probably figure it out pretty quick especially if it is a small number of units.  You could also be non specific, if they have issues that you need to fix tell them to notify you, let them decide if you are the manager or the owner, chances are they will assume you are the manager if you only handle maintenance requests and weren't involved in vetting them when they moved in.

You're living with them so why would they need to call you to bug you about problems, you're literally on site? Keep it professional and introduce yourself as the landlord, because that's what you are. You're not responsible for fixing every little thing, you're responsible for providing a habitable place and getting things fixed as needed to maintain that.

Helpful hint, charge extra per mo and get a weekly or at least biweekly maid to keep up the common spaces. This will remove a lot of headache and reduce the risk of stupid fights....

Eventually they will probably find out, so no point in lying about it. I think the biggest thing to make clear is that yes, you are the owner, but that doesn't mean they can bug you for every last little thing just because you are on site all the time. Respect their privacy and don't be micromanaging them, and expect the courtesy in return

@Brian Schmelzlen thank you for the advice Brian I really like the idea of not telling them right off the bat but being honest if they do ask. Thanks!

@Aaron Klatt Thank you for the comment Aaron I appreciate it! Letting them decide is definitely better for me so thanks for the idea!

@Matt K. Thank you for comment Matt! I've never thought of the biweekly maid and I really like that idea so thank you for the advice!

@Ned J. Thanks for the comment Ned! Living by the golden rule is usually always the way to go!

if they ask I say I am part of the owner's group ( my wife is the other part). that way I can step back and think a request over by saying I'll need to talk to the group and get back to them.

For what it is worth, I started out with house hacking and now own three additional properties.  6 doors total.  I've always been honest with my tenants that I own the properties.  Especially for my personal duplex since, if a tenant wanted to, they could find out in 30 seconds at the city assessor's website that I own the property.

It's never been a problem for me.  I've even had a couple horrible tenants, but I don't think they gave me a better/worse time than if I had been a PM.

I've never had someone call me or even send me a text message past 7PM.  And, even if they did, I wouldn't answer because I don't keep my phone in the same room that I sleep in.  No one has ever blown up my phone either.  But I do always answer questions/problems/requests in a timely manner.

I would let them know that you are the owner/property manager but establish clear boundaries with them.  Let them know that you are available M-F 8:30-5 or whatever for any routine maintenance requests.  Any calls outside those hours should only be in emergency situations.  Make sure you clearly describe to them what an constitutes an emergency and that they will be charged a fee if it is not truly an emergency.  You could set up a google voice number as well so they do not have your personal phone number.

Treat it as a business.

@Geoffrey Schnake Thank you for the comment I really like that idea! It gives me a way to deliver news without seeming like the bad guy all the time!

@Jennifer T. thank you for the advice Jenn! You really helped put me at ease because midnight phone calls is one of the things that really scares me.

@Austin Mountain Thanks for the advice Austin! I like the idea of giving them business hours to call that way I don't have to worry about calls nearly as much.

@Michael Guzik

I always say the truth is easier to remember. Eventually they will find out and it will make you look bad. As others have said, you don't need to volunteer anything, but if someone asks you, don't lie.

You can be the manager and the owner and not lie.  If you are managing the property, you are the manager.  If you are doing repairs you are the contractor.  It doesn't mean you are not the owner.  You don't have to offer up the information if you don't want but I personally just find telling a lie a very hard thing to do and it goes against my character.  There is usually a very honest and clean way to solve issues.

In my opinion (opinions being of little value) and with my experience I have learned that a investors that do not have the stones to weather tenants knowing they are the owner do not have the personal skills or fortitude to be a successful landlord/investor.

I never lie to my tenants about being the owner. Landlords manage tenants, tenants do not manage their landlord. When you understand you have that power and responsibility you use it. If you can not you should not be in this business.

Cowards inherently lack the ability to manage people.

If you are living there, then I think it is fine to say you're the owner. On my properties, I tell them I am the manager. I have never had questions and it works out well when there are issues and I can defer to the "owner." 

@Thomas S. It reminds me of the quote from Spider man "with great power comes great responsibility!" I agree with you though that does seem like a way out of not having to deal with issues so thank you for that input!

@Todd Dexheimer I like that idea and it seems that others have the same opinion so that seems like the best route for me.

Honesty and humility are the best answers. Being honest is only half the equation; there are a lot of huge egos in real estate world. you have to be humble and open. If you lie to people; even if its by omission nobody will work with you. Plus if you know your landlord shares a wall you are less likely to throw a raging party.  

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