I LIKE MY TENANTS! How do I help a former tenant?

5 Replies

I have been a landlord for 13 years and I have always had the rule "I will only rent to people that I like and I will only manage units with people that I like" if a unit attracts people that I do not like I either sell the building or put it under property management and if I decide I do not like a tenant they are either evicted or they go to a property management company.

This strategy has worked well for me...  1st I love what I do!  2nd If I get a call at 11pm on Christmas Eve that the toilet is overflowing in an upstairs unit I am much more likely to smile on my way to the property if I like the person Im about to help.  3rd good relationships with tenants PAY!  This is a photo of my groomsmen a little over 4 years ago (Im the bald guy in the middle)

3 of the 10 groomsmen were at one time tenants.  My co-beatman rented from me from 2004-2005...  After a water heater situation that he helped me fix we went out for wings (he paid) a month later we took a roadtrip, then he invited me to his wedding now our families vacation together about once every other year,  he and his wife are shopping for an upper end home and they are using me as their realtor, his sister is also looking at upper end homes and is also using me as her realtor...  I am currently helping one of my tenants move from a $450 a month unit into a $170,000 house which means a good commission check after 4 years of on-time rent checks..

Anyway, I could go on and on about past tenants that I liked (I could tell you some awesome eviction stories as well but that can wait).  Let me get to the point.  I have a former tenant who is looking for a place to rent and I have no vacancies.  She asked to use me as a landlord reference and she had two units she really wanted but I never got a reference call so I wrote up this letter of recommendation.

"Anita Egner lived in one of my duplexes for 2 years. She always paid rent on time, I do not recall any unnecessary maintenance issues during her stay, I never received any complaints from her upstairs neighbor about Anita nor did Anita complain about the upstairs neighbor. When the end of her lease came she informed me 30 days before vacating the property (exactly as outlined in the lease) and left the unit in good condition. I was sorry to see her leave the unit however it was a very small two bedroom apartment and I understood her reason for leaving.

I hold deposits for 45 days to make sure as I transition from one tenant to the next that the unit is truly in good condition and to ensure there are no outstanding water bills with Columbia City Utilities. Anita did not leave any outstanding utility bills however right at the 45th day after her departure from the unit the next tenant had a plumbing issue. I informed Anita that I was going to hold the deposit until I could have a plumber diagnose the problem. At the time I know this news was difficult for Anita as it was several hundred dollars that she expected to receive back but she was gracious and understanding. It took a few days to get a plumber to the property and it was discovered that there was an issue with the design of the main sewer line and the backup was in no way the fault of Anita.

I was happy to return the entire deposit and the fact that Anita did not argue with the inconvenience says a lot about her character. I have been a landlord for 13 years and have had hundreds of tenants during this time. I can honestly say that Anita is in my top 10 best tenant list. I would recommend Anita to any prospective landlord and if I ever have a unit available that meets her needs I would be happy to rent to her again.

If you have any further questions about Anita feel free to contact me on my cell phone (XXX)XXX-XXXX

Nicholas Miller"

Every Word of this letter is true BUT will it help my former tenant?  Would this help a prospect in your eyes or would this draw red flags for you as a landlord/property manager?  Thoughts, critique?

It's pretty unusual.  I always completely discount landlord reviews if the tenant is currently with them as most landlords will say anything to get rid of a rotten tenant.  If everything else lined up with her, your letter would make the difference for most.  Only problem is the "what-if" she later becomes a loser and still uses the letter as a recommendation.  Not likely to happen but it's a possibility.  Really kind of you to do this and it shows how much you care for your renters.  Some will kick you in the shins for it but....even landlording....is all about the relationships you foster & nurture.  More than half of our renters are referred to us by other renters!

To mitigate 'future loser' risk, put some dates in the letter.  All you are saying is she was awesome from 2008 to 2010, if she uses it in 2020, it may not mean much.

Originally posted by @David C. :

To mitigate 'future loser' risk, put some dates in the letter.  All you are saying is she was awesome from 2008 to 2010, if she uses it in 2020, it may not mean much.

 Would I assume any financial liability with this letter?  Tort?  

Not a lawyer!  I was only thinking 'reputation risk'.

As 'not a lawyer' I don't see you predicting or guaranteeing anything, I'm not sure how reporting facts and opinions would expose you.  However, as 'not a lawyer' I'm not qualified to have an opinion!

@Nicholas Miller  We too will write a letter of recommendation for a tenant upon request. I see nothing wrong with your letter, other than it doesn't state tenancy start and end dates. Easily remedied by slipping in the dates after "2 years" (date - date). It could be beneficial to your former tenant in two ways.  It reinforces her positive behavior (quite a pat on the back for her) and may be helpful for the next landlord to see. It also says loads about your character too. This is an example of rewarding good people for being great tenants! And shows landlords helping landlords!

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