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.
- Set the tone upfront. Be professional, polite and respectful towards your potential tenants.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?