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?
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.
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!