Finding Balance as a Landlord
Landlords often have a "bad guy" stigma. In most cases, landlords haven't earned this reputation but acquire it because they set the rules for tenants to follow. Many of them want to be nice to their renters but worry that opportunistic tenants might take advantage of that niceness.
Reserve “Niceness” for Loyal Tenants
The place not to be too nice is in the application process. Don’t forgo your usual screening process or make exceptions when an applicant doesn’t meet the requirements. This sets the tone for the entire relationship, and the applicant will expect you to continue to make exceptions.
You don’t owe the applicant anything except fairness in the approval process. You will often see this expectation of leniency when the applicant knows the landlord or is a friend or relative of the landlord. It’s important to keep your business separate from your personal life and not start out bending the rules, even if you were the one to make them.
In the same way, you don’t need to give in to new tenants’ requests that don’t align with your rules and procedures. While landlords may be perceived as the bad guys, it’s actually the tenants who determine their landlord's behavior. You should reserve moments of niceness — postponing a rent payment or making exceptions — for long-term residents. It’s a way to express appreciation for their loyalty, a thank-you for being good tenants.
If someone comes to you because they’re going to be a day or two late on their rent, you have to make the decision whether you will accept it or enforce the rules. In many cases, it’s better to agree to the late rent payment, especially if it’s a first-time request. Good tenants will remember your understanding when it comes time to renew their lease. After all, unplanned emergencies happen to everyone at one time or another.
Consider the Big Picture
If you’re a landlord with just a few single-family dwellings, it’s going to be a lot easier to make exceptions than if you own an apartment building or other multi-family housing. Word of mouth can carry news quickly, and all tenants will expect the same treatment.
For example, tenants may come to you and ask if they can make changes to the apartment. Perhaps they want to paint the walls or install a personalized lighting fixture. Before you respond, consider the ramifications. Are they likely to return the unit to its original shape or will their security deposit cover the amount to do so? Are other tenants in the building likely to ask for similar allowances? Use the answers to these questions to make your final decision. A small concession like allowing tenants to paint the walls can be worth it if it makes your renters happy. They will see you as the nice landlord when all of their friends are complaining about theirs.
Just remember that any decision you make about being nice has consequences beyond the current situation. For common requests, such as late rent payments, know ahead of time what you will say. When it comes to unique requests, such as painting the walls of the apartment or making other changes, don’t be pressured into giving an answer right away. Take the time to think about it and give an answer that works for you and your tenant.
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