Dad is FIRE

One dad's journey to Financial Independence Retiring Early

How to not be a bad landlord. How to be a better landlord.

Tenants tend to think every landlord is a bad landlord. Landlords deserve and earned this stereotype over the years. I wanted to be a better landlord. That was part of the plan. I see renting to people as a partnership. The tenant is agreeing to pay me money in exchange for a comfortable home for them to live in. That means something to me. Tenants are people.

Knowing what makes a landlord a better landlord took research. I had only had one landlord, it was when I was away at college. So I met with tenants. I asked them many questions. I actually came up with a survey. What did I learn?

Tenants want Privacy

Tenants don’t like landlords going through their stuff? Why would they? Would you? Why did landlords even do this?

Tenants want flexibility

Tenants have unexpected issues. I provided an understanding that I can be flexible with rent being a few days late. Not much flexibility, but some flexibility. The understanding was as long as a tenant told me in advance that they would be late, I would waive the late fee. Tenants loved me for this. I received so many lease renewals and referrals over the years just because of this. Please understood that they are people. I didnt care if I received rent on a certain date, I just cared about receiving rent close to that date.

Tenants want things fixed, but not by their landlord

Tenants hate it when landlords don’t fix things right the first time. This seems obvious, but landlords tend to be old men that try to fix things themselves to save a dollar. I wanted no part of that. Why would a tenant want a landlord to come in their house to fix a faucet 3 times? Fix it once. Why would a landlord want to constantly be on call to fix things? I don’t want to go fix a faucet three times. I don’t have time for that.

Plus it’s a bad business model. Landlords that think they are handyman don’t understand their own value. They should spend their time landlording. That is their niche. It costs more to nickel and dime then it does to be a better landlord and gain the loyalty that follows.

Tenants don’t need everything fixed now

Tenants just want to know that if they tell the landlord something broke that the landlord is trying to address it. Who doesn’t want to be heard. It’s important to provide good customer service. I’ve had so many emergencies over the years that became less of an issue just because I listened to the tenant, and then scheduled someone to fix it.

Tenants are ok with scheduling people to fix problems

Why landlords feel the need to play phone tag with people I do not understand. I deferred the scheduling to tenants. I would give them my contact for the problem and have them call the company. (The companies I work with knew my policy and to call me if issues were more than $200ish) This put the tenant in control of when problems that they were complaining about arew fixed. I was no longer the bad guy. The ball was in their court on scheduling one of my contacts. This also fell into my quest for efficiency. Why do I need to be the middle man? If the AC breaks, I would tell them who to call. Simple. If things weren’t getting fixed that they wanted fixed it wasn’t because of the landlord. It was because they didn’t call.

Tenants want communication

Every communication started with a text. Why would the tenant want to play phone tag with me when they want something fixed? Why would I want to play phone tag with a tenant?

OK, this one is selectively true. Tenants want communication until they don’t. I provide flexibility, but when I didn’t is when a tenant stopped communicating. As soon as tenants no longer reply to texts, calls, emails, I start eviction process (if they were late). There really is no reason for me to reach out to a tenant unless they are late on rent or the city is telling me their grass is too high. Given that I am flexible there is no reason for a tenant not to talk to me and work it out.

Tenants are ok paying higher rent for a better landlord

Wait, what? Yes! Rental houses are a commodity. Houses look the same so rent is tied to the market rate of comparable rental houses. But, you can be the differentiation. Why get into price wars based off the market? I marketed myself as a better landlord and I charged higher rent for it! I would often charge a few hundred a month more (so 15%ish more) than nearly identical houses nearby. It was justifiable and marketable because the house was owned by a better landlord.

This is real. In my experience, in the area I was in, most people’s reason for moving was divorce, upgrading school distract (and these weren’t the best school districts), or because they didnt like their landlord. Think about that. Tenants move because of the person and not the house. Land lording is a people business, not a house business. Give tenants a home. Give them a voice. Have them feel like partners. Be a better landlord and you can make more money.

Bottom-line: don’t be a bad landlord

Treat tenants like they are people. It will greatly decrease the roller coaster of land-lording. It will also increase your referrals and your lease renewals. Nickle and diming is expensive. If you view your job as a landlord as providing customer service, then tenants will pay off your houses.

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