Relationships 101: Tenants and Landlords
On Facebook, a friend of mine has become sad-faced because his family just moved into a large property and he hoped to get a cut-rate rent by doing some maintenance himself. And why not? He’s an agricultural worker, so the yard is his kingdom.
Sadly, sad-faced friend stays sad because his landlords got burned by their last tenants, who not only didn’t do fundamental basics of home maintenance, but who blew the “reduced rent” deal for work too.
Like most people rejected, he’s taking it personally, but it’s not about him. It’s about the irresponsible jerk-faces that preceded him. Every renter needs to remember that the reality is, we’re entering a new relationship and trust needs to be earned.
As a renter, your ethos should be: Do no harm. Sure, it’s your home, but it also belongs to everyone coming after you. If you’re a lousy tenant, we all pay.
Renting is like dating
Imagine you’ve just ended a relationship with someone who borrowed money constantly, always repaid you late (if at all), treated your property with disdain, and told you lies.
If you begin dating someone else, don’t you think you’d be reluctant to trust them for a while? Wouldn’t you be doubly as defensive as you are normally, especially if they asked for a “favor” same as last one burned you on?
Well, that’s exactly why some landlords become hard-asses. Too many renters are irresponsible, disrespectful, and woefully untimely on rent. Even if it’s just, say, 30% of the people out there, that’d translate to a third the people you date being untrustworthy. That’s a high number to tolerate, isn’t it?
Renters are often like children
One time, we were playing “tag” in the house, just like Mom said not to do. BAM! Table is whacked, a vase tumbles to the ground, glass shatters and flies.
Bro and I froze. He told me to get the broom. “We can clean it up before Mom gets home!” As if this huge 16” vase would go unnoticed. Of course, Big Brother knew everything, so I followed his lead.
Next day, Mom looks in the garbage can — “STEFFANI! SHAWN!” Busted. Grounded. Oh… so dead.
What does this have to do with renting?
For every awesome tenant out there, there’s another bonehead that puts a hole in a door, cracks a window, stains a floor, damages the patio, and so on, and never, ever tells the landlord. Like no one will ever notice. “But that’s what damage deposit is for.”
Seriously, some thing damage deposit is for that reason: So they don’t have to tell anyone. The landlord can just suck it up at the end. Even with things like carpet damage, timeliness can count! If you tell them when it happens, they may have additional carpet, for instance, that matches what you have, making repairs easier and cheaper on both sides. But if you wait until you leave in a year or so, it may require total replacement, more costs, and bad feelings on both sides.
It’s how good landlords become hard-hearted and distrusting.
How to be a better renter
The good renter calls the landlord when things are broken, especially when it’s just wear-and-tear. If it’s a small stain on the carpet that’s gonna be an end-of-tenancy issue, well, there may be more carpet stains to come so there’s no point rocking that boat yet. Besides, you should be getting it cleaned twice yearly anyhow, and a pro might get it out.
Any kind of maintenance issues — like bugs, little plumbing hiccups that aren’t huge problems yet, electrical issues that worry you — are things you should put in writing and send to the landlord right away. Mine will deal with all these issues the next day, since ignoring them can get expensive too.
Doing immediate reporting of issues isn’t just prudent for getting repairs done, it also helps protect you. One, you establish a record of being proactive. But two, you also create a log reflecting what’s gone on and when. Some wear-and-tear issues noted and recorded in a timely manner might protect your damage deposit, too.
If, for instance, you start noticing bugs or something, that’s what you want to report immediately. You would hope it’s just a fluke with a weather pattern change or something, but maybe it’s the start of an infestation. If you get it early enough, natural bug remedies might do the work for you. Wait too long, you may have to do a total-home fumigation.
Installations and service providers
If some work was done by a service provider — like installing a kitchen counter — and you notice it’s not done right, or the caulking’s poor and lifting within a few short months, then you should tell the landlord. After all, it’s not only disappointing to live with, but there might be an installation warranty that’ll get it repaired right. If landlords shrug it off, it might tell you the attitude to expect from the landlord long-term.
Things like electrical issues, poor caulking, and other “minor” items can become major issues that can cause house fires, extensive mold, or other life-affecting problems. Be proactive. Many landlords are good and will take care of things soon, if not right away. Just give them the chance to prove it.
It’s a two-way street
With the age of email, it’s really easy to let most landlords and rental companies know what’s going on. Recently, a tenant of my building was attacked by a homeless man sleeping in bushes next to our property, where it’s a park.
I emailed our managers and suddenly, within three days, the city had come out and cut all the hip-high grass, pruned back all the bushes, and no one could “hide” anymore. Now I know just how responsive our management is, and they know I only come to them with matters of significance. Winning on both counts.
Communication is the secret of every happy relationship, especially between landlords and renters. By doing your side of it, the chances of a long, happy life in your new apartment increase exponentially.
And remember — like all relationships, it takes time to really build trust and understanding between you. Over time, things may improve or devolve, and that’s the way it goes. Hopefully, if you your part, it’ll be healthy and mutually beneficial for a long time to come.