The Kashman family has nearly reached the end of this drawn-out PCS saga, and I am reminded of a few lessons that I’ve learned about being a bad or good landlord, and also a bad or good tenant. Today, you get landlord thoughts; tomorrow, tenant.
At this duty station, we are renting a privately owned house directly from the landlord. This is only the second time we’ve done that, and it is a different dynamic than renting through a property manager. That said, here are my top five ways to be a good landlord:
1. Keep the house in good repair. It can be hard to know when things are not functioning properly when you aren’t living in the home. Make it easier for your tenants by encouraging them to call you when repairs need to be made. When they do call, have those repairs carried out quickly. This shows that you care about keeping the house nice, you care about your tenants being happy, and that you do want them to call when something is wrong.
2. On the flip side, don’t be overly uptight about details. Walls will get dirty, carpets will get worn, and floors will eventually need refinishing. If you are obsessed with the non-maintenance condition of the house, your tenants will be uptight and uncomfortable. Remember that the term “wear and tear” means exactly that: stuff will get worn, and maybe even torn. Be willing to cover wear and tear throughout the house’s time as a rental property. As a landlord, I prefer it if I have the opportunity to ask tenants if they would like certain things repaired or replaced. Some tenants might love moving into a house with new carpet, others might just see an accident waiting to happen.
3. Provide the tenants with as much information as possible about the house, the schools, and the area. A short list of the house’s quirks can be so helpful. It might save you some unnecessary repair bills, such as when the tenant thinks the bathroom fan is broken but really it is just the GFCI needs to be reset. Telling a new tenant about neighborhood sports teams or the secret way to walk to the library will help them feel at home and more satisfied with their rental.
4. Don’t talk negatively about the previous tenants, the neighbors, or anyone else. It makes the tenants uncomfortable, and makes them wonder what you say about them.
5. Remember this is a business transaction. Not everyone will view the features of your home in the same way that you do. If your house is great, it will speak for itself. It is okay to mention things that you particular enjoy, or special features, but don’t demand that prospective tenants appreciate them. It is completely possible that your pride and joy koi pond looks like nothing more than a safety hazard to the tenant, and they are renting the house in spite of it’s “special features.”
Obviously, there are many important legal and ethical considerations when being a landlord. This list is meant to supplement, not replace, the usual responsibilities and rights in a landlord-tenant relationship. The line between being a good landlord and a great landlord is often just the matter of a few things. Getting it wrong is easy, but getting it right can help retain old tenants, bring new tenants, and maintain a positive situation all around.