Selfish Reasons to be a Good Landlord

by Mr. Cheap

I recently enjoyed a post about a tenant referring her friends as potential new tenants on Single Guy and Money.  It might just be a specialized case of what I’ve wrote about before as “statistical karma” but I’ve found that being a good landlord to your tenants is a good way to help YOURSELF out.

My current (and first) tenants in my condo just extended their lease for a second time.  After we had updated the lease and when I was leaving, they told me that a friend wanted to move into the building, but they’d warned her that I just owned their unit, other landlords in the building might not be the same as me.  They told me I was “the nicest landlord they’d ever had”.

Everyone likes being told they’re a good boy (except girls maybe), but my motivations for treating my tenants well are very self-serving.  I view my condo as a business, and they’re my customers.  They’ve been good customers for the last two years (never bounced a check or paid late, have maintained the unit well, and haven’t bothered me with frivolous problems), and I want to keep them.

I didn’t raise their rent again, and I think John T. Reed would chastise me for not doing so (he advocates always raising rents to market rate).  My reasons included not being sure that the Toronto rental market could sustain a higher rate (I didn’t want to drive them out, then end up with new tenants paying the same rate) and not wanting to go through the aggravation and expense of finding a new tenant (and having to travel to Toronto to do so).  With the recent real estate turmoil, I wasn’t sure what the rental market looked like (Thicken My Wallet had an interesting post on this topic recently) and decided it was better to keep the tenants I had then risk finding new ones.

I don’t think they’re staying because of the lack of a rent increase, instead the examples they cited as bad behaviour on the part of their previous landlords were all long delays in making repairs. They told me at one place they had a closet door that wouldn’t open and close properly, and although they lived there 8 months and the landlord lived UPSTAIRS, he never fixed it.

At the current place I’m staying our landlord took 2.5 months to replace a broken dryer (I was smelling pretty ripe by the time the new one was installed).  The $375 dryer she bought isn’t any cheaper this month than it would have been in December.  All she accomplished was saving a TINY bit of depreciation of the dryer and aggravating the women who live upstairs and myself.  We’re all debating whether to stay here at the end of our leases or not, and this is a BIG part of why we’re considering leaving.

To me promptly making repairs doesn’t cost any more than delaying, and it isn’t any more work to deal with it now instead of later.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why landlords don’t make prompt repairs as a free way to keep tenants happy.

The one concern a property owner MIGHT have is that the tenants are making a frivalous repair request and that if he honours it he’ll just get a whole bunch more.  This is fair, but if the repair request is a reasonable one (like a broken dryer), FIX IT! If its an unreasonable request (one of my buddies had a tenant complain to him that another tenant’s children wouldn’t play with her kids) explain that it’s unreasonable and tell them you won’t take responsibility for it (instead of just delaying and hoping they give up on the request).

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