How to be a Firm But Fair Landlord

How to be a Firm But Fair Landlord
How to be a Firm But Fair Landlord

As a landlord, you’re very misunderstood. Just having the label “landlord” attached to your name instantly makes people feel differently about you. Somewhere along the way, our culture has developed a distaste for landlords. A few bad apples have soured an entire industry’s reputation. 

Unfortunately, this works against you. If you’re too hard or overbearing, you come across as being greedy and unethical. But if you’re too much of a pushover, you lose money in this business. The key is to fall somewhere in the middle – a firm but fair person who treats people ethically but won’t be easily manipulated.

6 Tips for Standing Your Ground as a Landlord

If you aren’t careful, tenants will try to bully you. They’ll claim you’re a heartless cash-grabber just for trying to collect a rent check. Or they’ll come up with excuses for why they can’t pay/move out and prey on your niceness. Whatever the case may be, it’s imperative that you avoid scenarios like these. You must learn how to stand your ground.

Here are some easy ways to avoid being a pushover:

  • Write a Clear Lease Agreement

In order to be a firm and fair landlord, you have to write clear lease agreements that spell out every detail of the lease. This includes rules regarding occupancy, deadlines, amounts, fees, increases, etc. You’ll even want to cover situational factors like what happens if a rent check is lost in the mail. Small things like this can really protect you in a situation where a tenant tries to manipulate the situation. One important aspect to consider is the method of payment for rent. Should tenants be allowed to pay rent with a credit card? On the positive side, allowing credit card payments can make it more convenient for tenants and could result in more timely payments. It’s crucial to make your stance on credit card payments clear in the lease agreement.

  • Establish Expectations With Tenants

In addition to drafting a clear lease agreement, schedule a time to sit down with the tenant prior to move in and set clear expectations with them.

There’s something about having a face-to-face conversation with someone where you’re able to look each other in the eyes and talk without emotion that builds trust and prevents future issues. Review the most important items in the lease and give them an opportunity to ask any questions.

This conversation is also the perfect time to lay down the expectations they should have for you. Let them know that they have every right to call you out if you violate a term of the lease. However, you should also make it clear that you expect them to hold up their end of the bargain. If they don’t, you won’t hesitate to implement consequences. You might even want to shake on this – just for symbolic purposes.

  • Hire a Property Manager

If you’re working a full-time job in addition to being a landlord, you won’t always have time to handle every little issue that occurs on a daily basis. This is where it’s helpful to hire a property manager.

In addition to increasing oversight over your properties and tenants, a property manager provides a layer of insulation between you and your renters. If you’re someone who can easily become absorbed in personal stories and is prone to falling for sob stories about lost rent checks, a property manager acts as a safeguard. They can be the “bad guy” who chases down rent checks. 

  • Enforce Rules From Day One

Don’t let anything slide. If you fail to penalize a tenant for paying rent late one month, you basically give them the freedom to do it again. Even if a tenant has paid on time for 11 months in a row, you have to enforce the penalty if they pay late on the 12th month. Otherwise, you set yourself up to be taken advantage of.

  • Reward Good Behavior

It’s not just about slapping tenants on the wrist. Being a fair and firm landlord also requires you to acknowledge when people are living up to their end of the bargain. This is why we recommend rewarding good behavior. For example, consider giving a discount to tenants who pay early or on time.

  • Pursue Eviction When Necessary

People on the outside looking in think that landlords are just itching to evict tenants. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Evicting a tenant is a painful and expensive process. It’s extremely uncomfortable and requires you to jump through a ton of hoops to get the legal process rolling. But sometimes it’s necessary. 

If you’ve exhausted all other options, you have to pursue eviction. Your other tenants see what’s happening. The good ones may actually lose respect for you if you don’t. You’re the landlord, and you have to prove it. Otherwise, a single bad tenant could create problems with the rest of your tenants. (And in a smaller market, you could make a name for yourself as a landlord who doesn’t evict.)

Look Out for Yourself

At the end of the day, you have to look out for yourself. Other people will try to claim you’re being greedy or overzealous by tracking down rent payments and/or evicting people who don’t abide by the terms of your lease, but you have a business to run. Once the rules are set in place, you have every right to uphold them. Look out for yourself – nobody else will!