For the last 7 years we have been diligently making our rounds through many residential properties helping landlords find tenants, repair appliances, respond to emergencies, and manage all kinds of crises.
We are finding that in 80% of our calls there exists a climate of chilling nervousness, mistrust, and low-key despise between landlords and tenants. This climate, in our opinion, needs to change, and it starts with the landlord.
Many single-family residential home landlords are investors, who do not fully understand the legal, financial, and simply-human responsibilities that come with being a landlord and managing a property. They perceive being a landlord through the following statements:
“I expect the tenant to be, and act like, me, because the way I am, and the way I act, makes complete sense”.
“As long as the tenant pays, nothing else matters.”
“The tenant should take some responsibility as if he/she owns the home. I should not be bothered by every little thing”.
“Oh, the tenant called again? I’ll deal with them later…maybe the issue will go away”
“The tenants like to complain a lot”
“It’s OK that the tenant missed a payment this month, we’ll give them another chance to catch up later, not a big deal”.
“If the tenant gets injured, it’s on him, he should have known better.”
These and other statements are examples of inadequate Landlordship. Many landlords do not see themselves as Property Managers. Property Management and Landlordship are one and the same. Landlords who choose to manage their property themselves and save a few bucks on the services of qualified Property Managers often find themselves in a confusing world of Canadian legal mumbo-jumbo which many perceive as pitted in favour of tenants.
Many landlords lack the necessary communication skills needed to effectively manage tenants (and also contractors, neighbours, and authorities) and avoid engaging directly and openly with their tenants. By doing this, they allow for issues to accumulate and expand, until a big explosion – such as missed rent payments, accidents and injuries, and other misfortunes befall the property – putting the entire investment at risk.
It is important for landlords to understand that tenants are paying clients, and they need to be treated as such. They are paying a monthly fee not only for a roof over their head but for a whole host of services and property upkeep that landlords need to be cognizant of. Not receiving these services gives tenants ground to file complaints with the Landlord and Tenant Board.
As clients, tenants should also learn (from their landlord) to expect annual increases to the rate they pay for the delivery of these services (i.e. the monthly rental amount).
Conscientious landlords understand that they are running a business, and therefore should adapt their relationship strategy to reflect a business approach, in the following ways:
Landlords should treat their clients well, and get them to want to stay in their premises and should offer small tokens of appreciation from time to time, like Christmas cards, or a bottle of wine for a special occasion.
Landlords need to stay on top of rent payments, and not accept any delays, partial payments, and other reasons. Landlords must immediately follow the established process in their respective province to collect rent via the justice system. The process is long, and there is zero time to spare.
Landlords must monitor and authorize all activities that tenants engage in – tenants should not be allowed to perform any maintenance work on the premises – if they wish for any work to be done, they should request the landlord to call on professional, licensed, and insured contractors to do work – letting tenants do it themselves exposes the landlord to liability should a tenant injure him/herself, or damage the property.
Landlords must be available for the tenant within a reasonable time to address ALL issues. Tenants need to both feel, and be, attended to as paying clients. Most issues can be resolved over the phone or email in a way of giving direction or answering questions, but periodic site visits are a must, even if it is just for “client relations” purposes.
This is the relationship dynamic that exists in high-end commercial leasing, and in our opinion, should exist in single-family residential rental properties.