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It’s possible to be too nice to your tenants. If you’re guilty of that, you can find yourself in a situation with a lot of stress – and you could even end up in legal trouble. There’s no reason to be a mean just because you’re a landlord, but you definitely want to remember that business is business. People’s stories about how they can’t pay rent because something horrible has happened to them are not your problem. That may sound harsh, but being a landlord is running a business. If renters don’t pay, you don’t get paid, either.

nice floral arrangementIf you have a mortgage on the building you’re renting out – and many landlords do – you may not be able to easily make your payments unless your renters provide you with the monthly income you’re expecting. There should be some “wiggle room” in your budget for vacant units, but it’s very important that you collect the proper amount of rent each and every month from tenants who have agreed to pay you. If you’re too nice and let things slide, even one time, the tenant will know that they can continue to get away with things. That can lead to months of unpaid rent, damage to the unit, and other problems that you just don’t want to have to deal with.

You can also end up with a legal problem if you bend the rules of the lease agreement for one tenant but won’t do it for another tenant. That’s discriminatory, and could lead to a tenant taking you to court. While that probably won’t happen, there’s no reason to risk it. Stick to the way the lease is written for each and every tenant. If you do choose to make an exception for a tenant who can truly prove a legitimate problem, make sure you make the same exception for other tenants – and keep good records of all of it! By having good records and applying any leeway fairly to all tenants, you reduce the risk of being accused of discrimination, unfair business practices, and other issues that tenants may try to claim.

There’s a big difference between sticking to business and not being nice, and you can be polite with tenants even when denying their request. The more polite you are, the better, but remember that you’re not getting paid to be nice. Letting tenants walk all over you because you don’t want to be unkind just sets you up for more problems down the line. Then when you decide it’s time to stop being so nice because you’re being taken advantage of, you’ll meet with a lot of resistance from tenants who were used to getting their way.

That can mean more trouble than you would have had from denying their requests in the first place, and make an already difficult situation much worse. Don’t take the chance. Be firm but fair with every tenant and stay consistent, so you can avoid the problems that come with being too nice of a landlord.

  • Milton Trachtenburg

    Being “nice” sometimes will mean offering a tenant a short extension on the rent because that month, he or she had extraordinary expenses. By saying “I will work with you” doesn’t mean non-payment, but if a long-term renter after paying on time for 20 + months, calls to tell you that he had an unusual expense and will be a week late with the rent, you are wise to offer to remove the late fee and go along with the request. It buys you loyalty. I have a tenant who did that twice in seven years and she is still with me. I have had far less expense by not having to paint as often, not having to find new tenants and the fifty dollars I sacrificed with forgiven late fees has earned me thousands of dollars I didn’t have to spend in return. It is called losing a penny to gain a dollar. I also have a math theory I like to share with newbees to the landlord business. I can prove that $950 a month rent is more than $1000. They look at me like I’m crazy. I own units in a condo building and charge that $50 less a month than many of the landlords who own units. I have never had a vacancy of even one unpaid day in the 8 years I have owned units. The ones who charge that little bit more often go 2 – 3 months finding a new tenant. I get $600 a year less than they do — on paper, but I am full all the time and they often operate on an average of 10 months occupancy/year. Add it up. 10 times $1000 is $10,000. Twelve times $950 is … You do the math! I was in the furniture business. There, we called it “price points.” Even though the real difference is small, psychologically, that extra zero at the end of the number makes it sound like it is double the rent!

  • Janis

    This is SO true landlords! I was too nice to my tenants and ALL of them eventually walked all over me, were nasty to me, demanding and backbiting. Dont be mean but dont make friends with any of your tenants, its all business.

  • Geo Christopher

    How are you dealing with Service Animals after a tenant has moved in and now wants a dog?

  • Janis

    You are so right!!! I was too nice of a landlord and they took complete advantage of me. Years before I was a businesswoman to my tenants and things went relatively smoothly but I sold my building and retired because of all the stress and my health.

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