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Tip #66: I’m Not Myself!

by Barb Getty

Although I own and operate all my properties, none of my tenants know this.

landlord helpThey believe I’m the property manager.

This ploy protects me in many ways. When they want to paint the bathroom black (no way!), I tell them I’ll talk to the “owner” about it.

When they beg for a pit bull puppy (no way!), I talk to the “owner.”

During difficult evictions, it’s much easier (and safer) not being the owner.

Easier, also, when raising rents.

Barb Getty is a self-taught landlord who began with a single property and now owns and operates 29 units in downtown Indianapolis, including duplexes and single-family homes. Her second book, The Landlord Chronicles: Investing in Low and Middle Income Rentals, is available at

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    So, you’re using deception with your tenants to purposefully obfuscate the ownership and management duties.

    This beg the question: When you are sued and called to the stand to testify under oath as to what you’ve told your tenants, how do you justify lying to them initially about your intent to “talk to the owner”? A small white lie to you is a big lie to them and their lawyers. They’ll certainly work to make it look like the commission of fraud and, in every case, it will make you look like a jerk. It will not help your case and will certainly haunt you on Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Apartment Ratings, and other online complaint sites.

    Honesty is the best policy.

  • cb in austin

    Wow, you’re really stretching it, brassservices. I think it’s perfectly fine for Barb to introduce herself as the property manager and not disclose that she’s also the owner. The tenants don’t need to know who owns the property. If a tenant asks if she’s the owner, then yes she should admit that. And of course, if there’s any legal action, she would have to be the owner and property manager. As we say in the South, you don’t have to say everything you know.

    Barb can avoid a lot of the painting-dog kind of issues with a well written lease. “Sorry, the lease says no painting, no dogs.”

  • In a way, I understand where you are coming from in not wanting your residents you know that you are the sole decision maker and trying to save face with them.

    But I must agree with the other poster when I say its better to be honest.

    In your case it seems like you run a smaller operation to be owner managed, and maybe its best telling your residents just that. Let them know when your raise rent that its to cover the constantly rising cost to operate and maintain your property, and not somthing that you are doing per corporate orders. Or explain that black walls in a bathroom will devalue the property to prospective renters in the future and at best case pass on an unneeded cost to you be having to paint if for some reason they don’t re-paint.

    In my specific case with pit bulls, my insurance does not allow it, so its easy to pass on the rules they have in place for me. (Kinda like your blame the owner concept)

    Its always important to keep in mind that while you may have many tenants.. they only have one landlord.

  • Joseph

    Alright Barb !!!!! I do the same thing and it works. I have owned my properties for 6 years and have never been sued. The first two years I said I was the owner, boy what a mistake. The tenants want everthing under the sun and want it now if they know you are the owner. I change my game plan and said I was the property manager. That was the best thing I ever did. The tenent would ask for something and I would say let me discuss it with the owner, by doing this I am not the money hunger landlord and can still maintain a civil repore with my tenants. I am not lying to the tenant because I am a employee of the business that ownes the rental property (LLC). If you are a mom and pop rental property owner you are most likely not listed with the BBB, so don’t worry about being haunted. You can be both property manager and owner. If you want your tenants to know you as the property manager their is nothing illegal about it. Also by being the property manager it makes it easier to deal with vendors (plumbers, electricians, …) they won’t try to over bid a job, like they would if they knew you were the owner. You will not look like a jerk if you truely perform the duties of a propert manager. Barb, continue to act as the property manager it will save you from future headaches.

  • Deitra

    I ditto Joseph 100%. I’ve done the same thing for 8 years and the time you don’t, THAT’s when you become a target for the resident attempting to take advantage in some capacity. I AM the property manager, I do everything. Who owns the place? A private owner. No one has ever demanded to speak to the owner in efforts to circumvent me because my actions and words are professional. They can go online and figure out or try to figure out the owner through public records if they are that inclined. If they do, I simply acknowledge their awareness and tell them of a previous resident who was trying to take advantage, making unreasonable requests and feeling entitled and explain that I’ve never had one like that since changing my “title.” That has subtly put them on notice to not try that crap with me and it seems to generate an increased level of respect.

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