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When you work as a landlord, it’s very important to keep your personal and professional life separate. A lot of landlords don’t do that, in that they choose to rent apartments to family members or friends. That might seem like a great idea on the surface. You already like them, so renting to them makes logical sense. You get the chance to help out a person you care about, and you’re able to have renters in your units so you have cash flow coming in. It would seem like the ideal arrangement, and an excellent way for everyone to benefit from the arrangement. Many landlords have rented to family members or friends, and some of those agreements have turned out well. Many have not.

Unfortunately, the way renting to friends or family often works out is far from what would be expected between people who care about one another. For the most part, friends and family members will actually make bad renters, because they’ll expect more from you than a tenant who doesn’t know you. You may get a lot of requests for maintenance and repairs, even for minor things, and you may also find that family members and friends think they should be entitled to perks because of your personal relationship with them. When they don’t get special treatment, they can get angry with you, and that hurts both your professional relationship and your personal relationship.

If you really want to help a friend or family member out when they need a place to live, there are other things you can do for them. Renting to them shouldn’t be on the list. It can be hard to say “no” when you know someone you care about is really struggling, of course, and some landlords do help friends or family members out with short-term arrangements, but even those can become problematic. Generally, mixing the business of being a landlord with personal relationships isn’t a good choice, and should be avoided. There are plenty of other ways you can help out someone who matters to you. You could even let them stay in an empty unit for free for a few nights if they really needed a place to go.

That would keep you from having a lease with them, but keep in mind that you would still have to evict them if they’d been there very long and didn’t want to leave. How long they could stay without needing to be forced out and what kind of agreement you could be said to legally have with them would vary depending on the state in which you live. It would still mean taking a risk, but that would be a choice that only you could make. Just be aware of the problems that many landlords can run into when renting to family or friends, and don’t think it can’t happen to you. Protecting yourself from a business standpoint is still very important, no matter who your renters are.


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  • Juerupe

    The real estate person who helped us purchase our rental condo has asked us to consider renting to her relative who has two part time jobs and a credit history that appears less than ideal. It sounds as if family financially subsidizes him. He also appears to suffer from a weight problem and this is a small condo. There are implied red flags with him and I want to let her know that we would not rent to him as we do both criminal and credit history background checks and he would appear not to meet our qualifications in the credit area. I want to avoid any appearance of discrimination so give me the wording to use to let her know our rental policies. We would not be renting unit yet and I want to inform her so there is no anticipation of rental potential.

  • cooperbry

    Not a good idea to rent to family and friends. First hand experience; don’t do it.

  • obamabites

    It is also important that you don’t become friends with existing tenants either. Every time I have done this, it had become an issue.

  • JustMyOpinion

    I’m at the point where I don’t even like taking referrals from existing tenants. The referral always seemed to think that they somehow have an “in” and don’t pay attention to the lease or rules. Either that or they have exceptionally bad credit, have already tried all over town and their relative said oh try where I live, you’re related to me, I’m a good tenant, so that should count for something. It ends up being an embarrassing situation. I had one tenant that was trying to bring in a roommate – and he must have tried five different people – one of which as on the national sex offender registry! The tenant got mad, thought that we were intentionally declining the roommates (which we were not) demanded to know why, and all I could tell them was this is confidential you would have to speak with your friend. But I can assure you these people knew their credit was a train wreck and that we do a background check.

  • Alo

    I would simply say that you would agree to “consider” the person, and have the individual fill out an application and pay the standard application fee(assuming you charge one). Then process the application as you would any other application, while still accepting applications from any other potential tenants. If the guy doesn’t qualify from a credit and/or background standpoint, then simply provide that information directly to him. I typically provide a copy of the background check in a denial situation, so the individual can see the details on their own report. I do not typically provide any details on why they were denied tenancy, rather I put it in very generic terms, something to the effect of, “Sorry, you don’t meet the tenancy requirements for this unit.” or “You don’t satisfy the credit profile for this unit.”

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