As with almost any profession, one of the most important elements of property management is maintaining good relationships with those you work with. In the property management industry, this means everyone from your handyman to your tenants. For landlords, relationships with tenants are for the most part straightforward: they contact you after finding your listing, they sign the lease, and for the next year they’ll (hopefully!) abide by it. It’s always good to stay on friendly terms with your tenants, but what should a landlord keep in mind when existing friends become their tenants? Navigating a landlord-tenant friendship can be difficult.
Put everything into writing
This is the first key listed for a reason. No matter how storied or strong a relationship you have with your tenants, you should always formalize their tenancy with your standard lease agreement. Property management is, after all, first and foremost a business, and you need to protect yours as such. This provides a legal framework that will stand even if a landlord-tenant relationship crumbles, and serves as a reminder to both parties that there are rules that need to be followed. You might encounter resentment from your friends for taking such measures, but if that’s the case, your friends are not the kind of tenants you want living in your property in the first place.
Just because you do have a signed lease agreement in place doesn’t mean that you don’t care for the continuation of your friendship. For maintaining good spirits between all parties involved, it’s important to set up personal boundaries, as misunderstandings are still possible to arise. Talk with your tenants to establish boundaries that you’ll both be on the honor system to adhere to. For one, avoid discussing professional matters in social settings. If you’re out for a drink with your tenants, don’t discuss rent, maintenance requests and needs, or other matters as they relate to a landlord-tenant relationship. This doesn’t mean you have to close yourself off from talking about your property management, but make it clear that you want to discuss them as a landlord, not as a friend out on the town. This allows you to have any tough conversations you’d otherwise like to avoid. You don’t want to find yourself with suddenly aloof tenants that could end up costing you thousands of dollars. There’s also always the possibility of tenant-tenant conflict, and with friends involved, you might find both parties pressuring you to take a side in something you shouldn’t.
Stay on top of your game
There are trappings that you as a landlord need to be aware of as well. Don’t put off any maintenance issues just because you know your tenants will be more likely to cut you some slack. Shirking you duties can only put you in a bad spot, especially if you’re not holding up your side of the lease. If an issue does come to heads, you need to be confident that you’ve abided by all regulations and agreements in place. Furthermore, don’t let your goodwill dig yourself into a hole. You should handle late rent the same way you would handle it with any other tenant; otherwise, you might notice rent payments coming in later and later each month, jeopardizing a steady revenue stream.
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