Whether right or wrong, the general public often associates landlords with unsavory characteristics and traits. They’re often framed as being greedy, cantankerous, and calloused. But this is just the way Hollywood portrays landlords.
While professional landlords with hundreds of properties often live up to this billing, most do not. In reality, the majority of landlords are everyday folks who own an extra piece of property in order to generate income for their families.
As an everyday landlord, you have to be proactive about proving that you aren’t the caricature of a landlord that the media so often paints. This means going above and beyond to prove that you’re ethical.
The Keys to Being an Ethical Landlord
As a landlord, you’re responsible for another person’s living situation. That’s not something you can afford to take lightly. You must embrace this responsibility and be ethical in all of your dealings. Here are several tips for doing just that:
1. Meet Face-to-Face
While you can technically screen a tenant and sign lease agreement documents remotely, there’s something powerful about meeting face-to-face with a new tenant. This helps both parties put faces to names. It also helps you both remember that each other are human.
In other words, you aren’t just dealing with someone on the other end of a computer or phone. You’re dealing with a real person who has very real needs and interests.
2. Be Available
You don’t have to be best friends with your tenant, but you should be available when/if they need you. Give them your personal cell phone number and let them know you’re just a phone call away. However, you may want to set non-emergency hours so that tenants don’t call you at night or on the weekends for matters that aren’t urgent.
If you find it difficult to be available – e.g. you work a full-time job 50 -60 hours per week – hire a property manager. They’ll provide 24/7 accessibility for your tenants, while still giving you the privacy and freedom you need.
3. Be Empathetic
It’s nearly impossible to be an effective landlord if you aren’t empathetic. Empathy is a requirement of the job.
Being empathetic does not mean being a pushover. It simply means putting yourself in your tenant’s shoes and viewing things from their perspective. This requires making them feel heard and understood.
4. Be Consistent
Ethical landlords don’t play favorites. They’re consistent and steady, regardless of what else is happening. This means if you have a policy in place, you need to follow through with it every single time.
For example, if there’s a rule where you charge a $25 late payment fee when the rent isn’t paid by the fifth of the month, make sure you actually follow through the very first time. You might feel like you’re being nice by letting it slide once or twice, but it’s not fair to the tenants that do pay on time. And if you only charge some people the late fee (and not others), this creates problems too. Consistency isn’t always comfortable, but it is fair.
5. Offer a Fair Rent Price
Speaking of fair, make sure you’re offering a fair rent price. Fair doesn’t mean cheap or below-market. It does, however, mean not charging well above market just because you can. Stay in line with market rates and don’t attempt to gouge people.
If it helps, try looking at each tenant like you would your sibling, adult child, or parent. How would you want them to be treated?
6. Respect Your Tenants’ Privacy
Your tenants have a right to privacy. Make sure you respect this right. Avoid showing up unannounced (and never walk into the property without first notifying the tenant and getting permission). Just because you own the property, doesn’t mean you have a right to waltz in whenever you want. At best, it’s rude. At worst, it’s illegal.
Putting it All Together
You have a responsibility to care for the well-being, safety, and security of your tenants. And despite what many in the mainstream media and general public think about landlords, you have the ability to cancel this stereotype and show people what it looks like to be an ethical landlord who wants the best for people.