My Tenants Fear Me: Why That’s a Bad Thing

by Chris on April 30, 2012

Landlords may not realize this, but tenants reveal that they often are afraid of their landlords — so much so that they forgo regular maintenance of the rental property rather than face what could be a bad interaction.

The landlord has the most to lose in this situation, and the power to avoid it.

Fear does not foster a good landlord-tenant relationship. What the landlord needs from the tenant is respect.

That’s because a tenant who is afraid will not call the landlord right away when the property needs repairs, or if they are considering a roommate, a pet, or are having problems coming up with the rent.  As a result, the landlord receives no advance notice, and can do nothing to minimize the resulting income loss.

Tenants who are afraid are more likely to disrespect the rules.  Landlord who manage in this fashion can have a much harder time discerning the bad tenants from the good ones.  Landlords never benefit from tenants who feel they need to keep secrets.

Tenants quickly learn to respect a landlord who acts like a professional business person.  Professional landlords are clear in their communications, consistent with their actions, and don’t interject emotion into discussions about the property. Tenants come to understand that this type of landlord can be trusted. At the same time, they realize that the landlord is serious about enforcing the rules and the provisions in the lease.

A landlord can foster respect through proper education of tenants:

Spend the appropriate amount of time with the applicant before agreeing to lease to them. Speak with the previous landlords.  Pay particular attention to whether the applicant broke the rules or avoided reporting repairs in the past.  If this is a first-time renter, spend time outlining your expectations in order to discourage an applicant who thinks the landlord will bend on the rules.

Let the tenant know that they will be subject to routine inspections throughout the lease term.

Then, stick to your word and conduct the routine inspections.

Approach inspections with a little bit of skepticism and listen for any rehearsed stories used to cover up rule-breaking. For instance, the tenant may have unauthorized roommates and they are keeping it secret. Notice any extra bedding, clothing, sleeping furniture outside of the bedrooms, or cars routinely parked nearby. 

Notice smells — has the tenant just sprayed a scent into the air?

If the tenant is not following the rules, they deserve to be fully informed of the consequences. If the problems are not severe, give the tenant the opportunity to step into line before threatening them with an eviction.  Lay out the options available, if any,  to resolve the problem without losing your composure.  At the same time,  don’t ignore budding problems.  Problem tenants test the waters — not enforcing the rules will only embolden a bad tenant.

Consider how the inspection of one’s home can feel intrusive. Let the tenant know in advance what you are planning to do, and that your concern is to make sure that the property remains in good condition. This will assuage any concerns that you are there to judge them.

A common concern that tenants share is that they may be charged for  repairs. To the extent possible, assure the tenant that they are not on the hook for routine repairs, and if they did damage something, that you will work through it with them. They need to feel safe coming to you if something is broken.

Some tenants simply have a higher tolerance for what they feel are acceptable living conditions.  For instance, they might think that some amount of mold is normal; the landlord might not. Be clear about your expectations.

Without proper education and routine property inspections it can be hard to guess what is happening (or growing) inside a private dwelling. A small problem might not seem like a big deal, but it quickly can expand into a major one. Taking the time to find the right tenants, foster respect, and perform regular maintenance inspections can save the landlord from potential income loss.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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