real estate

A Tenant's Advice on How to Be a Better Landlord

To find your best tenants ever, you need to be the best landlord ever.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a rental house, then today’s story will be of special interest as it is advice from a tenant on how to be a better landlord.

Motion Graphics Artist Andrew Benninghoff, 34, and his two roommates live in North Hollywood, Calif., renting a lovely 2,500 square-foot home from one of our clients who grew up in the house and later inherited it from his parents.

After hearing for years about the respect and care these tenants had for the property, I asked my client to put me in touch with them, and this story is the result.

‘Incredible Landlords’ Are Willing to Do More

“Your clients have been incredible landlords!” was the first thing that Benninghoff said to me. “They go the extra mile to see to it that problems are dealt with immediately. And that is such an important quality a good landlord must have: willingness to do more than just the bare minimum. I have been renting for 13 years, from seven different landlords, none like these people.

“We once had a rodent problem, but when the first pest control company wasn't getting the job done, they immediately found another one that did. In my experience, few landlords would ever make the effort to remedy a problem as fast as they did, or continue to check in as often, monitoring until it was solved,” he said.

Caring Builds Loyalty, So Don’t View Your Tenants as a Cash Register

The landlord/tenant dynamic is truly a special legal relationship, where property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is entrusted to tenants who have the ability to protect it or destroy it.

In my law practice, I’ve met wealthy landlords who own several apartment houses, yet seem incapable of thinking, “These people just want to live their lives in a comfortable, properly maintained dwelling, and I have the legal obligation to fix what’s wrong promptly. And, if I do, they will become my best tenants ever.”

Instead, tenants are nothing but cash cows to these money-obsessed landlords, who openly wonder, “Why can’t I find good tenants?”

Benninghoff sees a good landlord as, “Wanting happy tenants living in the rental, and should radiate a positive, friendly and helpful attitude towards tenants. When you are fair and show that you care about their welfare, tenants think, ‘I’ve never had such nice landlord. You bet I am paying the rent on time!’”

Involve Your Tenant in Problem Solving

In a perfect world, if a problem arose in a rental unit, the tenant would phone the owner or property manager and the matter would be addressed in a timely manner.

But that doesn’t always happen, and part of the reason is that tenants are often afraid of rocking the boat—complaining--for fear of being evicted for issues dealing with habitability, even though that is illegal. Benninghoff has a recommendation for tenants and landlords both when one of these situations arises:

“If the landlord doesn’t know of the problem, it can’t be fixed. The tenant has to take the initiative to call attention to the matter. Countless people would simply sit on it until it is unbearable rather than act more quickly. If it is something serious, like heating or plumbing, keep calling every few hours until you get the right person on the line! Don’t be shy! Remember, laziness spells disaster for either side.”

Do Your Homework - Don’t Be Too Eager!

If you ask any lawyer who handles landlord/tenant matters what drives them insane, you’ll probably hear: “Clients who say, ‘It was late on a Friday, these people just showed up at our house, had lots of cash for deposits, and since the rental had been vacant for two months, I let them move in right then and there. But it has been months and they refuse to make any rent payments! What should I do?’”

“Especially in a city like Los Angeles,” Benninghoff observes, “where there are flakes and phonies everywhere, sizing a person up can be very difficult. You could have a great conversation, find the person to be charismatic, and have a positive impression only to later find out that they are lazy when it comes to actually doing anything, like paying the rent!

“So, my advice for beginning landlords is to realize that you are in business and must protect your investment. Check out anyone wanting to rent from you and do not get blinded by the color of money, allowing really awful tenants to occupy the property.”

And his concluding advice to would-be landlords?

“Are you willing to put in the time it takes? Becoming a competent landlord takes more time and dedication than people initially think. I would never want a landlord who thinks the job will be easy and won't require much effort.”

About the Author

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.

Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift." 

Most Popular

The Perfect Storm for Retirees
retirement planning

The Perfect Storm for Retirees

Today’s retirees could face a perfect storm because they are living longer and spending more time in retirement, while at the same time losing access …
April 18, 2021
The Wrong Way to Achieve Wealth
personal finance

The Wrong Way to Achieve Wealth

For some down-to-earth, basic advice on money and life, I have a book to recommend: “Your Total Wealth: The Heart and Soul of Financial Literacy.”
April 17, 2021
Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs
Coronavirus and Your Money

Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs

People have lots of questions about the new $3,000 or $3,600 child tax credit and the advance payments that the IRS will send to most families in 2021…
April 14, 2021

Recommended

What You Need to Know about College 529 Savings Plans
529 Plans

What You Need to Know about College 529 Savings Plans

Do you know how much you’re able to contribute or what the funds could be used to pay for? How about how contributing affects your taxes? Check out th…
April 14, 2021
COVID-19-Weary Business Owners Can Win by Adopting the Right Mindset for a Sale
small business

COVID-19-Weary Business Owners Can Win by Adopting the Right Mindset for a Sale

Your business has survived the pandemic, but it’s taken a toll. Here are some reasons why now may be a good time to sell, and some points to keep in m…
March 31, 2021
PPP Loan Basics for Small Business Owners
Coronavirus and Your Money

PPP Loan Basics for Small Business Owners

Although uncertainty and confusion have surrounded the Paycheck Protection Program since its launch, that shouldn't stop small business owners from pa…
March 30, 2021
How to Build (or Rebuild) Wealth
Financial Planning

How to Build (or Rebuild) Wealth

Our 11-part plan will help you establish a solid financial foundation or take stock of your progress.
March 22, 2021