The Biggest Secrets Your Landlord Wishes You Knew
The tenant-landlord relationship can be a tough one to navigate. Start out on the wrong foot, and life becomes a living hell for those on both sides of the fence. But forge a respectful relationship, and both you and your landlord might live happily ever after in rental harmony.
Harmony in the place where you lay your head at night sounds like just the ticket for the 37% of American households that rent their homes. Are you ready for a secret? Not all landlords are crooks. Some are even commendable. And the better you understand each other, the easier life will be. So we suggest you listen up for the top 15 secrets your landlord wishes you knew.
1. Don’t be shocked that pets cost more
Who doesn’t love furry companions? Landlords. Where you see cuddly creatures, landlords see extra expenses, liabilities, and mess. The added pet deposit and monthly fees are to cover the damage pets might cause, such as replacing the carpet or fumigating for pet smells. But renters can take extra precautions. Reassure your landlord by being upfront about your dog’s breed and behavior, and commit to cleaning up after your pet.
Next: They might not be so heartless after all.
2. They’re more prone to let a late payment slide than you think
Most rental agencies and property managers accept rent payments within a five-day time frame. And though a long track record of late payments won’t do you any favors as a respected tenant, landlords understand that life happens. Generally, they don’t want to assess late fees or uncomfortably ask for the rent, so if you recently encountered a job loss, a death in the family, or another unexpected life change, there might be wiggle room in your rent delivery.
Next: Do you tell your landlord everything?
3. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, please
Did you drop a fork down the garbage disposal again? Did your roommate go off the deep end and punch a hole through the wall? Most landlords just want the truth about damage. After years in the business they’ve have gotten pretty good at detecting lies, so what’s the point in falsifying the story for your own protection? Communication is key. There’s no feasible way your landlord can address your issue properly without knowing the real situation.
Next: What to do before you negotiate rent
4. They know you know
Landlords know they won’t get any real bites on potential renters if their property is not priced fairly. Your building’s owner checks the same local listing sites and Zillow reports you do to determine market value (though some real estate agents wish you wouldn’t believe such inaccurate information). So before you start haggling for a deal, be aware they know what you’re doing — and what’s considered fair rent.
Next: When they’ll say no
5. They’ll say no but not all the time
Successful landlords have found the balance between accommodating a tenant and sticking firm to their budgets. It’s impossible to maintain a business and still meet every upgrade or repair demand that makes tenants happy. Elizabeth Colegrove from The Reluctant Landlord tells The Simple Dollar that learning to say “no” saved her an insurmountable amount money and stress in the rental business. Landlords will maintain the property, but extraneous updates can be done by a handy tenant. Finding that balance is key.
“My tenant can [make upgrades] at their expense, but the items must be left behind,” she says. “Not only does this save me thousands, but I am not the bad guy.” With handy tenants, you could also offer a refund on materials if they’re willing to install their preferred ceiling fans on their own.
Next: Landlords wish you’d tell them what’s broken.
6. Be open about repairs that are needed
Many landlords have multiple dwellings they manage day in and day out. And they can’t be two places at once to take care of all their properties. They’ll appreciate renters who are communicative on issues they need to know about. If something is broken, let them know. It’s probably easier to fix it now before compounding issues mess everything up.
Next: Credit tells all.
7. Credit is your best reference
In addition to filling out an application, responsible landlords will run your credit to make sure you’re fiscally intact to handle monthly payments — or even alive. If landlords see a history of late payments, unpaid balances, or extreme debt, they might reconsider choosing you to lease their property. It’s best to be forthcoming about your financial situation before the credit check because keeping it a secret will just come across as deceptive.
Next: Landlords Google you, too.
8. They’re definitely internet stalking you
When landlords are looking to fill a vacancy quickly, they’re less likely to spend hours making phone calls and sending emails to verify your references. Facebook and Google will tell them everything they need to know in less time. Just like employers check your social media for red flags and warning bells, landlords do the same, according to Reader’s Digest. If you claim to be pet-free, yet there are online pictures of you with two large dogs, your credibility goes right out the window, along with your application.
Next: A landlord secret we can all agree on
9. Direct is best
Like most humans, landlords hate getting the run-around. They’re busy enough trying to manage the tenants they have without responding to every wishy-washy inquiry from a potential buyer. Landlords wish tenants knew they’d get a lot further in conversation by being direct, short, and timely in requests for information. Otherwise, you could be overlooked and ignored by a frustrated proprietor.
Next: Yes, landlords have a code of ethics.
10. They don’t want to stiff you
Somewhere along the way, landlords acquired a stereotype. Many people view landlords as mean and lazy, but the reputable ones wish you’d give them a fair chance. Landlords are human, too, and can in fact be trusted. They’re not going to steal your stuff, leave you without running water, or try and stiff you. The code of ethics says so.
Next: Something landlords hope they never have to do
11. They’d rather not kick you out
Disrespectful tenants with loud music and weekend parties hurt everyone — including your landlord. And because long-term renters are the goal for those looking to maintain a steady income stream, landlords might give you a bit more slack than you might expect when it comes to behavior. Most will do what it takes to keep you around for longer than a one-year lease. They know that to encourage longer stays, they’ll need to be accommodating, communicative, and priced fairly. But they also really hope you don’t push it. Evicting a renter is not fun.
Next: A lease benefits both parties.
12. Leases are written, binding documents
If tenants read the leases they sign, it could save a lot of time and hassle down the line. The Reluctant Landlord says the key to keeping quality tenants is to put everything in writing and make sure to stick to the lease. “I have a 16-plus-page lease with more than 37 addendums — that way if anything at all comes into question, the answer can pretty much always be found in the lease. At the same time, I make sure all my exact expectations are in writing. … If it is not in writing, it doesn’t count.”
Next: Don’t tell you landlord these things.
13. There are a few things they’d rather not know
Open and honest communication is usually best when it comes to rental relationships, but there are some things landlords wish you didn’t tell them. The fact that you’re a budding entrepreneur or historically clumsy does nothing to help bring peace of mind to someone hoping to get rent on time and avoid costly repairs. And if you’re (somewhat) patiently waiting for legal marijuana to pass in your state, they’d rather not know that either. Sometimes what they don’t know can’t hurt.
Next: Don’t be offended if landlords aren’t the most trusting people.
14. They might be a little bitter
Past tenants can really do a wonder on a landlord’s sanity. Maybe they’ve never had a decent renter. If previous tenants left them high and dry without compensation, they could be a little hesitant to put their faith back into you as a new tenant. Most landlords treat rental properties as a business and worry about you screwing them over.
Next: Unexpected visits
15. They won’t pop in unannounced
Some landlords believe they can enter your home at any time; however, tenants have the right to live peacefully and independently. Even as owners of the property, landlords can only enter a dwelling with reasonable notice at a reasonable hour for non-emergency reasons. Know that they’ll almost always give the appropriate amount of notice before popping over, and if they don’t a renter can — and should — call them on it.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.