Landlord-Tenant Relationship (A Tenant’s Perspective)

This is a column by regular contributor Clark.

This blog has recently featured a number of posts about real estate. I figured that a tenant’s perspective on the relationship would do justice. I have shared an apartment during my school days and currently rent one level of a house on my own. I’d like to list some points from my renting experience that I find make for a good, if not great, landlord-tenant relationship.

1) Promptness. From my side, this includes paying rent on time and reporting problems at the earliest. The landlord has duly issued a receipt each month and responded to problems swiftly. Due to my trust, sometimes, I drop off a check, forgo collecting the receipt immediately (it is usually the landlord who is busy on the phone or with someone else) and get it along with the next month’s receipt. Rent is due on the 1st of the month but due to holidays or landlord’s unavailability, once-in-a-while, I’ve paid it several days later too.

But, say, I make it a practice to pay it on the 5th of each month and the landlord does not object (since we have developed mutual trust); if we ever go to court for late payment, the landlord cannot use the original lease agreement that says “rent is due on the 1st of each month”, since an estoppel would prevent him from doing so. An estoppel would thwart the landlord (or tenant as the case may be) from going back on the position (collecting rent on the 5th) that he previously took, either by deed or silence. This is something both parties should be aware of, more so landlords with late payment issues.

2) Respect. I treat the property as my own and I say this in a good way. I maintain the place as though it were my own. Being a minimalist helps, since I don’t have clutter and the house is easier to clean.

3) Privacy. It is probably basic courtesy but I’ve never had my landlord knock on the door at unearthly hours as valid as the reason could be! When he has come unannounced, he has been apologetic and always had a good excuse.

4) Trust. There have been times when there were renovations occuring in the evenings. I waited a couple of days thinking that they may have had an emergency to attend to on those days and hence, were trying to finish the day’s quota at all costs. But, on the third day, there was some drilling going on and my patience ran out. Luckily, the landlord was around helping out with the work; I called him outside and explained that I did not sign up for what was happening and that it was starting to get irritating. He apologized and said that he will make sure that there was no noisy work after I got home and they would keep it to painting. He kept his promise. Maybe, we did not set terms explicitly or he took advantage of our good relationship. Either way, a little talk solved the issue and I’m sure it’ll pay dividends in many other cases too.

I realize that many landlord-tenant problems arise due to money-related issues but there are other factors that should be considered for a seamless stay. I haven’t covered situations such as unfair rent increases, abnormal restrictions, tenants fixing a problem on their own (against the agreement) since it happened on a weekend or the landlord was not immediately available, etc., as I do not recall any from experience.

If you’ve ever been a tenant, how was your experience? Do you have any stories or tips that would improve the experience for both parties?

About the Author: Clark is a twenty-something Saskatchewan resident employed in the manufacturing sector. He repaid around $20,000 in student loans and has been working to build his investment portfolio as a DIY investor (not trader) while nurturing plans to retire early. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism.

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Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.
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11 years ago

I just left a rental property where, for nearly 2 years, my relationship with the landlord (actually building superintendent, as it was owned by a large real estate corp) was very good. I was flexible when he needed to come in for watever reason, and he was flexible with guest parking arrangements, since the building didn’t have offficial visitor spots. A couple of months before moving out, my girlfriend and I decided to make living together official and take on a larger 2 bedroom apt. Of course that required a new lease, etc, in which in Ottawa meant (city bylaws) we were tied in for another year. A few months after starting the “new lease”, and paying rent by cheque because “the office lost the direct-debit paperwork”, I came home to a notice on my door from the head office stating that they had no record of my tennancy, that I was living there illegally, and to contact them immediately. Turns out that the friendly super hadn’t filed the paperwork for the move, and was pocketing our monthly rental/parking fees. The super, I can only assume, came to the conclusion that he couldn’t keep it up forever and checked himself into a mental institution, triggering the review of tennancy. In the end it all worked out, as I had all of the returned cheques (made out to the real estate corp that he had cashed using his consulting company account) to show I had been paying each month, and the lack of a lease agreement meant we were able to move out and buy a steal of a house in a freshly crashed housing market. Hooray new home ownership!

David Wilson
11 years ago

Thanks for the post, great info. I am new to commercial properties and definitely found this useful.

11 years ago

I really think one key thing to keep in mind is respect. If you respect your landlord’s authority, pay the rent on time, and respect his property, then your relationship should go smoothly. As long as he, in turn, respects your privacy, your trust, and your intelligence.

11 years ago

@Rachelle: Yes, there is lot of difference when living in a duplex than in a complex. The landlord is able to deal with each tenant on a personal basis and there are brownie points for the good tenant. In a complex, which has a set of rules and regulations, one cannot ask for lesser rent increases or favors. Maybe, you can tell more about whether owners encourage property managers to be partial to the good tenants (if they can keep it under wraps).

11 years ago

I think the key to a great landlord tenant relationship relies on both the landlord and the tenant working together to get things done.

When you live in a building it is different than when you live in a small investment property such as a duplex. There are lots of things you can do to help things along such as be flexible about contractors coming in to to repairs.

As a small property owner you don’t have much pull with contractors so it can take a while to arrange repairs. Then when the contractor calls you and says hey I can get in tomorrow I have some time and the tenant says I need 24 hour written notice, which is their right of course. That may mean the repair may be scheduled in two weeks instead of getting done right away. Much more pleasant is the tenant who says sure come right in we want to get this fixed!

Some of my great tenants don’t even require me to be there while the work is getting done.

Other tenants are prima donna and are very irritating. I showed a very nice high end condo to just such a tenant a few days ago. She actually said… it smells Asian in here. She stuck the toe of her sandal under the baseboard where the floors levels join and commented about how shoddy the construction of the condo is. I wouldn’t rent to her if she was the last tenant on earth.

So making things easier for your landlord and doing little things that you can do will go a long way.

11 years ago

Well I rented for 3 years and I never questioned my landlord or bothered them with unreasonable requests. I treated the home like my own and made only wise and proper upgrades to the home at my expense. 10 years later I am now the landlord and treat my renters with respect by giving them fair rent with little to no rent changes in return for understanding and patience if things don’t go as planned. I have been a landlord for 3 years and until this year where I got screwed with a bad choice on a tenant things have been great. I have not changed much now that they are gone except I am more strict on my new tenants it is too bad because now I feel like I have to be harder on them to cover for this last jerk.
Yes at the end of the day I am trying to make money on my potential investment but not all landlords are jerks…. Although I know some are.
I have always tried to have a good relationship and offer payment if the renter would like to make some positive upgrades.
Happy renter = Happy Landlord

11 years ago

I give my landlord a year’s worth of post-dated cheques, and have negotiated a deal with him: I take care of minor repairs and upgrades (things that I want, such as upgrading light fixtures etc), and he doesn’t raise my rent. It helps that my bf is in plumbing and construction trades, since he and I can take care of most any issue that arises very cheaply.

My landlord owns other units in my complex, and everyone complains about him… except me. We have a great win-win relationship!

11 years ago

Great article. My friend has spent the last year warming up to her landlord and now that there is a good relationship there, the landlord just discounted her monthly rate. So it does pay off to pay your rent on time, every time and to keep the place clean. Definitely agree with Jesse.

11 years ago

Good points. Stick to them and you will have a good shot of getting a discount over market rental rates. Good tenants get discounts.

11 years ago

Getting a great landlord/tenant relationship means being a great tenant. Both are grateful to have the other one. When I was a tenant, living in downtown TO, I found that dropping off 12 post-dated cheques meant I never had to see my landlord. Planting a pretty garden and maintaining an attractive home, meant that, once when he came by, he realized he never had to worry. Doing my own small repairs, mean’t that I never had to call him unless it really was urgent. As a result, he never raised my very low rent. In fact, throughout my rental years, none of my 3 landlords raised my rent. In one case, I was even able to negotiate $300 off (monthly for 2 years) when I found myself newly single. In all cases, they wanted to keep me because it was more trouble to them to find a new “no problem” tenant, than to advertise and have a revolving door. I employed the same tactics when I rented my own place out. I offered a great product for low rent – and was choosy about the tenant. The key for me was someone knew the market and who was “grateful” to be there. They were all fantastic tenants who paid post-dated, were clean and didn’t leave until they finished school. Grateful tenants are way to go.