With rents rising as demand grows, more and more people are taking the plunge and becoming landlords. In fact, a recent Bankrate.com report found that 22 percent of adults have invested in some way in real estate — a third of all those surveyed.
For some, it’s a desire to snag a great deal and hold on to it as an investment in the future. For some, it’s a reluctance to sell their former abode — in 2014, a Redfin survey revealed that almost 40 percent of those surveyed were interested in holding on to their old home when they bought a new one.
But almost every landlord we spoke to said it’s not exactly a path to easy money — and they were ready to share some knowledge with both renters and prospective landlords.
We posted a simple query to landlords on our Facebook page last Friday, and the conversation was robust. We also reached out to other landlords for more responses.
The question? “What are some things you wish more tenants knew about renting?”
Responses (edited for clarity and brevity) are below.
Rent Is Not a Suggestion
It may sound elementary, but we had several property owners reiterate that when a tenant doesn’t pay rent, or pays late, it puts them in a bind, too.
“You actually have to pay rent. Duh,” said Georgia Hilliard.
Heather Buen chimed in as well. “Christmas is the same day every year,” she said. “It is not an excuse on why you are late on rent for January 1.”
Manage Your Expectations
When you’re renting a single-family home especially, you’re dealing with a small business owner. And if you’re renting an older home, certain things (like energy efficiency), won’t be the same as a brand-new apartment or condo.
“Old houses won’t cool to 68 degrees on 100 degree days, and any effort to do so will just freeze your unit,” said Amy Cowan. “The rule of thumb is about a 20 degree differential from the outside temp on an old house without retrofitted energy saving measures (extra insulation, new windows, etc).”
Ilene Jacobs said that tenants often expect non-emergency repairs to be done at any time — even the middle of the night, when landlords are sleeping.
They’re Probably Not Getting Rich
“I’m not getting rich off of your rent,” said Jenni Panicker. “Between repairs and maintenance and taxes and insurance and mortgage and property management fees, I’m about breaking even. So you missing rent is not ‘no big deal.’”
“Nor do I have funds sitting about to make unnecessary cosmetic repairs on your clean and reasonably priced 60-year-old rental home,” she added.
Cooper Koch agreed, adding, “Sure, I’ll update the landscaping. How about an extra $250/month in rent?”
Andrea Grimes, who said that her goal is to keep owning her house, and not lose money in the process, also agreed with Panicker.
“I’ll second that — I am literally trying to cover mortgage/taxes/maintenance and the (VERY LOW) fee we pay to our property manager,” she said. “I’m literally trying to not lose money by continuing to own my house! That’s my whole goal!”
“Like no, I cannot negotiate a lower rent with you because I am offering you the lowest possible rent I can without paying to have you live in my house, my friends!”
Tracey Shuey said much the same. “Landlords don’t make all the rent as a profit. Maintenance and taxes are expensive. And those late night ‘emergencies aren’t free!”
Rent increases are often because of increases in property tax rates, Carol Bell-Walton said — not greed.
“It is important for tenants who are moving from homesteads to rental property to understand that property taxes can rise exponentially due to the lack of a homestead exemption,” she said. “A homeowner who has experienced a 10 percent cap on rising taxes may be surprised to learn that there is no cap or limit on rental property, and thus, they cannot ensure that their rent levels will be stable.”
Bell-Walton, who has property in Lakewood, said those property tax increases have been a big driver in rent increases in that area.
“For the past few years, our rent increases have gone directly to property tax escalation and certainly not profitability,” she said.
April Cope agreed. “The $25 or $50 more a month I’m asking for at lease renewal is just to help me offset the $200 a month increase in taxes, “ she said, “not to pad my pockets.”
Mi Casa Es Su Casa, But Please Treat It Nicely
Most tenants take pride in their homes, even if they don’t own them. But some, our respondents said, do not give their rented abodes a lot of TLC.
“Stop smashing nails in plaster walls after the first 457 mishaps,” said Lisa Marie. “Call for help hanging your 944750 kid portraits.”
“Don’t clean your motorcycle parts with caustic agents in the kitchen sink,” said an exasperated Grimes. “WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?”
Benjamin Champion, Loan McDuffie, and Julia Stocker also mentioned the minor upkeep tenants can help with to keep their homes healthy and sturdy.
“Watering the yard is not only great for the landscaping, but it serves a purpose to help with the foundation,” McDuffie said. “By not watering in a schedule, you can cause foundation issues that will cost thousands to repair later on.”
“AC filters don’t change themselves out,” Champion said.
“Drip the faucets and open cabinet doors to all sinks in sub-zero temps (as directed to),” Stocker said. “My renters didn’t, resulting in burst pipes and a 4K repair.”
And if you’re one of the lucky ones whose utilities are included in the rent, Michelle Mecca said being considerate is important.
“While the temps are in the triple digits, please do not leave windows open with a/c set at 62 to circulate out the cigarette smell that you’re not supposed to be smoking in your all utilities paid place,” she said.
Ask Permission Before Making Changes
Most property owners understand the urge to nest, and many of the people we talked to welcomed it (within reason), as long as the tenant asks first. Running the color for that accent wall past your landlord gives them the chance to discuss what happens when you move out — and who will be responsible for changing it to a more neutral tone.
“Do NOT paint the walls without asking permission first!” said Malia Byers. Alice Hagemann agreed, and indicated that changes of a more permanent nature really should be run past the owner first.
“DO NOT paint cabinets, DO NOT place non-removable wall decals, DO NOT convert rooms with wall partitions,” she said. “AND…DO NOT move out with sh** you longer want…if you don’t want it, what makes you think we want it??!!”
Monique C-Dubreuil also pointed out three things she sees tenants forgetting frequently. “1) You cannot change the locks without permission; 2) We can start the eviction process after one missed payment; and 3) Beyond normal wear and tear puts your deposit at risk,” she said.
Lee Chevalier said that he wished tenants knew that the more permanent changes a tenant may make don’t get to leave with the tenant.
“Many tenant ‘improvements,’ even if permitted, have to remain,” he said. “You can’t dig up favorite bushes, remove hardware, or — in one case — take the dishwasher with you.”
You Signed the Lease, Not Your Friends
Pretty much any reasonable person will agree that the wear and tear to a home is different for one or two people versus one or two people and four dogs, or five people and three cats. So moving in extra people (or sneaking in pets) without including them on the lease and allowing the landlord to do background checks is a sure way to make a property owner crochety.
“Tenants can’t just move in whoever and how many ever they damn well please,” Kara Tolany said.
“… or sneak in a bunch of animals,” Pamela Cantrell-Brown added.
“YES,” Tolany agreed.
‘The Landlord Is Not the Enemy’
Many of the misunderstandings, our property owners told us, came from not reading the lease and asking plenty of questions before signing it. Being familiar with your lease, and asking for clarifications on things you don’t understand are good ways to maintain a good relationship with your landlord, they said.
“Read your lease, know the rules, regulations and know what the management company or owner will provide before signing,” Hillary Grassano said.
And landlords have a way of showing their appreciation to model tenants, too, Lisa McKnight said.
“Tenants who aren’t demanding, pay on time and handle minor issues themselves are less likely to receive rent increases,” she said.
But above all, every single landlord said they don’t want to be the adversary.
“Landlords do not want to ‘take’ your damage deposit. They don’t cook up reasons to keep it,” Dave Gallman said. “Landlords want you to turn the property back over in a clean, re-rentable condition. Landlords want to be in the business of renting property, not cleaning up after people and fixing broken stuff.
“Most people take an adversarial stance with a landlord, and some landlords are jerks and it’s justifiable, but the landlord is not the enemy.”
Editor’s Note: Every Friday, we’ll post a hot-button question on our Facebook page. Sometimes, they’ll be serious. Sometimes, they’ll be more light-hearted. Want to take part? Like and follow us, and be on the lookout for this Friday’s question.