Which Landlord Personality Is More Effective: Aggressive or Passive?
Owning a property brings with it a lot of responsibility and a lot of power. In that (and any) authoritative role, it is essential to be consistent. It is even more essential to have the right approach. With over 1000 units under management, our team at Nexus Property Management® have come across a full spectrum of owners: from the toughest, most macho, my-way-or-the-highway types, to the embarrassingly passive “sure, OK, go ahead, I don’t want any issues” walk-all-over-me types. You wouldn’t expect us to recommend that you let tenants walk all over you and we obviously do not. But does the tough guy (or gal) approach work? In short, the answer is no…
In a world of tough or passive landlords, the reality is that you can’t be either...you need to be both. Fair and firm are guiding principles that can ensure you get the most out of your relationship with your tenants. Ego doesn’t equal profit. Avoiding conflict doesn’t help you avoid losing money. The trick is to consistently live in the middle. Be fair and firm, letting tenants know that they need to live up to the agreement they made when signing the lease, but don’t forget that they’re people trying to get by in a world where they need to pay you for a place to live.
THE TOO TOUGH APPROACH:
If you’re tough all the time, it gets old. Taking a hard stance on issues everytime is not an effective route toward keeping tenants in place. You want them to meet your expectations, but just as importantly, you want them to keep paying you. People want empathy, fairness, efficiency, and opportunity. These are more or less universal human values and if they’re not met, people will not listen to you and ultimately will not pay rent for long. We’ve seen landlords tear doors off of apartments to force tenants to pay. We’ve seen interrogations that lead to yelling, screaming, physical contact, and even landlords bringing weapons to help make their point. You might be able to scare someone into acting the way you want, but that short victory and ego boost won’t last. The real estate game is a long haul so even if this is how you choose to act, it is not sustainable. Without being perceived as fair, your tenants will not stay and you’ll only be able to attract or retain tenants with the least economic flexibility...which will lead to more hardship when it comes time to collect the rent. If you’re still thinking ‘hard’ is the way to go, please reread that last sentence; it is painfully accurate.
[ Learn More: Landlord Actions That Are Considered Harassment ]
THE PASSIVE LANDLORD:
The other extreme is not much better. Sure you’re likely treating people with more respect, but you’re not going to get anywhere as a property owner if you’re not firm and consistent. Letting people pay rent late, or waiving late fees regularly, or being afraid of ‘rocking the boat’ is a good way to lose control of your tenants and property quickly. It is your job to provide value for your tenants and if you’re not collecting rents efficiently you’re not going to be able to keep up with maintenance and other responsibilities that ensure their experience with you is worth continuing to pay for. The passive landlords we’ve worked with almost always end up in the same position eventually: tenants struggled to pay rent on time and instead of evicting right away, as Nexus recommended, they accepted stories and excuses and now they’re standing in front of a judge trying to recoup $5,000 from a tenant who didn’t show up who they’ll never see again. Fair is worthless without firmness. Feeling like you made someone’s life better by being lenient will fade quickly once the financial impact of your decision becomes painstakingly clear.
[ Learn More: The Best Way To Avoid A Painful Eviction ]
THE SWEET SPOT...A COMBINATION OF BOTH:
To be successful in property management (like so many things) you need to be flexible. Flexibility allows you to be fair, but flexibility only works over the long term if it’s anchored in consistency and firmness. It’s essential to be able to wear these two hats if you want to be successful in real estate investment. Nexus’ goal for its properties is to ensure a win-win experience for both tenants and owners alike. The only way to get there is to be consistently fair and firm.
Instead of forcibly removing a door or blindly accepting an excuse from a nonpaying tenant, send them a Five Day Demand letter. It is firm; it is efficient; it is scary without physical intimidation; and it is the first step in the legal process. If the tenant still doesn’t pay, you take them to court. These are the rules that exist so no one has to go cowboy with guns a blazin’ or cower from unwanted conflict. There is no reason to accept excuses when you have a legal framework behind you to protect your rights as a landlord. With the law there should you need it, landlords should be able to find that sweet spot between too tough and too passive where fairness and firmness reside.
Mick Lefort is the Vice President of Operations for Nexus Property Management®. A National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.
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