When is the line blurred between tenant and friend? Is it ever okay to befriend a tenant? What happens when you befriend a tenant who tries to take advantage of you?
Most landlords intentionally keep their distance from their tenants, not because they don’t like them, but because befriending a tenant can turn out to be a bad idea.
Sometimes tenants seem like they might be cool to hang out with. Unfortunately, no matter how well you connect with a tenant, establishing a friendship can turn ugly. Here’s why you should avoid becoming friends with your tenants in Austin, Texas.
1. Your tenant might feel slighted when you enforce the rules
No matter how gracious and professional you are about enforcing the rules, a tenant who is also a friend will feel slighted when asked to change their behavior.
Even when you go over the lease agreement and tell them they’re on the hook just like everyone else, they might still feel slighted. Letting things slide is often an unspoken agreement between friends.
2. Your tenant will probably expect special treatment
Everyone knows that friends get special benefits when they know someone in charge. This goes for any business, including corporations and retail establishments. When you’re a landlord, the benefits tenants might expect can end up costing you more than think.
A tenant who expects you to give them special treatment will want things like:
- Waived late fees
- Extra time to comply with lease amendments
- Cancellation of lease amendments
- No rent increases
- Cheaper rent
- Front row parking or free parking
- No credit or background check
- Utilities included in the rent
- Permission to have a pet when you otherwise don’t allow pets
- Permission to keep an exotic animal like an alligator
- A waived security deposits
- No security deposit deductions, even when there’s damage when they move out
- Protection from eviction after breaking the lease
- And more
All of these perks would be great to give if they didn’t come with consequences for you as a landlord. For instance, if you don’t charge late fees, your tenant will walk all over you and may never pay rent on time. If you don’t increase the rent, you’ll lose income on what was intended to be an income-generating asset.
Giving tenants special treatment is only going to make your life harder (and more expensive) as a landlord. Don’t start giving any of your tenants’ special treatment. Once you start doing them favors, your tenant will expect more.
3. You could lose a real friend over something petty
Many landlord-tenant issues are petty arguments. It would be horrible to lose a real friend over something petty like asking your tenant not to leave garbage outside their apartment door even for a few hours.
4. Your tenant might be playing you
It’s a hard possibility to face, but your tenant might be playing you. Some tenants are master manipulators and will try to befriend their landlord just to get what they want. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen to you. The only way to know is to watch how your tenant acts when they move out.
It would be horrible to spend a year or more thinking your friends with your tenant, when in reality, they’re only using you for perks.
5. Resentment can build up over time and then explode
Any relationship that involves money is subject to tension, but landlord-tenant relationships involve more than just money. Your tenant’s money is directly tied to their home, and any threat to your relationship will feel like a threat to their home.
When a tenant feels like their home is in jeopardy, it can lead to major feelings of resentment. However, they might not say anything at first, and that’s when things can get ugly.
Resentment that builds up over time can make a tenant do things like behave poorly and pay rent late out of spite. They might even stop paying rent completely.
Don’t let your tenant relationships turn sour – avoid befriending them no matter what
Are you worried about a friendship with your tenant turning sour? Whether you’ve already created a friendship or not, here’s how to avoid creating a volatile situation with your tenants.
1. Create and enforce your boundaries from day one
Sometimes you can be friends with a tenant when you enforce your boundaries from the beginning. When you’re friends with a tenant, don’t let them slide with anything. Hold them accountable for everything they’ve agreed to from the start. Once you cut them some slack, that’s when they’re likely to start expecting more breaks.
Technically, this is no different from a regular friendship. The best friendships are built on trust and integrity. Friends should be able to hold each other accountable for their promises and agreements without fear of retribution.
2. Avoid all favoritism
If you’re going to be friends with a tenant, avoid all forms of favoritism. It’s more important than ever that you show your tenant that you’re not going to play favorites or give them special treatment.
If several tenants are doing something they shouldn’t be doing, hold everyone accountable, even your friend. Never give them any reason to think you’ll bend the rules for them.
Other tenants will notice when someone is getting special treatment. Although you might not be doing it on purpose, favoritism can create tension between you and your other tenants. It’s best to avoid it all.
3. Don’t rent to existing friends
Whenever possible, don’t rent to existing friends. If they don’t have any other options, that’s understandable. However, renting to an existing friend is a quick way to destroy your friendship.
If you do rent to an existing friend, don’t skip any details. Draw up a proper lease just like you would for any other tenant and treat them equally.
4. Be professional at all times
It’s better to maintain a professional relationship with your tenants than veer off into a casual friendship. When you’re professional, your tenants will respect you more, and they’ll be more likely to follow the rules.
Avoid awkward tenant relationships with a property management company
The best way to avoid awkward situations with your tenants is to hire an Austin property management company. At Green Residential, we help Austin landlords manage their properties by relieving them of all landlord duties.
If you’d like someone else to take good care of your tenants, contact us for a free Austin property analysis. Once we learn more about your properties, we can help you with a variety of services including tenant screening, rent collection, evictions, and more. For more information, call us today to see how we can help.