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Today we discuss one of the most debated topics in rental property management: landlord-tenant communication. Should a landlord meet the tenants when the property is administered by a property management company?
Our short answer is NO. The reasons are simple. Landlord-tenant communication opens a third channel of communication that adds confusion and makes everyone’s job harder. It also sets up a ‘mommy and daddy’ dynamic in which the tenant and landlord complaint of one another in front of the property manager. Miscommunication can lead to socially awkward situations, authority and trust issues, and, worst of all, loss of income on the landlord’s side.
Examples speak for themselves, so here are three situations we have been confronted with in our property management career:
Story 1: Landlord agrees to unauthorized pet on the property
During a regular inspection, our property manager found that the tenant kept an unauthorized dog on the premises. The tenant was informed that only approved animals can be kept on the premises and that he needs to pay an additional fee to cover possible damages to the property, while the animal needs to go through a screening process. To our surprise, the tenant called the owner, accused our property manager of animal cruelty, and obtained a verbal agreement from the owner that he can keep the dog on the premises.
The result? Legal inconsistencies. The verbal agreement between the tenant and landlord did not appear on the lease and was inconsistent with the renter’s insurance policy or the landlord’s policy. If the animal actually produced damage to the property, we could not enforce payment from the tenant because we simply lacked the legal proof to do so.
Story 2: Landlord receives partial payment and eviction is thrown out
Another time, the landlord collected partial payment from a tenant who was in the eviction process because he had defaulted on rent. The tenant told the landlord that he wanted to pay the rent, but the property manager was too hard to reach. To add to that, the tenant showed up in the eviction court with a canceled cheque of $400 made payable to the owner, enough proof to throw the eviction out on grounds of accepted partial payment. Needless to say, we started the eviction process from scratch once more.
The result? $1500 landlord income loss. The tenant lived on the property for free for the next 45 days while the owner spent an extra $300 to start the eviction process all over again. All in all, the landlord lost about $1500.
Story 3: Tenant lady feels threatened by landlord behavior
Yet another time, a tenant lady complained to our property manager that the landlord asked to give her a ride to the airport. Feeling threatened by the proposal, she asked the property manager to explain to the owner that this was an inappropriate interaction with a single lady.
The result? Socially awkward situation. Our property manager was in a socially awkward situation that could have been easily avoided if the tenant and landlord were not in direct contact.
Do not be alarmed, though, these are extreme examples. There are many landlords that have the time and energy to administer their properties in a professional manner. However, if you do not have these resources at your disposal and decide to hire a rental property management company, then you will decrease the risks for misunderstanding, income loss, and legal problems if you stop being the property manager yourself.