API recently received the following letter from a reader named Chris, who is also a homeowner and former tenant. We think he’s got some good insight into the relationship between tenants and landlords… tell us what you think.
Thanks for raising the issue of ‘dodgy landlords’ and ‘dodgy property managers’. You always seem to hear the stories about ‘tenants from hell’, but you very rarely hear about the other side of the coin.
I’m a homeowner (two years now) and used to be a tenant for about five years.
Being a migrant here, I was extra careful to make sure that I kept the place clean and tidy because if you don’t get your lease renewed, that can cause problems with your visa (if you have nowhere to live and considering that I have no family here, you can’t just go to mum and dad’s house). I now have my own home and I feel so much more secure than I used to. I also only have to answer to myself to pay the mortgage and keep the place clean.
I was fortunate in that I had two really good landlords, but it was always a worry as to whether or not your annual lease would get renewed, less so what the price was. It was the hassle of having to go and find another place if eventually (in one case), the property was sold.
I think that both landlords and tenants should realise that it’s not an ‘us versus them’ game on either side. We both need each other – one to provide a roof over their head, the other to actually fund the landlord to be able to provide that. Very few landlords would build a house without a loan, let alone build it for the sole purpose of not putting anyone in there (the exception being some mainland Chinese buyers who keep a house brand new with the purpose of selling it).
Tenants, most landlords are not millionaires who drive past your (their) house in a BMW, gloating and saying “SUCKERS!” whilst laughing evilly and thinking about going home to count their money. Most are the kind of people you meet next door, who just want to do a bit better in life.
Landlords, it’s not a ‘feudal system’, where you had slaves who were ever so grateful to have shelter, but some act like it is. Do you really think that tenants need you personally, more than someone else? They can always leave… and remember the story of the Golden Goose.
Some property managers throw their weight about and take a sick glee of threatening to put someone on the tenant’s blacklist for very minor things or the fact that they ‘have the right to choose who they let the property to’. I’ve had some realtors treat me (a professional person) like dirt or give me the run around merely because I was a tenant, being shown leases that had already been signed up for – in one case the tenants were already there sitting on the sofa! – and wasting my time. It’s a very sad situation when people (tenants) are labelled as ‘scum’ on internet forums or blogs, but they are.
The bottom line is this: your tenants are not ‘scum’ and are actually a very critical part to your business, just like ‘employees’ are.
Real estate agents don’t seem to realise that tenants often become buyers (investors or owners) and will remember the agents who treated them like dirt, especially when it comes time to sell the property. I do, and I don’t trust some people in Adelaide. In fact, I refuse to do business with them full stop.
Having a tenant in a house is not a right; it’s a privilege that you’re even making any money off the asset.
Having a nice house to live in as a tenant is not a right; it’s a privilege that someone has gone and got off their butt, took a risk and took on a big mountain of debt to try and get ahead in life.
Having a listing to look after is not a right, because you work for me, the landlord, and that job can be given to someone else very easily.
Yes, sometimes it is a renters market, sometimes it is a landlords market, depending on the vacancy rate – but this always has and always will be the case.
But since the market has been flat, most of the sensationalist stories produced by a certain Australian news website have eased off considerably. Some of the comments that used to appear on the ‘comments’ section of the property stories were so nasty and spiteful to each other, along the lines of “you’re paying my mortgage off, suckers”, “I’ll come around and kick you out onto the street”, “I just jacked their rent up 20 per cent because I could”, “when something goes wrong with the property, I just call and they have to fix it NOW or I’ll go to the tribunal”. Whether any of this is true or not is anyone’s guess because some of it strikes me as being ‘big-noting’, but my overarching sentiment is that overall, both sides should drop the nastiness – that we both need each other, whether we like it or not.
I don’t see why it can’t be a symbiotic, harmonious relationship – you pay your rent and keep the place clean, I give you shelter. You want to stay here, I won’t gouge you for it because an empty house produces no income (as people in Melbourne’s west are finding out right now), and also, an empty house gets broken into and stripped of fixings (like in parts of Detroit in the US) or squatted in.
We all need each other to get what we want.
Tell us what you think about the tenant versus landlord relationship. Do you agree with Chris?