The dynamics of a landlord and tenant relationship can be volatile at the best of times. Add in the pressure of an economic shutdown brought about by a deadly global pandemic, it can very easily bring out the worst even in the best of people. Just one look in social media groups and one can find tenants and landlords at each others’ throats, each fighting for their rights. There are numerous examples of spiteful retributions and name-calling strewn in plain sight.
The year 2020 has been a very testing one. However, not everything is bad. There are also stories of good landlords and great tenants helping and lifting each other up in these tough times; like the landlord who offered to pay utilities for their long-time tenant and a tenant who saved their landlord from having to pay for cleaning services.
How do some property owners get it right while others don’t? The secret lies in having built a good relationship with tenants which also builds respect for the landlord and the property they rent. This could be very important in many situations that may arise during a tenancy almost all of which had been seen during the pandemic.
Right from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of people lost their jobs and livelihood, especially those who were self-employed and worked in small businesses. With so many out of work and locked inside their homes or worse, gotten sick, expenses piled on. For many, it turned into choosing between keeping a roof over their heads and putting food on the table.
There have been heartwarming stories where landlords have been supportive of their tenants. Many landlords understood that it may not be easy for their tenants and agreed to let go of rental arrears or made arrangements where their tenants could make partial payments. This only stemmed from the high regard the landlord had towards their tenants who had been great people who communicated well and were easy to work with. No landlord would want to see a good, trustable tenant go unless it was an extreme situation.
Maintenance and disputes
The next biggest problem after rent payment that caused conflict were maintenance requests and disputes with neighbours. With more people staying home due to lockdowns, remote work and stay-at-home orders, living spaces started feeling too confining. And for people with children, lack of childcare was an added problem. Eventually disputes rose. Everything ranging from broken appliances, drawings on walls, noise complaints, and unruly pets became an issue.
While a lot of tenants withheld rent due to failure of addressing maintenance requests, there were landlords that withheld services due to non-payment of rent. The stalemate that this caused also built resentment, more trouble and kept escalating.
On the other hand, landlords and tenants who knew and understood each other were able to work through the problems. Tenants understood service professionals took a long time to respond to repair requests and were more patient, while landlords knew their tenants were being inconvenienced by the lack of service so found alternative solutions to help tenants.
Sale of property/ eviction
This came at the later stage of the pandemic, in the final quarter of 2020. A number of small landlords wanted out of the business as their investment had turned into a cost center. The reasons were many- non-paying tenants, vacant properties, and low mortgage rates that pushed a lot of first-time home buyers to bid at higher prices.
When tenanted properties get sold, it means two things- eviction or new rules from new landlords. Landlords with great relationships with their tenants made sure their tenants’ interests were looked after, selling to buyers who were willing to take on the current tenants or working out a deal where the tenants themselves could purchase the property from them. In such cases, tenants too were willing to cooperate and work with landlords.
These are just the most common examples of the disputes that rose in the last year and how landlords and tenants with good relationships handled them. Building a good relationship with tenants that is beyond just transactional begins the moment they apply to your property. The first impression will be formed by how easy it would be for them to communicate with you and how convenient the moving-in process is.
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