I look at landlording as a “people” business. With that said, it’s up to the landlord to adopt his own management philosophy, which should match one’s personality.
I like the word “personable”, and it describes my approach. After college, I got into a “collections” job with credit cards, and moved on to “credit management” of small retailers, then industrial accounts. How you approach the customers often dictate success or failure.
It’s a “male dominated macho” field, and the typical approach is one of fear and intimidation. They outdo one another as to who’s the “rudest”. Most never met the customers, and communicated with rude phone calls, and ruder letters. I see many similarities with landlords and their approach to landlording.
My approach is to meet a new client from the start, and at least I know what the guy looks like if we have to find him later. Those early one on one communications often smooths things later on.
One new account officer had a hard time with a small business retail account I once handled. While the account is only one block from the office, it is not typical to see customers face to face on a problem. Our office was told time and again “Mr T…” is not in, as threatening calls escalated.
Early one morning, on the way in to the office, I found it funny that “Mr. T…” was standing in his store, by the window, with his foot on the radiator looking at pedestrains passing by. I told the “new account guy” of this and suggested I help him call this seriously delinquent account. Just as I expected, a clerk answering the phone said “Mr. T…” is not expected in till the evening. I just laughed and said "Mr. T… is standing by the window with his foot on the radiator. The clerk was so rattled that he got Mr. T… right away who insisted I’m spying on him from across the street. Since we were on friendly terms from before, he invited me by, and the problem was resolved that morning.
I carried this experience to landlording. Long story short, I had a hard luck tenant whose live in girlfriend died from an accident at a hospital, when an air tube got twisted. He was so devastated that he stopped working immediately and fell behind on his rent and all his other bills.
A month went by, I visited him, and he was in a dark room, shades down, haven’t bathed or shaved in a month. Chatted with him, and I recall he had his mom listed on his application as a contact. Turned out he never told her about his misfortune either.
I’m in NYC, and I called her in Naples FL, whereupon she promised, and sent me the past due rent checks. She paid the rent for nearly a year for him, as I updated her on her son’s progress. Finally, she said that I should evict him, or she’ll spent the rest of her life paying his rent. In between, I also spoke to my tenant’s priest.
I visited him again, and told him we’ll do a “friendly eviction”, so I’m legally covered. I expected a fight, but he agreed to it. We went to court, and it dragged on for six months since he said he was too sick to get himself out, with him promising to pay me the back rents no matter what.
Long and short of it, he was over $6,000 past due in rent when he finally left, six months later.
He then called me, mentioned he’s filing bankruptcy, and wanted to put down what he owed me. I told him “if you want to settle with me after the bankruptcy later on, leave my name out”. He said “fine, I’ll leave it out, and pay you when I’m on my feet again”.
I never expected to hear from him again.
Two years later, my new tenant told me a stranger left him a $50.00 money order and ask for me to get in touch. It was my former tenant, and he said he’ll start making $50.00 weekly payments till the debt was paid.
Long and short of it, when the debt was down to $1,500 asked if I can get him a discount and he’ll pay in one lump sum. I went to his home to collect $1,000 and stayed for a barbecue.
While I sat through a few beers, he explained I was the only one that stood by him, and didn’t consider him a “criminal and crook”.
I walked away from this experience realizing that when you treat everyone “personably”, in the long run, the rewards outweighs the losses.
Even though I walked away from this $500.00 short, and monies several years late, I’m still way ahead, as typically, a landlord loses all when a deadbeat files bankrutpcy. I attribute this to treating the tenant as a human being, not as a “deadbeat”.