Personable Landlording...

Hey all,

We talk a lot on here about the business side of the house with respect to landlording, but I wanted to get some of the seasoned vets opinions on another issue.

My current landlord is a great dude. He is personable, remembers my birthday, always checking up on us, and since I am one of his few tenants that pays the rent and doesn’t mess around we have gone and caught a couple of drinks. I am sure he is a savvy business man, but also is very personable.

I have heard of landlords sending tenants birthday cards, christmas/holiday cards, etc. Spending a few extra dollars to get a loyal tenant and some positive advertising through word of mouth.

Does anyone here do anything along this vein to keep your tenants on the hook? If so, please share, I would be interested to see your approach.

Thanks so much for responding, it really helps the beginners like me out a lot.


I feel you should always treat your tenants well and give them some respect…that is, if you want the same in return. I believe that if they feel they know you as a person, they will take better care of your place. I do little things, like when the fireplace was out for a week, I gave them $50 off of their next months rent for the inconvenience.


There are a couple of “gurus” that are teaching this type of stuff: sending out birthday cards, giving gifts at renewal time, etc. I think it is a bunch of guru nonsense.

What I’m about to say is true of the vast majority of the United States. It doesn’t apply to tenants of very expensive rentals like NYC, pirme resort areas, etc.

The truth is that tenants are fickle. That is exactly why they are tenants. The make bad decisions; they have bad habits; they drink (ALOT); etc. The reasons they move have absolutely nothing to do with whether the landlord sends them a birthday card or gives them a $50 gift at their annual lease renewal.

Let’s look at this logically. Why do tenants leave? There are many reasons.

  1. They leave to buy a house. They certainly won’t decide to remain renters because you sent them a business card.

  2. If they are JSStinson, they move to go to pilot training. You aren’t going to cancel that for a $50 renewal gift…are you?

  3. They move to another area to shack up with their latest boyfriend/girlfriend. That isn’t going to be affected by a birthday card.

  4. They move because they have trashed the place and want another one. No birthday card help here.

  5. They move because they’ve had another kid and need a bigger place. No nelp here either.

  6. They move because they are evicted. We don’t want these people to stay.

Think of all the reasons people move. Which reason will be affected by a birthday card or cheap gift.

I do not fraternize with my tenants. I am always nice to them, but I don’t want to be their friend. We have a contractual relationship. I keep up my end and expect them to keep up theirs. It’s a business, not my social circle.


property manager

Obviously you have been hardened by your industry. I agree with some of what you have to say but not all. I have heard you post the same thing about renters more than once and I feel you look down on them. Not all renters are useless slimeballs as you make it sound. I have some great tenants that you would be happy to call friends. I am currently a renter myself although I own rentals, flip properties and have a 9-5. My reason is for location. I can walk to work and save the everyday commute.


You are absolutely correct. In my experience, about 90% of tenants are fine at any given time. Another 9% are some trouble, but nothing major. Only about 1% at any given time are real slimeballs and have to be evicted.

I don’t look down on 90% of the tenants. I am neutral towards them. I don’t pick tenants because I need more friends. I am always cordial and ask how they are doing. I do not go have dinner with them or otherwise fraternize with them. I have very little in common with them. Many of them are lazy, I am not. Many of them live off of public assistance, I think they are lazy. Many of them make a LOT of bad decisions. I try to make good decisions.

I’ve gotta be honest here. I do look down on druggies, deadbeats, drunks, and people who chose not to pay their bills. In fact, I not only look down on them, I evict them.


I agree. :beer

You mean you would have a drink with a nice guy like me if I was renting from you?


I understand what you are saying though,

Thanks for your inputs…

Anyone else out there who wants to chime in?


Is being nice to your tenants all about just resigning your lease, though? I have rented plenty of places, and am currently renting a house while my divorce is finalized and I sell my house in SC, and don’t fit the general description laid out of an average tenant.

I once had a LL in Atlanta who gave me a $50 gift card for x-mas, and thought it was incredibly considerate. Although I’m the type that keeps my rental as I would my own house, to a degree (do yardwork, minor repairs for no charge, whatever needs to be done to keep it tip-top) I would think tenants who may not care for their rental as their own, may make more of an effort if they have a good relationship with their LL and any good will shown by the LL would help.

Sure, tenants will move around, but when it comes time to find another good tenant, they may be more inclined to be more compliant/helpful finding new, good tenants and showing the place and keeping it up and notifying the LL when something needs attention. I’d think that would be worth a few bucks.

That being said however, I haven’t been on the LL side of the fence, so I’m not sure I’d do it or not-would probably play it by ear on a case-by-case basis.

I also don’t want to fraternize with my LL-it is business, and my LL’s and I certainly don’t run in the same social circles, normally.


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”.


Thanks so much. I appreciate you sharing the experience.


I view tenants as my customer and thus try to provide some reasonable level of customer service. That means I friendly and nice and on occasion, been know to crack an adult beverage while sitting on the bumper of my truck after a day of working on the property and chat about the weather, the news, etc.

Some years I’ve given small gift certificate to a local restuarant if people have been on-time with payments and low hassle tenants.

With that said, rent is due by the 5th and even if they show up at 8am on 6th, my property mgr has specific instruction NOT to cut them a break (no matter how I like them). Business is business.

Having managed a customer service organization for a number of year, I agree with the previous post that approach is everything.

I have a relationship with each of my tenants. That relationship is a financial relationship. If they don’t give me money then we don’t have a relationship. Now I am a very nice person. People like to hang out with me. My tenants are just like everyone else. They are always asking me to come to their cook outs or to talk to them. If I am over there I talk to them about their kids and work etc. When I fire people at work I am very good at it. I once had a guy say that he had never had a person that made him feel so good about himself while being fired. But I still have only one relationship with them and that is financial. If they have to make a decision as to feeding their kids or paying me the rent and they ask me as their friend to pass on the rent, I will put them and their starving kid on the street (I would point them to the soup kitchen and probably give them a lift to it).

I just had a guy that wanted to let his house go back and buy mine. He asked me how he could come up with the down payment to give me (I am carrying the note) I told him to stop paying the mortgage where he was and give that money to me. If he was a friend of mine I would have come up with a solution that would allow him to keep his house and probably his credit. But I want his money and for as much and as long as I can keep him.

My overriding rule is that I don’t do business with anybody I can’t sue. If being his friend will cloud over my financial motivations then I can’t be friends with him. But just because I am going to kill you doesn’t mean I can’t be nice to you.

I just had a guy that wanted to let his house go back and buy mine. He asked me how he could come up with the down payment to give me (I am carrying the note) I told him to stop paying the mortgage where he was and give that money to me.

That is something that I would never do. I would not encourage a potential tenant to screw someone else and I won’t accept tenants who have done so. You just said in a previous post that people don’t change. So, why would you accept a buyer that just screwed the previous mortgage holder?


He was in a bad deal. He needed to get out of it. He could either stay there and try to fight out of it, or leave now. He is trying to sue the builder, but it won’t work, it will just burn time…time that he could spend buying my house.

Thought I mention a thing or two here about “keeping tenants on the hook”, and “socializing with tenants”.

As “propertymanger” mentioned, it’s the nature of the business for tenants to move. It is part of the screening process that I pick tenants that won’t move, or won’t move “so soon”.


I notice most “attractive” single girls for 1BR apts move on to be with boyfriends. Solution?? Rent to ugly women, or 50ish grandmas. On the occasions I did, these tenants stayed for many years.

I don’t give out rebates or gift cards. Tenants start off with “below market” rent so I can rent it out quickly, and I don’t raise rents for “low hassle quick pay” tenants. If they turn bad, I’d say “I’ll give you sixty days to find another apartment”.

For instance, I did that to one tenant, I was charging $800/month at the time, and market was $1,000/month. After looking around, he begged me to raise the rent a bit, and behave himself, it he can stay.

A word here about charging below market, and some may think it made no business sense. But through the years, it has kept tenancy stable, kept properties in great shape, and made property mangement easy. A tenant moving, the vacancy, repairs, often is equal to two months rent.

I don’t go out of my way to “socialize, or smooze, but make things professional and friendly. One time, after hearing how “dirty” South Asian (Indian)” tenants are, I decided to visit a professional South Asian couple at their current home to see how it’s kept, before we rent it to them. The way I said it was “I want to come by your house to explain our lease”. We noramlly do this at the empty rental.

The wife and I went there, and found ourselves sitting around the table at the home of the bride to be, with her parents, brothers, the groom to be. Aftwerwards, her dad commented that he owned several rentals, and never went to a tenant’s home to explain a lease, and he was impressed with our way of handling things. Here we were checking how clean the place was. What happened??

We were invited to the new couple’s wedding.

We had another tenant at a SFH which we inspect 2 or 3 times a year, and come by for a lease renewal. We don’t do it by mail.

My wife handles this one, and things went so well that the inspection visits became social visits where she bought cake and cookies, stay for a few hours, the tenant’s wife made coffee, and we bought along pictures of our kids, and vacation, and she her grandkids.

Did the tenant take advantage of us?? Defintitely NO. On one visit, we notice that all the joints on all the walls at the house redone and respackled. We rehabbed the house 10 years before, and settling of the house opened up the cracks. Instead of calling us to complain, he did it himself. Said he was tired of looking at cracks, and enjoyed working with his hands rather than watch TV all day.

We still exchange Xmas cards with tenants that left years earlier. One kept in touch from Ireland, and since moved to Arizona.

All in all, “personable” landlording made the landlording experience all the more rewarding.