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This is how you create an ideal landlord-tenant relationship

Steve Davis is the CEO of Total Wealth AcademyLLC, where he serves as a mentor on using real estate to build wealth and create passive income.

Once a potential client came to me and complained that it took them 40 hours per week to manage his 40 rental properties. In response, I told him that it only takes me six hours a month to manage my 20 properties. Of course he wanted to know how I did it and I told him he had to be a bear first, then a rabbit. What does that mean? let me explain.

People naturally think that the key to sales success is to be super nice to the customer. In fact, they take it to the point where it’s almost sugar-sweet. You want to act like a rabbit: show the customer that they care and that they are there for them no matter what they need. However, if there is a problem later, they tend to get it right.

That’s how my client did it. He was a rabbit at getting renters to sign the lease, but he was a bear when a repair was needed. When a customer called to say the air conditioning stopped working, he asked how they were using it. He would blame the renter for the breakdown. What he didn’t know was that he was creating problems for himself.

I explained to him that the reverse approach works for rentals. Landlords who want to build up the ideal landlord-tenant relationship have to come across like a bear right from the start. There’s a time to be a bunny, but not before the lease is signed.

Be the bear to protect property.

As a landlord, you don’t want to attract just any tenant. You want to attract a tenant who will respect you, your property and the agreements they made when signing the lease. Unfortunately, not every tenant does this.

Some tenants are constantly behind on their rent. Others could damage your property and accept no responsibility for it. These types of renters are looking for a place to rent because their last landlord kicked them out. Now they are looking for a rabbit host who will not cause them any difficulties. But when they meet a landlord who’s no-nonsense, no-nonsense, and professional—a bear of a landlord—they’ll turn and run.

Be the rabbit to keep good tenants.

When it comes to being a landlord, remember that maximizing your profits requires you to maximize your tenant retention. Every time a tenant moves out, it costs you something. Anything you can do to keep a tenant will work in your favor. You might think a bear is working against you when it comes to tenant retention, but in fact the opposite is true.

Landlords who start out as rabbits end up playing the role of bear. There will come a time when they will have to stand their ground and hold the renter accountable for their side of the rental terms. At this point, the renter will say, “He came across as a nice guy, but it turned out to be the opposite.” Once that happens, they start looking for another rental.

If you do it differently, it’s much more likely to work in your favor. Start by establishing yourself as a bear so the renter knows they can always count on the bear. But if you can be the bunny when it’s appropriate, the renter will then say, “He came across as a real jerk at first but has turned out to be a nice guy.” This is a renter who will stay.

I once got a call from a renter telling me that the air conditioner in their rented apartment was no longer working. I remembered that the tenants were a married couple and the woman was pregnant. So I told the man he would be hearing from the air conditioning repairman in ten minutes and that if the problem couldn’t be fixed we would put a window unit in the bedroom to keep his wife cool. Do you think the tenant will ever move out of my house? Not in a million years.

Overall, you have to keep in mind that a landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship. It won’t work well if you don’t set boundaries and set expectations. A tenant can expect you to keep your end of the contract as long as they keep theirs, but they should always expect you to do it like a bear first.


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