You’re Not Doing Your Land Lord Any Favors

I keep seeing funny little slide shows about bad land lords that look for cheap fixes often involving duct tape. The stories are usually accompanied by people complaining about how horrible their land lord is and how it took 2 weeks to fix an air conditioner or that they had to wait 48 hours for a water heater to be replaced.

Most people agree that land lords are all filthy rich and have zero expenses and loads of time on their hands and that they’re just neglecting their poor tenants because they’re horrible people.

Um… allow me to explain something: If you sympathize with those posts, you’re not doing your land lord any favors by living there. I know that’s not a popular sentiment these days, but a lot of renters don’t ever stop to think about what their land lord is really doing for them, besides cashing their rent check each month.

My in-laws are land lords and they’re definitely not rich. Most people don’t realize that a land lord assumes a whole lot of risk for a couple hundred bucks a month. What’s that? Your rent is over $1,000? Guess what buttercup, odds are your land lord spends close to that to house you. How so?

Well, rent goes towards a number of items. Like the mortgage on the building you’re living in — most land lords have some sort of loan on the building and don’t own it outright. That loan payment might include PMI depending on how long they’ve owned the building and how much they put down on it. There’s also property taxes, which never go away. Even if they own the building outright! Then there’s fire insurance, water, trash removal, snow removal… and the list goes on and on. Taxes on properties go up pretty regularly and so does the cost of water or other necessities that your state says must be included in your rent.

There are many, many tenant protection laws, but not many land lord protection laws.

Most tenants have never owned property themselves because they don’t have the funds to put a down payment on something or they don’t have the credit to get a loan. Maybe they just don’t want to be stuck in one place. Who knows, there are lots of reasons why someone would rent instead of own. Unfortunately, if you’re not willing to pony up the cash to purchase a property or if you can’t take out a loan to buy something yourself, someone else has to do it for you. They assume 100% of the risk and grant you the favor of living there in exchange for help paying the bill on the property. If you suddenly stop paying, it’s very difficult (and expensive) to evict you. That’s a risk they take, and hopefully mitigate as best they can by screening potential tenants with a rental application. But there are anti-discrimination laws so even if you just rub them the wrong way they may be forced to rent to you. That’s a whole lot of risk.

On top of that, some tenants don’t take very good care of the property. Some are fantastic and treat it like their own, but a large portion of tenants don’t. They just assume buildings never need maintenance and treat the home like it’s disposable.

Finally, there’s the matter of repairs. If your water heater stops working at your own home, you immediately call a plumber. After hours calls cost more. Weekend calls cost more. Holiday calls cost more and emergency calls cost more. I know that if mine worked I’d try to make due for 24 to 48 hours so I could avoid an emergency fee or a weekend call. If I were a landlord, my tenant would expect it fixed about 5 minutes after it broke, which drives up costs and reduces the landlord’s ability to shop around for the best price. A simple broken water heater can wipe out any profit from rent for multiple months. Add in any other unexpected repairs or a rate hike for water or taxes and the land lord is now paying for you to live there.

Most tenants don’t realize that the average landlord is only making a couple hundred dollars a month on their investment, tops. If they break even or lose money, they no longer have an incentive to keep the property and to rent it to someone who can’t or won’t buy their own property.

So before you go whining about your land lord too much, realize that they’re doing you a much bigger favor by taking on the risk of property ownership and renting it to you than you’re doing them by cutting a rent check each month. Unless you live in a large complex owned by a huge corporation, odds are you’re costing nearly as much to board as you’re paying and if at any point you cost equal to or more than the building expenses, you might find yourself homeless.

Now, do you really want to call about that lightbulb or do you want to just replace it yourself?

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