Whether you plan to rent a home from a friend, or find yourself developing a friendship with your landlord, proceed with caution. You may be in for a bumpy ride.
If you’re already friends with your landlord, or you’re hoping to become one, here are some suggestions to make it work.
1. Don’t expect special treatment
Let’s say your friend has a vacancy in their rental property. You two discuss the details, and moving in seems like a good idea. But is it really?
Chances are, you’ll call your friend in to handle minor maintenance issues far more often than you’d call a landlord you don’t know so well. This could lead to resentment on both sides.
You may get upset when your friend doesn’t jump at your every request, and your friend will probably get angry if your requests are more numerous or trivial than those made by other tenants. If you friend does give you special treatment, other tenants may get annoyed.
Solution: Treat your friend as you would any other landlord regarding your rental situation—be professional and businesslike regarding the rental property. And keep in mind that your friend is running a business. Cutting you special deals is not in their best interest.
2. Don’t mix business with pleasure
When you want to get together with your friend, it’s easy for your hangout time to involve talk about the property. Don’t do this. No matter who initiates the discussion, it may be unwelcome talk if it happens too often or deals with issues the other party doesn’t want to discuss. That once-sweet relationship could get sour in a hurry.
Solution: Treat your friend as a friend during social occasions, and deal with business later.
3. Get everything in writing
If you do wind up in a situation where you rent from a friend, make sure you get everything in writing. This way, if the rent changes or some fees occur that you weren’t expecting, you have a legal document to back you up. A verbal or handshake agreement will most likely end up with a ruined friendship when things turn out differently than expected.
Solution: Sign a lease.
4. Don’t become too familiar
If your landlord spends a lot of time around the property, or even lives on site, you’ll probably engage in conversations once in a while. This can be great for building relationships. For one, it’s often nice to know your landlord instead of dealing with an impersonal management company. You can also find out how “open” they are about dealing with maintenance-related issues such as malfunctioning electrical outlets or carpet that needs to be replaced.
Likewise, the landlord learns more about the tenants each time they engage in small talk, making everyone more comfortable.
But don’t cross a line. Getting over familiar is not the best idea. Blurred Lines is a great concept for a song, but not so much for landlord/tenant relationships. The next time you’re cooking out with friends and the landlord just happens to walk by, you may feel awkwardly obliged to invite them, too.
Solution: Don’t become friends with your landlord.
5. Nip boundary crossing in the bud
Your landlord may take things too far because of the familiar relationship.
My landlord (back in the day) regularly failed to pay her phone bills on time and asked to borrow my phone whenever her service was shut off. I agreed a couple of times, but then found out she was entering my apartment to make calls while I was out!
Instead of a key, she used a butter knife to pry open the inner door that led to my apartment, leaving the knife next to my phone. She didn’t even act concerned when I returned her knife, as though what she did was perfectly normal. I eventually moved out.
Landlords who overstep one boundary will probably overstep others.
The bottom line
Having a good relationship with your landlord is well worth the minimal effort it takes to be friendly and courteous. But if you want a resentment-free residence, treat the landlord as a business acquaintance and not a “bestie.”