Should landlords give their tenants gifts for the holidays
By Mercedes Shaffer
Tenants who pays rent on time, take care of the property and are courteous and easy to work with should be easy to find, but they’re not and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Great tenants are precious and can set the tone for the other tenants. Unfortunately, most landlords spend their time on the squeaky wheels because it’s the challenging tenants that seem to consume the most time.
One of the keys to rental success, or managing any business for that matter, is to move away from the natural inclination to focus on the difficult tenants and instead endeavor to put most of your time and resources into the good ones. You want them to stay and to attract other model tenants. The good news is that it’s easy to communicate appreciation to them and it feels good to do good.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to show your appreciation to your tenants is to send them a gift and/or a card during the holiday season. In some cases, a property upgrade that you know they’ll enjoy for months or even years to come can be a great way to show appreciation. One of my favorite upgrades that is easy to add is a new luxurious spa-style shower head. This simple upgrade goes a long way in making the home a place your tenant enjoys on a daily basis.
When you treat your tenants well and show them appreciation, although it’s not about the reciprocity, I’ve found that the appreciation is returned many times over. It comes in the form of clean move-outs, good tenants referring new good tenants, tenants fixing minor issues themselves, etc.
So what about problem tenants? Is there a place for gift giving and appreciation? Maybe. Even if you have had some issues with your tenants - nuisance complaints from neighbors, clogging the pipes and claiming it wasn’t their fault, frequent complaints about the unit, late with payments, etc. - this holiday season is an opportunity to strengthen the foundation of the tenant-landlord business relationship by showing goodwill and positive expectations for the upcoming year.
What if you have tenants who haven’t paid rent due to loss of income from the COVID-19 pandemic? Should you send them a gift? You may not feel like sending a gift since you haven’t received rent payments, but if they have signed all the proper documentation, they legally owe you all the back-rent and they need to work with you to come up with a plan for how to re-pay it. Sending a card or a gift would send a message of compassion for their situation and willingness to work together towards a resolution. This is about building trust. Trust is the foundation of a relationship, business or otherwise . If you rely strictly on the law to maintain your contractual agreements, you could end up spending more time in the legal system than enjoying the fruits of your investment property.
If despite giving a kind gift and showing trust and goodwill, your worse fears come true and a tenant does not fulfill their lease obligation of repayment, you will have the right to evict them and take them to small claims court for the amount that is owed to you. Small claims court is allowing landlords to sue tenants for the total amount of rent owed to them, and in eviction cases the courts have waived the $10,000 small claims court limit so that you can sue for the full amount of rent owed.
For further information on suing a tenant for unpaid rent you should consult an experienced eviction attorney, but if you do end up needing to go to small claims court, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if you tell the judge that despite not getting rent payments, you maintained an amicable relationship and even sent a holiday card or gift. This shows a good faith effort and good intent. (Let’s face it, due to new legislation under the current State of Emergency, you have no choice.)
When buying a gift, think about what your tenant would like and what is going to have the biggest and greatest impact. It’s best to keep your gift or card non-religious and make sure that it communicates a friendly yet professional message. Here are a few gift ideas that are easy to purchase online, affordable, and make a nice statement:
· Fruit and Candy Basket
· Large Tin of Gourmet Popcorn
· Indoor Succulent Arrangement
· Cooking Gadgets
· Indoor Kitchen Herb Garden
· Gourmet Tea or Coffee and Tea or Coffee Mug Set
· Decorative Flameless Candles
I am not suggesting being a push over or rewarding bad behavior. What I am saying is investing in your tenants, especially when you don’t have to, improves the likelihood that the renter-landlord relationship will be one of collaboration and cooperation, resulting in a mutually beneficial outcome.
At the end of the day, you want to reduce stress and enjoy life, and gift giving is an easy way to show your appreciation, maintain a good working relationship and start off the New Year on a positive note. Who knows, you may get a card and gift from your tenant as well.
Mercedes Shaffer is an agent with Pacific Sotheby's International Realty and specializes in investment real estate and 1031 Exchanges. For help with buying or selling an investment property, Mercedes can be reached by phone at 714.330.9999, by email at InvestingInTheOC@gmail.com or visit her website at www.InvestingInTheOC.com. DRE 02114448