What Role Should A Landlord Have In A Tenant’s Life?

Ghosts
Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

I saw a reader’s comment that a landlord’s role should be ethereal.

The idea made me question:

a) what is ethereal?

b) what is the role of a landlord?

The first part is pretty easy to answer (thank you online dictionary!), ethereal means ‘extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world.’

The second is, perhaps, harder: what is the role of a landlord?

The idea made me reflect on my two decades of being a landlord.

In that time, I’ve changed a lot.

Twenty years passing makes you a different person – not just personally, but also professionally.

Also, notwithstanding, the world has changed. Tenant desires have broadened, but perhaps my idea of what it means to be a landlord have sharpened.

In the beginning, I was a very active hands-on landlord. I didn’t fix your tap (I’ve always employed people who knew what they’re doing!), but I was very much more of a presence.

Back then, you would’ve spoken to me on the phone where I would’ve got to know you, explained about the property and sought to see if there was a match.

As a tenant, you would’ve then met me on a viewing (I always took great pleasure in meeting potential tenants), and we would’ve discussed your plans for the property, for life and future hopes.

In all, we would’ve both got a good measure of each other.

At that time, I used to think finding a tenant was akin to finding a partner – you’re looking for someone who you can settle with, trust and grow old together.

Writing that now, it sounds very silly, but then I remind myself, I have several tenants, selected via this method, all these years on, who are still my tenants.

In a way, it’s as though we’ve grown together. Our bond is the property, but after all these years and the extra wrinkles and crinkles life has dealt us, there’s something more.

When things went wrong (life invariably happens so you must expect this), I was there to stand in, not just as a landlord, but as an ear to listen, sometimes a confidante, other times maybe to take the brunt of rage.

It was a role more like that of a support worker, where oftentimes, I was the first person to hear of a relationship breakdown, family death or a redundancy.

It was a role I took very seriously.

Fast forward several years and my hand-picking (due to time-constraints) was no longer viable. This meant more and more tasks were outsourced. Tenants were chosen via an agent, although I still preferred to manage everybody myself.

Closeness to the core was what I thought would prove the best business model.

In time, that model also changed.

Property management, as satisfying as it was, is hellishly time-consuming and with a large portfolio and ever onerous legislation, was proving increasingly cumbersome to living any sort of life. And as much as I loved being a landlord, I did want a life outside.

Over the last few years, I’ve passed over many management responsibilities.

I’ll be honest, I’ve found it challenging to take a step back.

When you were once so close to your business, it’s hard to come to terms with the distance that now exists. I struggle to let go of my once close tenant relationships.

If I’m being completely honest, it’s been an uneasy truce.

You see, I love being a landlord and getting involved with people’s lives and helping where I can. But today, with different times, I think there’s a need for a different model.

Now, when I think about the role of a landlord, I realise you should probably be more like a utility supplier: in the background, there-but-not-there. Which is how, maybe, the original comment about ethereal came into being.

Nowadays, I am a disjointed being.

To most tenants, I am nothing more than a name on the contract, a bill payer, somebody who has authority, but no presence.

I am there, but not there.

As I say, it’s an uneasy truce.

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