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Old 02-26-2006, 12:54 PM
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Post Ethics in Landlording

Every month or so, I receive a call from a concerned citizen asking what he can do about a neighborhood landlord. These questions generally fall into one of two categories:

1) how can I get a landlord to control/evict/ talk to his horrible tenant, and
2) how can I get a landlord to repair/maintain his horrible property.

A few years ago, I would have responded to these callers by saying that a bad tenant isn't a landlord's responsibility, that problems between neighbors are part of life, and that it was horribly unfair that landlords are held to a different standard than homeowners in terms of the condition of their properties. Years of hearing horror stories (I can't sell my home because the renters next door keep throwing bottles and yelling obscenities at the potential buyers; landlord tells me to !?#@ myself when I complain to him) and seeing the havoc that one rundown rental property with nightmare tenants can wreak on a neighborhood, I have changed my tune about a landlord's ethical responsibilities.

Like it or not, landlords do have an obligation to the neighborhoods in which they purchase properties. Just as you wouldn't want a noisy, destructive, violent, drug-dealing neighbor to move in next to your family, you shouldn't inflict such a tenant on somebody else's neighborhood. And yet, landlords rarely take tenant screening seriously–or look only at an applicant’s ability to pay the deposit and the monthly rent, ignoring that he is a terrible person to live next door to.

Beyond this, I think there's another obligation to keep properties maintained at least to the level of the rest of the neighborhood. Now, let me emphasize that I am a BIG fan of private property rights, and don't believe that the government (or anyone else, for that matter) has the right to enter into, tell me what to do with, or otherwise control my property. I think that most "building codes" are meant to raise money for the city, not to protect the health, welfare, or property values of the citizenry. Nonetheless, whether the legal obligation is there or not, I think that there is an ethical obligation on the part of landlords (and all other property owners, for that matter) to AVOID interfering with the property values of their neighbors by owning eyesores.

I honestly don't believe that the majority of "slumlords" set out to be that way. In fact, I think that the problem is that too many rental property owners get into the business without the proper education, skills, or connections to solve problems as they arise, and that too many are "undercapitalized"—they don't put aside enough money to cover inevitable repairs to their properties. I suspect that unpreparedness and lack of ready cash cause 99% of the friction between landlords and neighborhoods. But whether the owners of trouble properties set out to be the bad guys or not, they hurt the neighborhoods where they invest, and ultimately hurt the rest of us by causing our cities and states to pass inspection, licensing, and occupancy laws to "control" landlords.

The message comes down to this: housing providers have enough of an image problem to overcome without adding to it by taking advantage of people. There's enough money to be made in this business when you're taking care to do right by everyone you deal with. If you're cheating or lying to your customers, or if neighborhoods cringe when you buy properties there, something's not right. Please, reevaluate your business before the government does it for you.

Reprinted from the Real Deal, a monthly newsletter for Real Life Real Estate Investors with permission of Vena Jones-Cox. Get a free 3-month trial subscription by logging onto
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Old 08-21-2006, 06:34 AM
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Well, I agree with this in part, but there are flaws in this reasoning.

I do agree that landlords have the responsibility to properly screen tenants and to keep undesirable people out of the rentals. Let's face it, this is just common sense, and business sense. Who wants the value of their investment to deteriorate?

However, there is a limit to the things that LL's should be held responsible for. Disputes between neighbors should be handled as such. We're all adults. One of our rentals is next door to a lady who constantly calls us with petty complaints about the people who live there. And I do mean petty. She should be handling issues with them by talking to them and resolving the problem. If the house was owner-occupied, would she call and complain to the bank who held the mortgage? I think not. It's worth noting that this lady stores bags of cans that she's collecting for recycling, outside the house in the side yard, and has a dog that yaps all the livelong day. She's not exactly the best of neighbors herself.
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Old 01-28-2007, 08:17 PM
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I have to agree with both of you. When you are a landlord you are responsible to a point. However, when you have neighbors that are petty and can't resolve them with your tenants then you need to make them see that they need to talk to the tenants. My parents own a few houses that they rent out and in one house the neighbor calls my parents everyday with something new. However, it doesn't seem like the tenant is doing anything wrong. The neighbors are just very petty about certain things. For example they will call and complain that the trash cans are still out on Sunday when the trash is picked up on a Friday. Well usually it is because the tenants are out of town.
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Old 01-29-2007, 07:14 PM
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Nothing good usually ever comes of a landlord getting in the middle of neighborly disagreements between tenants and other people who live nearby. And besides, don't we all have better things to do with our time?
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Old 02-02-2007, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by r8rpwr
Nothing good usually ever comes of a landlord getting in the middle of neighborly disagreements between tenants and other people who live nearby. And besides, don't we all have better things to do with our time?

no nothing does come out of it that is good. I think it just makes it worse at times. I know that I have plenty of other stuff then listen to my tenant and the neighbor go at it about the dumbest things.
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