Free Ebook.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

« Star Money Articles and Carnivals for the Week of Nov 5 | Main | Thinking of the Poor »

November 09, 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

You describe almost exactly what I do apart from the longer than 1 year lease. In my location I have not had a tenant stay for more than 2 years due to the changes in job, family conditions or other reasons. I have been a landlord for the past 4 years.
I treat my tenants really well, keeping rents stable and slightly below market rate for lease renewals, with prompt repairs and I am flexible on late fees as long as they let me know in advance it will be a day or two late. I even purchase a $25 gift card for the Christmas holidays to their favorite supermarket for tenants living in my properties more than 1 year. This is a small expense for me, but earns a great deal of goodwill.
Now I have at least one tenant calling me every month asking if I have vacancies for their friends. If I managed/owned 50 properties instead of the 10 I have now, I believe I could rent them all out from referrals!

Great tips. I have a great tenant at my rental home and we signed a 3 years lease. I know I could raise rent, but they are such great tenants that I don't mind. Once they are gone, I'll probably turn this home over to my property manager.

It's always good to read posts from the other side of the rental world. When we rented, a good landlord was priceless. The bad ones were wretched and could not wait to get away from them, we actually had to sue a landlord once. If both sides are good and agreeable parties, then that goes a long way to make the arrangement work out well.

Here's a "how not to do it" story:

I was a tenant in the same apartment for over 4 years. There was never any problem with late rent. I was a great tenant and a great neighbor.

So, one day we had a holiday fall on the 5th, the day rent was due. The office was closed all day. Yet somebody still took the time, at midnight that night, to go around posting 3-day pay or vacate notices. They also put a cover over the rent drop slot -- which I spotted when I went by the office at 1 am to try to drop off a check.

I went into the office the next morning, with my sick infant in tow (and having gotten only a tiny bit of sleep, on the floor of the nursery), with a personal check to cover the rent plus late fee. I was upset by the policy that we needed a cashiers check for late rent, and asked if they could make an exception since I'd been there so long and didn't want to drag my sick kid down to the bank. I was fine with the fee, but it was going to be a major burden to take my kid out. The conversation ended with "I could have made an exception for you, but when you came in the door I didn't like your attitude, so I won't."

Up until then, I'd been totally impressed by the management. We'd been planning to move out several months later for family reasons, and I was going to leave a great review online, go out of my way to leave the apartment unusually spotless (I even owned a steam cleaner), and so on. Instead, we left on bad terms because some jerk in the office thought she needed to punish me for not being as cheery as she wanted me to be. And she thought it appropriate to TELL ME that she was trying to make my day worse.

(One of the other office workers who saw the exchange went out of his way to find me and calm me down.)

LotharBot --


How long do you wait to file an eviction notice? I forgot to pay rent on time one my at my apartment and on day 4 (day 3 was cutoff), I had an eviction notice taped to my door.


This is why landlords need to go out of their way to make a good impression. There are too many stories like yours that set the tone for what tenants expect from landlords.

A tip for landlords who get big enough to hire people. Your employees are you. If you hire an employee who treats your tenants poorly, it reflects not on them but on you. If you do not train your employees to set the tone that you want set you will get this kind of thing and it will reflect very poorly on you.

BTW, if you use a management company they are also you. Knowing how they will treat your tenants is also important.


That is ridiculous. My post next week will address that exact issue. Tune in next week for the answer. :)


This month has turned out to be a really bad month for late rent for me. The worst ever actually. On the late date (the fifth), I only had 5 of my 10 rent checks. I was following up with any tenants whose checks didn't come in on the 6th. I have made contact with all of them or had them contact me pro-actively. 2 will not be getting a late fee because of exactly what I talk about in this post. 3 will. As of today I now have 8 of the 10 and 2 more are coming. One will not be coming until the 21st of the month, but I have had this tenant do that before and come through. I am confident they will again.

Nobody is getting an eviction or a move out notice or even a nasty gram berating them about the rent. The rent will all come in, with a little extra chasing this month and a few late fees.

Yet another great article.

We certainly try to be good landlords. We fix things as soon as possible (within reason) and respect our tenants rights.

We use 1 year leases, though I'm not really sure how much lease length matters. Tenants will break leases or a lease makes it harder to get rid of bad tenants. I think the good tenants will stay in general regardless of lease length.

We try to keep our rent increases at a minimal. In fact we generally don't raise rents at all except between tenants. Of course if you have a tenant for too long you eventually do really need to raise the rent some or it gets way below market. I think slow increases is best. We start low on our rents as well. Lower rents do help retain tenants.

Typical lease length may vary from place to place. Local laws may have a big impact on this. Month to month leases aren't the norm here in my experience. Most ads I see call for leases. Also, some places actually do not allow leases over 1 year.

I disagree at least in part about imposing late fees. If you do not impose fees then you invite abuse. I'll waive it occasionally for a good long term tenant but generally not otherwise. I'm also not going to impose a fee if its less than 24 hrs late. Theres a happy medium somewhere between being a jerk and being a chump.

There are some good pros to month to month renting that to me overcomes the cons. My niche is corporate tenants and so I offer it to make my unit attractive to them.

I also agree that you certainly don't want to slap 3 day notices on peoples doors at the first possible time. Thats pretty severe, heartless and certainly won't help retain tenants.


Your niche is not conducive to long term tenants so that makes sense. In any niche that is conducive to long term tenants I think month-to-month leases lead to increased turn over.


Your fee policy appears to be almost identical to mine.

I consider myself a good tenant - pay on time, respect the property, respect the neighbors. Suppose the market has changed, is it out of line to inquire about reducing rent or about small upgrades to the property?

Just to add to Amy's question, do you (as landlords) decrease rent for good long term tenants (supposed that rental market has gone down)?

Another great article. Looking forward to the next one.


It is not out of line to ask for that.

As it stands right now the rent market has not gotten softer so it is unlikely that you could garner rent decreases at this time. But there are times when the market does change and comparable rents are going down. Asking about a rent reduction is certainly worth a shot in those environments.

If there are some minor upgrades that would be meaningful to you I would think you could ask for those in most environments. I would be receptive to that. I did have someone inquire about a water softener which ends up being nearly a $1000 "upgrade" so I did not agree to do that, but if there was something that cost a couple hundred and you were a good tenant I would likely do it.


If the rental rates were getting lower then yes. If not then you will eventually get to the point where you will force tenants to leave and then will have to get a new tenant and get less rent on top of that.

As I mentioned to Amy, that is not the environment right now but if it were I would lower rents if my rents were above market.


The apartments didn't have a 3 day grace period without a late fee? I know at ours you have the 1-3rd of the month to pay rent. After that it's considered late and a cashier's check is required. The fact that rent was due on the 5th is simply bizarre. I now pay the rent a week early so as to avoid the $50 late fee, although the awesome manager did waive it since I've been a good tenant.


I absolutely understand why they say if the rent is not received in a few days an eviction notice will be filed. I believe the eviction process takes a lot longer here in CA and if you don't start it immediately and the tenant decides to squat without paying they have at least a month or two of free rent. You can't kick them out physically until the sheriff arrives and changes the locks. I imagine this happens a lot more with apartments because if you are going to rent out a house you are going to be extra careful during the screening process.

AMy, CW,

I certainly wouldn't mind if a tenant asks about reducing rent.

If the market has dropped then I would likely agree to a reduction. If market dropped significantly I might cut rents without a tenant asking (after lease expiration).
I've not seen a market drop below my rents though as my rents start out on the low side. I haven't had tenants ask for reduction nor felt a need to cut my rents in general.

If tenants ask for upgrades then it all depends on what they ask for. I might be OK with paying for something small like ~$100 range. Depends on the tenant, how long they've stayed, what they want, etc. One tenant asked about an improvement to the landscaping that would probably cost me $1000-$5000 range and I flatly told her no. She is a good tenant but I'm not spending that kind of money for something optional. Now if the carpet was 15 years old and worn out and she'd been there many years and asked for new carpet for $1500 then I'd probably OK that. Optional upgrades are different than replacing wear and tear items.


You may be right. In MN I can be in eviction court in 2 weeks and have a sheriff at their door in 3 if need be.

Also I suspect LotharBot meant that rent was late after the 5th rather than due.


If the rent was due on the 1st and by the 5th it wasn't in, I'm not sure why @LotherBot is upset. If you had 5 days on top of the normal due date and didn't make any attempt to contact the office, you are inviting problems. 5 days is fairly generous. Also, the fact that it was a holiday means nothing. I think the issue about taping up the rent receiving slot was to prevent abuse. They probably were burned a few times and decided to handle it that way. Getting upset about that doesn't seem rational to me, especially if you've had an additional 4 days to get into the office.

I believe apartments handle things a little more rigidly because they have to. They probably have a 30-50 unit to personnel ratio and simply don't have the time to chase down the rent everything month.

Also, from what I've read online, it can take anywhere from 20-90 days to complete an eviction in the state of CA. Yikes, that is painful.

Noah is correct, eviction in CA is a nightmare process for landlords and takes forever. My wife works in property management and manages some trailer parks, and especially with that quality of tenant you have to serve a 3-day "pay or quit" notice right away or you'll be taken advantage of all the time.

We had a tenant in one of our houses wish to landscape the backyard. It was going to cost about $1,200. We worked out a deal where they paid $250 plus a rent increase of $25 a month. We covered the rest of the upfront cost. They were happy with the arrangement, and we were happy to make them happy.

I wish more landlords would read this. We were at our apartment for 10 years, and though we didn't want to move, we finally did because they stopped repairing anything. They had us prop up a leaky kitchen pipe with a brick inside a plastic container to catch the drips. Not cool.

My state has a mandatory 4 day grace period before rent is lat and subject to a late fee. So if I say rent is due on the 1st then its officially late on the 5th per the law. That may be what Lotharbot is looking at, the lease could have similar language.

I do have some rents that are due on days other than the 1st. We've had tenants request later due dates. So its possible the actual due date is any day of the month. Of course having the due date be the 1st is most common.

Yes apartments can tend to be more rigid.
I would also say dealing with apartments is different than dealing with single family homes in a variety of ways. Youre much more likely to have longer term tenants in single family homes than in apartments.

The eviction process can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 3 months depending on the state system and laws. In my state the fastest possible scenario is about a 2-4 weeks after rent is due. California should be more like 2 weeks to 2 months. But of course if you don't do everything right then it can take much longer no matter the state.

"They had us prop up a leaky kitchen pipe with a brick inside a plastic container to catch the drips."

Thats awful. No duct tape?


Duct tape, the handyman secret weapon ;)

Noah, it seems you've missed my point.

My story wasn't about the late fee or the cashiers check. It was about me being a good tenant for 4 years, who everyone in management knew, and them knowing they could have made a big difference in my bad day by making a simple concession, which they had the option to make, but choosing not to, and then TELLING ME they had the option but chose against it because I was grumpy. (recall I'd been up most of the night with a sick infant; they also knew this.)

Forget all the other stuff about late fees, holidays, or whether it was "rational" for me to be upset about a minor inconvenience, and focus in on the key point. "I could have easily done something nice for you, but I won't" is something you should NEVER express to anybody unless you want to make them mad. If a good tenant is in a foul mood, don't try to punish them for it. Calm them down, make a token concession, and preserve the relationship.


You are correct. Any smart and competent manager would have given you a break and as a result of their handling the situation, they lost a good tenant. On a side note I really wish we had a steamer for our carpet. It always seems to be filthy and I can only imagine what it contains.


As a landlord the past 7 years, my experience is different from yours. At the end of my one year lease, the tenants go month to month and I don't raise the rent. I let them know upfront that it will just go month to month at the end of a year.

We are in a very low inflation period and I see no reason to raise the rent on an existing tenant. In a more inflationary time I may have a different attitude.

My thought is that making tenants sign a new lease requires them to actually think about moving. I'd rather then not have to give that thought and just let it slide to month to month. My very first tenant has been there 7 years. I have checked and the rents for the neighborhood are within $50 of my current rent so I don't want to give this good tenant any reason to even think about leaving.

My experience has been very good going to month to month and have an average tenure of over 2 years.

If you are a good landlord, then you are more likely to attract good tenants too. I definitely agree with you about not engaging to into Month-to-month leases. The income will not be stable compare to long term lease (minimum of 6 months or 1 year)

Thanks for your thoughts. In the wake of Sandy on the east coast, I'm "perceiving" that the demand for flood-prone units "may" go down. Now that I've poked around on CL, I can't actually find comparable rentals in the area - maybe it's not the right season or they are all still being fixed! He is a good landlord - responsive in general and completely proactive in the disaster aftermath (it is what it is) - and I don't want to take advantage. Since I'm in the middle of the lease, I might try for a small break by negotiating the date to restart the rent clock and then do more research closer to renewal.

I had to dig out my lease to find the due date and late fee policy: due on the 1st, 3% fee after the 5th, legal procedures after 30 days.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Start a Blog


  • Any information shared on Free Money Finance does not constitute financial advice. The Website is intended to provide general information only and does not attempt to give you advice that relates to your specific circumstances. You are advised to discuss your specific requirements with an independent financial adviser. Per FTC guidelines, this website may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. All posts are © 2005-2012, Free Money Finance.