In this day and age, pretty much anyone can buy a few properties and become a landlord.
But being a landlord is about a lot more than owning property. You’re literally responsible for another person’s living situation; it’s your job to handle repairs and maintenance, to manage trust accounts, and to basically ensure that your property is a safe and secure place for your tenant to live.
In other words, it’s an important job — and not a job that should be taken lightly (it’s also not a job that’s right for everyone). So, if you want to manage your properties in a way that will support your tenants (or if you want your property management company to do the same), you have to do more than just sign on the dotted line and buy property — you have to make being an ethical landlord a priority.
But what, exactly, is an ethical landlord? Why is it important?
Let’s take a look at the 5 most important traits of an ethical landlord. It's important to keep these in mind when you either become a landlord or hire a property manager to manage your properties:
The first trait necessary for every ethical landlord? Trustworthiness.
In order for a tenant/landlord relationship to work, there needs to be a certain level of trust. A tenant needs to trust you as a landlord in order to pay the rent each month. They need to be able to trust that if something breaks in their home, you’ll get it fixed (and get it fixed quickly). They need to know that when you say you’ll do something, you’ll actually do it — and none of that happens without trust.
Being trustworthy establishes credibility with your tenants, and without it, it’s impossible to maintain a positive relationship — and to keep good tenants in your property.
Another non-negotiable trait for ethical landlords is organizational skills.
Being organized is one of the most important jobs a landlord has. When you’re organized and know how to properly manage your property, everything runs more efficiently; you get repairs completed in a timely manner, your response time for emergencies is faster, you’re on top of maintenance — all of which inspires serious confidence with your tenants. And not only does being organized make a good impression on your tenants; it also saves you a crazy amount of time, money, and energy — it’s a total win-win.
In order to be an ethical landlord, you need to be available to your tenants.
If your tenant has an issue, they need to be able to get a hold of you. If they can’t, it’ll make them nervous — and seemingly small issues can quickly snowball into larger ones.
Now, you might not have the immediate answer to everything your tenant needs from you, and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter if you can solve the problem right away — what matters is that you’re available and let them know you’re working on it.
Here’s one of the truest statements you’ll ever hear about managing a rental property: you can't be a good landlord if you don’t have empathy for your tenants.
For example, let’s say it’s the middle of summer and a tenant calls you saying their A/C isn’t working. Now, being empathetic won't get the A/C fixed faster — but it will make your tenant feel heard and let them know you understand where they’re coming from. And that little bit of empathy? It goes a long way in building a positive relationship with your tenant.
The last trait all ethical landlords share is consistency.
You need to be consistent with how you treat all your tenants and how you handle tenant-related issues — for both your and your tenants’ sake. Let’s use lease terms as an example. If it says your tenant has to pay on time or they’ll incur a fee, you need to consistently enforce that rule. If you don’t and you're inconsistent from month to month, your tenants will get the idea they can pay late without any consequences — and if you try to enforce their lease terms, they’ll say, “Hey! But wait a minute! I paid late last month and it was fine!”
The same thing goes with treating each tenant consistently. If you allow one tenant to pay their rent late but not the others, you’ll have a lot of angry tenants on your hands — and it can lead to a whole slew of issues.
Set expectations with your tenants from day one and then follow through on those expectations consistently. Being consistent makes it easier for you and your tenants to know what to expect from the relationship — and will make it a much more positive experience for your tenants (and for you!).
Why Being an Ethical Landlord Is Important
As a landlord, everything you do reflects back on you and builds your reputation — and your reputation is what will support your business as a landlord and get quality tenants in your properties.
Now, at LEAP, we practice what we preach — and that includes incorporating the key traits of being an ethical landlord into the way we manage properties. And let us be the first to tell you — it’s made a HUGE difference in our business. We’ve built a reputation as being trustworthy, organized, available, empathetic, and consistent — and as a result, we’ve kept incredible tenants in our properties who know we have their best interests at heart (and treat our properties accordingly).