Good Tenant

A good tenant is far more than a person who pays the rent in full and on time. She is first a good person, and the rent, even if received a week late does not in my books make her a bad tenant.

I have been a landlord or been in a landlord-like position owning commercial real estate for twenty years amongst different cultures. The most important quality I look for in a tenant (and in people in general) is honesty.

Top 5 Tips for Tenants:

1. Be honest – be it admitting being wrong or being a person of your word.

2. Follow the rules — Comply with the landlord’s directions and protocol with respect to tenants and observe due dates. Don’t consider yourself exempt or special — you are not doing the landlord a favour by being a tenant. Willful non-observance will not win you the landlord’s respect.

3. Don’t place undue strain on the landlord’s resources.

4. Be nice and courteous.

5. Focus on your business (part of which is keeping your tenancy in good standing), not on the landlord’s business. Resist doing a financial analysis and trying to micro-manage the operations of the property where you are a tenant.

Most of the advice here are examples of these tips applied to various day-to-day situations.

If your cheque is returned unpaid for whatever reason, first of all apologize and offer to deliver a certified cheque or cashier’s cheque for the rent amount plus cheque return charges due to the landlord within the hour. You may go further and offer to deposit the cheque in the landlord’s bank account. If you ask nicely, you might have the cheque return handling fee reduced from, say $25 to $10 for running the errand to the landlord’s bank, which difference could cover the cheque certification or cashier’s cheque charges.

If you can’t make the rent on the due date, talk to your landlord ahead of time, not on rent day itself. Don’t flirt with him. Apologize for not being able to make the rent on time and ask if you could either issue a post-dated cheque for the date you would have the funds or a current-dated cheque that he could hold until such date. Don’t let the cheque bounce on the promised date.

If you are billed for extraordinary charges that could reasonably be attributed to your tenancy, admit the usage, mistake or negligence and pay the bill by the due date. If you honestly have no clue, review the description in the invoice and consider if unbeknownst to you it could be due to an errant employee, customer, visitor or contractor that you are responsible for. If you are confident beyond all reasonable doubt that you were billed in error and have built your reputation for honesty, discuss the matter with the landlord. Don’t engage the landlord in an unending debate, get offensive, be a nuisance or accuse the landlord of writing nasty letters if you ever hope to get a break.

Don’t complain needlessly. Busted light bulbs might not be the responsibility of the landlord. If your business is open at midnight, even if late hours are customary for your business, you cannot reasonably expect air-conditioning repairs to be carried out outside the stipulated business hours of the property at which you are a tenant. Service might not be available or be billed at higher rates after-hours and on weekends, which would translate to higher occupancy costs where applicable. If it can wait until the next business morning, don’t complain at closing time or on weekends.

You don’t have to quote clauses from the lease or bring lawyers in matters that don’t require them. If your landlord asks you to provide a post-dated cheque and it does not affect you in any way since the money would ultimately be debited to your account on the stipulated day either way, don’t respond with, “You should talk to your lawyer, I read the lease after you called and it does not say I have to do that”. That’s a sure-fire recipe for the landlord to deal with you strictly per the terms of the lease going forward rather than extend mercy. If you would rather not oblige, be honest without being nasty. If asked to clean up after yourself, consider it common courtesy, not something you need to run to the lease to in order to cop out of your responsibility.

The landlord is a service provider like any other. You agree to pay a sum of money over a period of time for the right of usage, like a cell phone contract. Incentives like rent-free months, improvement allowances and discounts provided by the landlord are like getting a free or subsidized cell phone at the onset, on the premise that you will fulfill your obligations under such contract. If you don’t anticipate being able to make the rent comfortably, don’t rent. If you do rent, don’t complain about how all your money goes to pay off the landlord’s mortgage. If you can’t continue paying the rent, you might be able to either pay a lump sum amount to prematurely terminate the lease by mutual consent or find a suitable tenant to take over from you, if you discuss the matter with the landlord.

Honour the terms of your lease for the sake of morality over the fact that it is a legally binding agreement.

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