How To Be a Good Tenant

Develop a good relationship with your landlord and neighbors with these six tips from The Rental Girl, a boutique rental agency based in Los Angeles.

Come on, let's face it. We all think it, we all know it: We're perfect. We put ourselves on a pedestal because our brains are wired to do so, so it's not always easy to see when we're in the wrong.

And when it comes to being a tenant you are, of course, the definition of perfection. That's why it is so annoying that your landlord is constantly bugging you. Why is he giving you notice after notice when you're already the ideal tenant? You signed his lease, pay your rent on time and take care of the property. What more does he want?

Hey, I'm up here with you, too. So let me level with you. What we think is "right" isn't always reality. Down there — down where everyone else lives in the real world — they have these things called rules. And in order to live in harmony with the rest of humanity, we must learn their rules and play their game. That is how you should think of your landlord-tenant relationship: It's like a game. Learn the rules, play the game fair and everyone wins!

Lucky for us, it's not that difficult:

  • Read your lease. Really. Really. Read it. Paragraph by paragraph, word by word. Your lease is a binding legal contract. It creates a symbiotic relationship between you and your landlord. What are you agreeing to? Read what it says, "get" it and don't forget it.
  • Don't arbitrarily change the rules. You want to paint? You want a little furry friend? You want to wallpaper your hallway? You've got good taste, so clearly you're making an improvement to the place. Get the landlord's written permission first. If the lease says "DON'T," you must get the exception in writing (not a verbal, not a handshake — in writing) to make it a "DO." Save the signed letter and keep it in a file. You'll need it later when you move out and your landlord has forgotten.
  • Submit all maintenance requests in writing. If you have a non-emergency request such as a leaky faucet, submit the maintenance request to the landlord in writing. You can also follow up with a phone call. You can write a note to the landlord and submit it with your rent check. Or, you can fax or email the request as well. While landlords appreciate being notified of maintenance issues right away, keep in mind there are some small issues you need to take care of yourself. For example, if a light bulb goes out or the smoke detector needs a replacement battery — grab a step stool and swap it out on your own. No need to bother the landlord.
  • Do unto others as you would have done to you. Be a respectful and courteous neighbor and tenant. Landlords often find themselves mediating arguments between tenants. Many of these issues can be resolved without involving the landlord. If you have problems with a neighbor, don't be passive-aggressive. Address the problem directly with the offending neighbor. The goal is not to argue or prove your point, but to create an environment where both parties can live peacefully.
  • Respect your home. Keep your house in clean and sanitary condition. If you have pets, pick up after them.
  • Pay your rent on time. Many tenants believe they have a "grace" period. Most leases will not charge a late fee until three to five days after the due date. Though this appears to create a grace period, it does not. If you pay rent three days late every month, you may never incur a late fee. However, when you move out and you need your landlord's reference, he can state you were late every month on rent. Make sure to get your rent in on time.

If you can follow these rules, then you really can say, "I am the perfect tenant!"

The Rental Girl is a boutique rental agency with neighborhood branches throughout Los Angeles. Each branch is operated by a unique rental agent and provides free apartment and home rental listings. Get more expert tips on renting a home at The Rental Girl Blog.

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