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 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 legal relationship between you and your landlord. What, exactly, are you agreeing to? If you don't understand it (and its ok if you don't—let's face it, your lease is probably a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo), get a lawyer to interpret it for you. Why? The lease is your and the landlord's rule book. How can you actually follow the rules, if you don't actually understand them? Simply, you can't.
- 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, you also need to protect yourself. This is very important. In court, writings trump telephone calls. Emails trump text messages. Formal letters trump emails. So, when in doubt, write—or better yet, have a professional write it for you.
- Do unto others as you would have done to you. Be a respectful and courteous neighbor and tenant. However, when a dispute arises, review your lease and attempt to resolve the dispute in writing. If you have doubts, get a professional to review your lease and draft the writing on your behalf.
- Respect your home. Keep your house in clean and sanitary condition. If you have pets, pick up after them. Do not maintain your rental in way that breeds pests and insects. Many tenants are suprised that they can be evicted for poor housing keeping. Don't get surprised.
- 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 I can really agree with you when you say, “I am the perfect tenant!”