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Stop Using Absolute Terms and you Can’t Give the Wrong Answer

In the very fast paced industry of managing investment property and the ever changing laws, restrictions, and fair housing changes. It can be extremely tricky to navigate through a tough day let alone a week, a month or a pandemic. After a few decades in the industry please allow me to share two of the best kept secrets to help assist you whenever you need them.

Our tenants sometimes expect us to have all the answers. We tend to wear many hats in this industry while trying to maintain a good landlord tenant balance, however we do not always have the answer, and when we just don’t know what to say sometimes we start to panic and we are searching for the words we need to get out of the trap we just got sucked into… that’s ok I am here to help you.

So let’s say you are at the property and your tenant says “my oven is broken you need to fix it because it hasn’t worked for 4 months now. I know that I don’t have to pay the rent until it is fixed. Isn’t that right? Don’t I get free rent for the last 4 months?”  Well here is what I would say, thank you for notifying me of the repair, I will notify my repair person and they will be contacting you to make the repair. As for the rent credit I will talk with (my partner, my supervisor, my boss, our legal team) and get back to you. Well what about the 4 months of rent you owe me? Again I will check and get back to you. This is a stalling tactic for you to utilize, so you don’t give the wrong answer.  So practice this fogging technique, it’s like your blowing smoke. “Again I’m sorry, I am not sure, however I will check with ____ and get back to you”.  FYI, for the oven issue for the most part you can’t fix something you were unaware of and a rent credit would most likely start upon notification because it is most likely a habitability issue. 

Now for the next secret in the industry. For this you must go back to grade school English class, remember absolute terms? Such as “Yes” and “No”, “you will”, “you must”, etc.? Now do you remember non absolute terms such as “could”, “should”, “may”, “might”, “maybe”, “most likely”? Well if you start using the non-absolute terms and you absolutely can’t give the wrong answer. Think about it. And while it is processing let’s take it one step further. If you write a letter using non-absolute terms, then you are not putting a threat in writing. Example:  If you don’t pay the rent in 3 days you will be evicted. Is that a threat? Most likely. If you don’t pay the rent in 3 days you could be evicted. Is that a threat? Nope!!! It really is that easy.

Please I know sometimes we are challenged and we want to scream obscenities at them when they are telling us how horrible it is to live at the property and it is not to the tenants liking as they are complaining that you won’t agree to put in a swimming pool and it is so hot that you really need to install a pool because this property would be so much better to live in, if it had a pool. Pick your most sincere voice as you ask this question: “I am so sorry to hear that you are so unhappy living here, did you want to give me a 30 day notice to vacate today? As I would be more than happy to check and see if we can let you out of your lease contract”.

And smile, there is nothing wrong with you asking this question however, I wouldn’t use it for everything they ask for because then you sound like a horrible landlord. But when pressed over something you are just not going to be able to do for them, it can come in very handy.