Human beings are complex creatures. We often let people get away with murder if we like them and our emotions leave us open to all sorts of manipulations, from being tricked into changing a will, through to doing all your housemate’s washing up. You might be a yogi who prefers to let these things go or you may be on a crusade to make sure that no one ever takes advantage of your good will – ever. Whichever camp you fall into, when it comes to renting you need to leave those emotions at the door. What’s the easiest way to do it? Don’t become friends with your landlord.
This is a business relationship. There might appear to be blurred lines when you’re living in someone else’s home but really this is a straightforward transaction: rent for exclusive possession. And that’s it. The minute you start trying to please your landlord – or seeing them as anything other than a service provider – you enter into a personal relationship of like and dislike that could impact on your living situation. Just don’t do it: keep it professional, courteous but distant.
Don’t forget that you’re not a guest. So often we see on our forums posts from tenants suffering with landlords who seem to think that commercial renting involves letting someone stay in your home with all the normal rules that being a guest would entail. Actually, renting is an industry regulated by legislation – not personal whims – and that ensures that, as long as you have paid your rent you’re entitled to exclusive possession. That means you can exclude the landlord from the property because you essentially have temporary ownership of it. Of course, there are rules that require you to allow a landlord entry to do maintenance tasks and inspections but these can only be carried out on notice – at least 24 hours – and with tenant consent. Relationships between landlords and tenants that get too close often mean landlords conveniently forget this and will ‘pop in’ when they feel like it. Don’t allow this: it’s a breach of your tenancy apart from anything else.
Maintenance and repair isn’t ‘doing you a favour.’ Another downside of a ‘too close’ landlord-tenant relationship is that maintenance conveniently gets forgotten. We never like to ask too much of our friends and that kind of British reserve is another reason why you just shouldn’t get too friendly with the person to whom you pay your rent. There needs to be enough distance for you to be able to insist that the property is properly maintained and meets the standards agreed in the tenancy. If it feels like the landlord is doing you a favour by fixing a leaking roof then your relationship is skewed – you’re paying for a non-leaking roof there’s nothing magnanimous about it.
Things always go sour. You may have lived somewhere for a decade, helped each other through life events, illness and upheavals but inevitably, at some point, the relationship has the potential to sour. And if you think all those years of friendship will have any impact on a landlord who wants to hold on to a deposit, who doesn’t want to lose money by letting you leave early, no matter how urgent your need, or who needs to evict you straight away for their own interests then think again.
Of course, we’re not saying that you should have hostile relations with a landlord – we’re all just people after all and it’s worth cultivating a kind of distant friendliness. But fundamentally renting is a transaction, not a relationship, and you do yourself no favours if you forget that.