While landlords everywhere have always been seen as “villains” in the eyes of some tenants, the playing field has only worsened for landlords since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last year has seen a massive surge in demand for real estate and rentals, causing some of these extreme feelings towards landlords to intensify, with some tenants seeing the relationship between the two parties as being unfair.
As a Toronto landlord, it’s important for you to understand why these views are held by some, and what you could do as a landlord to improve your own reputation as well as the reputation of landlords as a whole. Not only will this help to shake the stigma, but it will make your life a little easier by reducing the amount of negative interactions you have on a day-to-day basis.
Why are landlords villainized?
There’s a good chance you’ve heard it all before – accusations of being a “slumlord” are thrown around, despite this not being true in the majority of cases, or a landlord accused of using predatory behaviour to evict down on their luck tenants in -30 degree weather/on a holiday/at the worst possible time.
While very few landlords take actions such as these, like anything, it’s always the worst and most extreme examples of behaviour which are covered by the media and picked up by prospective tenants. These incidents give the anti-landlord crowd even more fuel.
What these people fail to consider, however, is the fact that behind every tough or seemingly brutal decision made by a landlord, there’s almost always a long and complicated story to go along with it, usually about nightmarish tenant behaviour, repeated nonpayment of rent, or another negative experience like property damage. In many cases, there are also multiple warnings for behaviour which broke the terms of the lease.
These sides of the story are not often told, and so the reputation of landlords as a whole diminishes with each story of what seems on the outside like malevolence or a lack of empathy. Your job as a landlord is to try to curb this reputation by being the absolute best landlord you can be, leading by example and using education to combat these misconceptions.
How Toronto landlords can challenge the anti-landlord position
They key to challenging and changing these notions is to be the absolute best landlord you can be. Lead by example by offering each and every tenant who steps foot onto your property the highest quality service – but without being a doormat. Let your tenants know that you’re in this with them, rather than against them, and that you’re willing to work together on problems as they arise.
Conduct maintenance requests in a timely fashion, communicate regularly with tenants to make sure that things are going well, and settle disputes and arguments in a fair and neutral way. Be willing to be flexible, but remember that everything has a breaking point. If a tenant is late paying their rent by one day on one occasion, it may not be an issue. If it continues to happen, communicate with them that it’s unacceptable and outline what could happen if the behaviour continues. Be understanding, but firm.
Fixing your reputation is as easy as changing the perception of a power imbalance in the minds of the anti-landlord crowd. With a little education, some of these people might see it from your perspective. In many cases, tenants actually have just as much, if not more, power than landlords. More advocacy groups exist for tenants, the Landlord and Tenant Board consistently settles on the side of tenants in disputes, and regulations in Ontario make landlords jump through hoops in order to legally evict even the worst tenants.
In a calm and level-headed discussion, any rational person should be able to see that the position of a landlord is almost never a predatory one, and that the perceived power balance is actually a misconception. Education is everything.
Ultimately, some people will never change their minds, no matter how great you are at being a landlord or how much education you try to give them. The majority of people disagree with the mob mentality against landlords, so focus your efforts on being a good landlord who cares about and communicates with their tenants, always holding their best interests in mind. Be the change you want to see – be fair, understanding, and flexible, but never let a bad tenant walk all over you in the hopes of changing any negative perceptions.
For landlords who can’t seem to find enough time in their day, there’s HighGate Properties. HighGate is a leading provider of Toronto property management services, taking care of things like maintenance, communication, and tenant screening so that you can attend to the more important things in your life. To find out more about the residential property management services offered by HighGate, get in touch with us today.