There are a few misconceptions about landlords — especially ones who manage their own properties. It’s kind of like the pictures you see sometimes with 6 individual boxes that state what your friends think you do, what your mother thinks you do, and so on and so on…
The idea of being a landlord often either elicits the image of the Monopoly Man building an empire of coloured properties – or – an evil, cackling, moustache-twisting slumlord who lives in luxury while others finance his way of life. Tell someone you’re a landlord and there’s probably at least a brief mental pause while they picture you nailing an eviction notice on some innocent person’s door who rubbed you the wrong way. C’mon…Landlords get a bad rap.
The term landlord is associated with “land rights” and in the past (as far back as the Roman Empire) it was usually indicative of a wealthy person or an influential individual who held dwelling authority over someone else.
I mean, with a history like that, it can be difficult to assume someone’s a “great” landlord when they tell you that that’s what they do. I don’t think being a landlord is getting anyone points in the popular department (versus someone bottle feeding baby panda bears back from the brink of extinction).
I’m a landlord and I remember while in University, hearing friends of mine complain that their landlord was a rich fascist because he said no to a requested 6-day extension on paying the rent for whatever reason in their 3rd month of a tenancy. They seemed to think that was a more-than-reasonable request. They were university students! They were giving him a day’s notice that they needed another week. A week! 7 days! What’s the problem? As if not even acknowledging the generous heads up from Larry, Curly, and Moe, the landlord gave them a notice of non-payment and unemotionally told them they had 7 days to get him his rent in full and that if it happened a second time they’d need to leave.
The fact is the majority of landlords are not rich. They’re regular people who’ve decided to invest in real estate as a business, committing their time and money to the delicate and difficult art of property management — building and maintaining relationships with tenants, much like customers at any other business. They are the people who have risked their capital, credit, good faith (and sanity) with a bank on the promise that they’ll repay the loan they took out to purchase a property. They’re responsible for the upkeep and maintenance, taxes, insurance, general repairs and all administrative obligations with a dwelling. The buck ends with them — for everything — and they do it with the odds stacked against them when it comes to the likelihood of eking out a profit.
Provincial laws in Canada generally favour tenants and if issues do come up — like non-payment of rent, damage to a unit, or a general disagreement between the landlord and the tenant — the assumption that a landlord can simply “throw a tenant out” couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if the tenant is 100% in the wrong. Anyone who’s ever attended a hearing at a provincial board can tell you that.
It’s not an easy job. As a matter of fact, it’s quite difficult. If you think being a round-the-clock go-to guy for any and every little thing going wrong in someone’s home is a piece of cake, I can tell you a wonderful story during my first year as a landlord that involves a basement apartment, a phone call from two Ottawa cops at 3:30 in the morning, and discovering $8000 worth of damage and 12 squatters in a unit whose tenant was on her way out.
So why bother doing it?
Owning and managing property is, in most cases, a longterm exercise. It’s often compared to running a marathon. There’s a return, but it takes time and work. Property management is littered with constant expenditures, requirements for ongoing financial investments, a stomach for the up and down of the real estate market, and a level of financial and legal exposure that quite often can make you regret you ever signed up for it in the first place. All of this bundled up with a clear set of “do”s and “don’t”s that are regulated by some of the most detailed laws you’ll ever encounter.
It’s not easy and anyone who thinks it is hasn’t done it. Even for those of us who employ professional property managers, the challenges are undeniable. So, the next time you come across a landlord, don’t assume they’re taking baths in 20 dollar bills while they daydream about their secret love of evicting old ladies — they’re regular people with a hard job.
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