Of tenants and landlords

In 2007 when Benjamin and I were moving to Denver, we decided to rent our 4-bedroom house in Austin. My sister-in-law is a Realtor and helped us put it up for lease on the Austin MLS. The first people that came by to look at it were four incoming UT freshman. I was distinctly unamused.

More than a week went by with no other bites. I was a day or two away from begrudgingly accepting future fratboys living in my house when a woman named Jen called and asked if it was still available. She came by, loved it, and within a week we had a lease signed for her, her daughter, and her mother to move in.

Almost 9 years later and Jen and is still in the house with her husband Brad and their daughter. They are the most perfect tenants a landlord could ever want. Period.1 I only hear from them when there are major issues to address, like the AC went out (the Friday before the 4th of July weekend), or the dryer broke, or the garage door opener died (all of these things seem to occur on a Friday for some reason). They coordinate with Home Depot or whomever else needs to come by to install a new appliance or repair something. When the above-the-range microwave went out, I purchased a replacement from Home Depot and Jen and Brad installed it themselves! Brad is a superbly competent handyman and takes care of many small around-the-house things like repairing the fence or replacing a faucet, all on their own without calling me.

Periodically when I’m in Austin visiting my family I drive by and visit with them about how things are going, any concerns they might have, and any maintenance they think we need to address. They always welcome me into their home — and yes, it is very much a home — and we visit like old friends. It’s clear that they put a lot of love and care into where they live.

We aren’t just landlords and tenants, we’re a team. A very friendly team working towards complimentary goals. We are partners in making sure that where they live feels like a home they are proud of and enjoy living in, while ensuring that the value of the property is protected.

I am ridiculously fortunate to have them in the house. Should they ever decide not to renew their lease, I will sell the property rather than attempt to find someone else to fill their shoes as I will only be disappointed.

As someone who is both a tenant and a landlord it’s such a crap-shoot on who you’re going to get on the other side. There’s no way to screen people for “love where you live and treat it like a home”. Or any way to legally put into a lease “do the Right Thing when something needs fixing, even if that means just fixing it yourself” but “call me before you decide that fixing it involves tearing out a wall”. Even “I won’t jack up the rent on you when you renew your lease just because I can”.

How much better would the rental experience be if we treated the person on the other side of the legal document as if they were people wanting the best for everyone involved and doing what it takes to make it so. That’s the kind of person I want to rent to and the kind of person who I want to rent from.

That’s the kind of person I strive to be.

1 This is particularly notable given that I, myself, am a tenant and they win hands-down over me.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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