You rented out all your units, everything is full and running smoothly until one of your tenants fall on hard times. They get hurt or lose their job and while they struggle to figure it out on their own you lose. While trying to pay down a credit card, or medical bills they stop paying rent, they become so bogged down in the trouble they stop taking care of the apartment, and soon you have to evict. Who knows if you will ever get your money and now you have to pay a lawyer to get them out of the unit and the time to fix and update and re-rent. It’s a big headache and a lot of lost time and money.
BUT IS THERE A BETTER WAY?
YES. There are programs and associations out there specifically geared toward helping people in hard times. They work with people to increase their credit and get their finances back on track, pay off debt and start saving for their future.
Maybe you don’t think this is any of your problem. They signed the lease they are responsible for figuring things out, but consider how that usually goes. You, as the landlord, are going to be one of the first to recognize that something is wrong. When that first rent check is late and they are making excuses you can turn around charge them fees and eventually evict, or you can take a more compassionate route and refer them to someone who can help. This not only will help them long term, but gives you a much better chance at getting your rent and keeping a long term tenant.
One option for referral is Lutheran Social Services (LSS). They have offices across the country and offer a number of services and branches that can go a long way to maintaining a good landlord tenant relationship.
They offer Consumer Credit Counseling (CCC) that can help with with money. Maybe their credit isn’t quite good enough to even rent to them right away. CCC can help them work to increase their credit and bring them back into a better financial place. Or maybe they just don’t have the budgeting skills and understanding to make everything work. CCC can help teach them and lead them in the right direction so that they are paying rent and bills first and buying entertainment things later. In extreme cases CCC will take control of a person/families finances. They will consolidate all the debt and begin paying it off while giving the individual an allowance based on their needs and abilities. In this way they get people out of debt, they get companies paid and they put everyone back on good terms, all while teaching the client how to do it for themselves.
But more than that LSS offers intertwining programs and case workers, so that a person who goes in for financial help can be referred to the cultural, psychological or whatever other help they may need to keep them going and successful. This can even include tenant landlord classes.
Many people never get the training necessary to understand the tenant role and how it interacts with the landlord as well as budgeting and general adult responsibility and prioritizing. LSS can help and are a better chance of you getting what’s yours as well as a tenant who is now in a much better place. Most of the services provided by LSS are reasonably priced but they also work with people and evaluate the need and ability. Those who cannot afford the fee are not turned away so that they can help a lot of people.
While it may not be your legal responsibility it can go a long way to help your own situation. As the landlord you see these problems, you know how they usually go, if you can give them options before it gets to eviction everyone wins. Lutheran Social Services is only one of many options out there for Renters Resources. Do some research in your area and see who else might be able to help your tenants, and teach them to be the responsible tenants you want to see in your buildings.
What other organizations do you know of that can help tenants? Have you had success with referrals to such places?
Also check out our other Tips for Managers for great advice about the industry!
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