In the classic show I Love Lucy, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo couldn’t swing a Vitameatavegamin in their swanky Manhattan apartment without hitting their best friends—and landlords—Fred and Ethel Mertz. Wackiness and hilarity ensued, of course, mainly because this was a scripted TV show and nowhere near what reality is like (see also: twin beds in the bedroom and the ability to play the conga drums non-stop without the neighbors complaining). If you’re a property manager or landlord in real life and you’re best friends with your residents, then you have some ‘splaining to do.
There are reasons you shouldn’t mix business and pleasure at your community. First of all, you might like them. And they might like you. But they also have to pay their rent to you. It’s easy (well, maybe not easy, but certainly necessary, at least) to tell a resident that they’re late on the month’s rent and to take the action necessary to get that money. It’s harder to demand payment from a friend, especially if you know their backstory. (Of course, you can take these things on a case-by-case basis. A death in the family, job loss, all legitimate reasons for someone to not be able to get the rent in on time.) Plus, if you’re friends with your residents, it just makes it that much more difficult if you need to raise their rent at the end of their lease. And, what if you have to evict them? “I need you to pack up your things and vacate the property asap. But we’re still on for drinks later!”
And if you’re friends, your residents could end up taking advantage of you. Maybe they’ll ask you to fix something really late, or ask to get a package after hours, or do something really horrible like not wiping down the weight machine at the gym because they are literal monsters. It’s harder to tell a good buddy no.
On the flip side, you might think you’re friends with your residents, but they might see you more as, at best, intrusive, or, at worst, creepy. Do you always know where they’re going, or notice if they have guests? Or make it a point to bring them their packages—and comment on how much shopping they’re doing? You might see that as being friendly. But your residents might feel uncomfortable, like they’re living under a microscope.
And then they might not renew.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be friendly with your residents. You definitely should be! But you shouldn’t be so involved in their lives that it’s difficult for them to tell where the friend ends and the property manager begins.
So, how should you act with your residents? Follow the lease terms. Strive to keep your property clean and well maintained. Respond to requests quickly, efficiently and fairly.
And, seriously, no matter how nice they are, nip any late-night conga playing in the bud. Babalu!