The landlord / tenant relationship can range from simple to complex. There are a few simple tips landlords and tenants can follow to keep a cordial, working relationship going.
1. Clarify responsibilities in writing through a formal lease agreement. The landlord / tenant relationship is contractual above all else, and both parties benefit from being informed of their rights and responsibilities through a written lease agreement. The most important factors include when rent is due, who may live at the property, and what constitutes grounds for breach of lease (for the landlord or the tenant). However, this is also a good place to hammer our additional details - for example, if the tenant has agreed to put in carpeting for a rent reduction or the landlord agrees to pay costs of utilities. Keep it in writing!
2. Check the property before the move-in date. Although not possible in all circumstances, the landlord should meet with the tenant at the property prior to move in. The tenant should let the landlord know if there are any problems, and the landlord should clarify whether those problems will be addressed prior to move in, after move in, or if the problems will not be resolved. Both parties should track this in writing.
3. Communicate with each other. In order to foster a good relationship, both parties should inform the other when a major event is taking place. Although the lease may not require it, good judgment and business practice suggest a landlord should provide adequate notice to a tenant before repairs are performed so as to avoid unwanted intrusions of the tenant's privacy. If a tenant knows rent will be late, a good faith effort to contact the landlord and notify them of the late payment date may save both parties unnecessary hassles down the road.
4. Respect the property. Both parties should respect the property occupied. A landlord should view their property as an investment and realize a failure to make repairs or maintain the premises could result in short-term (legal action) and long-term (loss of business and reputation) losses. A tenant should view the property as they would their own home and treat it as they would their own property - by cleaning it and avoiding major damage to it.
5. Business, not personal. Landlord / tenant relationships can often devolve into nasty fights between individuals. Sometimes, the very nature of the tenancy is personal (such as renting to a relative or friend). To avoid these issues, both parties should clarify in the beginning that their relationship will be governed by the contract and applicable law. Of course, there are times where a landlord may allow a tenant to pay rent late or a tenant may recognize a repair may be delayed. Try to make these situations the exceptions rather than the rule.
Keeping these tips in mind will certainly make for happier landlords and tenants!