Inspired by worcesterlawgroup.com/Massachusetts-landlords-blog, Atty. John P. Elloin
Written by Ron Bernard, Southern Worcester County Landlord Association
Landlords, in general, are resented as wealthy capitalists extracting excessive profits off the backs of innocent and honest hard working people. It’s an image that Charles Dickens wrote about, and it persists to this day. That perception is enforced by the occasional article appearing in The Globe or The Telegram writing about the corrupt practices of slumlords. Those landlords are few and far between, but scandals attract readers, and readers attract advertisers; that’s just the way it works. Those of us who endeavor to provide safe, sanitary, and affordable housing don’t make the news.
However, we not only have to live with resentment, we have to live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a state where the balance of landlord / tenant laws falls squarely on the side of the tenant. We also live in a litigious society where, it seems, the slightest deviation from the written law is grounds for being sued. It’s not a comfortable business environment for those of us who are small time, often part time, landlords. Navigating the course between tenants who are apt to take undue advantage of their rights, against the laws governing what a landlord can and cannot do, can be daunting. But, this is the business we have chosen to be in, and we have to face reality in a professional manner.
Perhaps the best way for any landlord in Massachusetts to ease tensions that might exist with tenants is establishing a meaningful dialogue with them. We have to be mindful that as business people, we are dealing with human beings, and human beings need to be listened to and made to feel understood. We don’t gain anything by being aloof, conceited or hostile. We are in business, and tenants are our customers. Many situations that can easily escalate into the realm of legal problems can be just as easily be assuaged by being accessible and ensuring tenants that their concerns will be addressed quickly.
Being accessible, and being a nice person (and as it logically follows, a nice landlord) is a good business philosophy. I believe that we are all born with the capacity for kindness and compassion. For the vast majority of us, in spite of all our faults and foibles, it goes against our very nature to do wrong toward someone who has treated us with respect and dignity. The regard shown to a tenant by a landlord can reap dividends, only if it’s just for a good night’s sleep – and that’s priceless.