Rental relationships – understanding one another

In common with any service industry, the rental property business is one that works best when all involved – landlords, agents and tenants – understand the position of the others. Honest communication, managing expectations and appreciating our limits as people are all essential parts of getting the job done well, ensuring that we all profit from one another.

Selecting any kind of home – and a rented home is no exception – is an enormously important decision. It represents not only the outlay of a big chunk of the household income, but also a choice of comfort and convenience. This may not be a tenant’s property, but it is most certainly their home.

From this flows the demands on agents. When can we see the property? When will we know if we’ve got it? Why haven’t you returned my call? The hard truth is that an attractive property will attract a lot of interest. Sometimes an agent gets swamped – “why haven’t you returned my call” might well be answered by “because I’m dealing with the twenty who called me earlier”. And more often than not, there is nothing to report, for example, because the landlord has yet to approve the new tenant.

Patience and understanding on the part of prospective tenants are necessary. Agents need to manage a complicated network of relationships and this means that at times they are just not able to give individual applicants the turnaround they would like to.

On the other hand, landlords need to understand that there are limits to the rentals that an agent can secure for them. A large number of factors make properties rentable, and some may be lacking in any given offering. A property may not be conveniently located, for example. Or the condition of the garden or exterior paintjob – the lack of ‘kerbside appeal’ – might dissuade potential tenants.

The contemporary tenant – and this is especially true of more mature markets like the Western Cape – have a decent idea of what they ought to be paying. An agent will struggle for anything more!

Tenants and landlords, meanwhile, need to appreciate each other positions. Landlords are not required by law to do up their properties to perfection, just to ensure that they can fulfil the roles for which they are rented out. On the other hand, retaining a good tenant might mean being willing to do just that. It’s about finding each other. Moderate expectations – but be open to offering a little more under the right circumstances.

This is about being willing to shift and compromise. Yes, the law sets out some hard boundaries, but in a relationship-based industry, this is never going to be the limits of our world. Keep lines of communication open between all parties. Make sure that all concerns are communicated clearly and respectfully, and documented properly. In turn, ensure that these are dealt with – and where they cannot be, reasons must be provided.

Above all, it is critical that the both the tenant and the landlord be willing to talk to the agent from time to time. Air those issues! In this way, each party will get some insights into the concerns and issues facing others. This is the key to a productive, long-term relationship.

Shaun Luyt
Manager of Rentals Operations at Harcourts Maynard Burgoyne