Let Oprah Help You Become A Better Landlord

When Oprah Winfrey retires, pundits will cite the countless ways in which she influenced American culture and expanded our lexicon. One of the words sure to be mentioned in reviews is sure to be “boundaries”.
So how does this apply to owning a Twin Cities duplex? Well, one of the questions new landlords most often ask is my opinion on renting to friends. And frankly, Oprah is as close as I can come to offering a scientific answer.
I’ve had positive experiences renting to friends, as well as disastrous ones. I’ve even had to take a friend to court when she skipped town without paying four months of rent or for the considerable damage her dog had done to the apartment’s woodwork.
Four months rent? How did I let her get that far behind? Hey, she was my friend. She would get caught up with me like she promised, right? And in the years we’d known one another, she had bailed me out of a jam or two. I kind of figured I owed her.
Of course, she didn’t make a single payment until I took legal action. To her credit, once in court, she did come up with a payment plan and honor it. Needless to say, however, I lost the friend.
I’ve rented to friends since. But I do it differently now. I’ve learned to separate business from friendship and, by watching and hearing about enough Oprah shows, set boundaries. I treat all tenants the same, regardless of their personal relationship to me. Many tenants have become my friends, and the same principles apply.
Even if a friend turns out to be a terrific tenant, it’s important to know your duties and obligations as a landlord. For example, you’re responsible for health and safety repairs to the unit. However, if your friend asks you to install a $300 light fixture because you’re “buds” and it “would look great”, you are under no obligation to do so. They’ll try. Believe me.
How do you protect yourself and maintain the friendship? By sticking to the mantra, “No is a complete sentence”. 
Example? “You want a new light fixture? Uh, no. How’s work, by the way?”
You’d be amazed at how well it works.