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June 2017
I started off a class on property management recently with a question to the attendees: “What do Landlords and Tenants have in common?”
 
I was surprised that most of the group thought I was about to tell a joke. “They both blame the property manager.” “Lawyers.” “They both eventually die…”
Really?
 
It struck me that if a sincere question sounded like a set-up to a punch line, it may be time to review a few basic housing principles.
 
I submit that what Landlords and Tenants have in common is that both parties want (and expect) to have safe, stable, and affordable rental properties.
 
This does not seem to be overly-idealist or unattainable. In fact, in my 30 years as a rental property owner/manager, that pretty much describes my overall experience.
 
Does it mean that I have never had a bad tenant? No. Does it mean that I have never worked with a problematic landlord? No.
 
What it does mean is that when things go sideways, like a repair that hasn’t been done, or a tenancy that spirals out of control, or demands that seem out of the ordinary, I know there are remedies available and procedures to follow to get through the issues.
 
When things go upside down and either party over-reacts, digs-in, or behaves in bad faith - there are still remedies… but they tend to get more costly. By the time the string gets too wound around the axle, it may just be too knotted up to do anything but replace the axle!
 
How do we avoid this? Don’t allow that to happen. Minimize your risks and maximize your incentives.
 
The best defense is a good offense. Landlords should maintain the property and budget for repairs and improvements. Replace that old appliance with something nice. They should also maintain their professional and legal boundaries to allow the Tenants’ right to habitability and privacy.
 
Tenants should respect their home and communicate their needs courteously. And of course, they should stay current on their rent. Rather than focus only on their rights, both parties should spend time taking stock of their duties, and observe the Golden Rule.
 
Like so many issues today, the extreme stories always get the most coverage. The only time landlords and tenants get in the news is because of outrageous conduct or bitter protests. Yet is that really a fair depiction of our industry? I don’t think so.
 
The Rental Housing Alliance Oregon has been a resource for property owners for 90 years. Does it seem that Landlord – Tenant relations have deteriorated with time? Maybe – but I can attest that if we went back in time to visit the rental conditions from both sides, it would be easy to see just how much better we all have it now.
 
I recently spent a day on a bus tour with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon to view Portland’s history of discrimination. It was eye opening and heart wrenching. While we may all agree there is a lot more to do – it is quickly evident how much we have all improved our housing conditions, along with the infra-structure to continue to work for improvement.
 
The Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act can be intimidating to both sides, and it is not uncommon for either landlords or tenants to feel like they got the short side of it. Consider this story:
 
A housewife called up a pet store and said, “Send me thirty-thousand cockroaches at once.” “What in the world do you want with thirty-thousand cockroaches?” asked the astonished clerk. “Well,” replied the woman, “I am moving today and my lease says I must leave the premises in exactly the same condition I found them…”
Ha! Ha!
 
Ron Garcia
RHA Oregon President