Be a Great Tenant, in Landlord's View

When Todd Toler, a web developer, and his wife, wanted to become homeowners, they weren't sure how to approach their landlord. However, Toler had a good relationship with his landlord and decided to let him know their situation outright. Even though they still had six more months on their lease, the landlord agreed to switch it over to month-to-month. That way, when they finally closed on their new home, they were able to let him know and move out seamlessly and without any hard feelings.

"Not only did we go month-to-month, we were month-to-month for a year and a half," he says. "Our real estate deals kept getting delayed and falling through.

Becoming the kind of tenant for whom a landlord will go out of his or her way is not simply the stuff of fairy tales. You too can improve your relationship by following 10 simple steps.
1. Communicate: "Communication is first and foremost," says Martin Joseph who manages five buildings in Brooklyn, N.Y. "As long as you tell me that you have a problem with anything -- from apartment issues to late rent -- I can help you."

2. Be flexible: Having a problem in your home can be stressful, however, it doesn't give you the right to go on the offensive with your landlord. "Things break, things sometimes go wrong," says Joseph. "Try to be understanding."

3. Pay attention to your home: Sometimes issues that don't directly affect you are easy to ignore. "For example, a running pipe may not affect a tenant financially but it will affect me at the end of the month," points out Joseph. By noticing a drippy faucet and other maintenance matters that affect your management, you will not only garner their appreciation, but save yourself some money in the long run.

4. Don't yreat your garbage like garbage: You may not know this, but some cities issue tickets to your building for not separating recyclables from garbage. "The Department of Sanitation will penalize the landlord," says Joseph. So do your management and the planet a favor, and watch what you throw away.

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5. Be on time with the rent: Being on time with your rent is a no brainer. But have you ever really thought about why? "If you leave a note letting me know you will be late, I will be able to shift around my resources so that the business of the building is in order," explains Joseph. This is especially true if your landlord is a private owner and not part of giant conglomerate. Your late rent might be directly impacting his or her finances.

6. Be a good neighbor: You have neighbors to whom your landlord must answer, so if you are having a hard time keeping it down late at night or are just generally feuding with the people downstairs, it could become your landlord's problem over time if people start complaining. Keeping the peace benefits everyone, so do your part.

7. Help out: Just because you aren't the landlord doesn't mean you can't show a little gumption once in a while for the good of the whole. If your landlord doesn't live on site, things like sweeping up garbage on the morning after the raccoons got into it, or shoveling snow after a big storm -- or even just alerting your landlord to problems like these as they arise -- will not only make your life less messy, but will keep your landlord from unnecessary tickets and complaints.

8. Don't let his bottom line affect you: Things like being ticketed for icy sidewalks and outrageous water bills may not be things you need to worry about in the short term. "But," cautions Joseph, "[these things] will ultimately affect your bottom line because they will affect mine."

9. Help your landlord help you: If you never mention that the mold in your shower is knocking the tiles off the walls, you will end up with a tile-free shower. While complaining about every little problem in your apartment will get you nowhere, simply letting every problem fester will make things harder for your landlord to deal with in the long run.

10. Don't treat your home like a rental: It is true that sometimes you choose to rent so that you don't have to worry about the things your landlord is worrying about. However, this building is your landlord's investment. So if you treat it with respect you are more likely to get his respect in return.

"I have no problem understanding that sometimes life-changing events come up with little warning and people have to move out or pay rent late, or any of a lot of things that can happen in life," says Joseph. "I can be flexible as long as I feel like my tenants have done the best they can."

"Keeping him in the loop was not only fair to our landlord," says Toler from his new home, "but he really understood our situation and was quite empathetic with our plight. By the time we left, he was actually happy for us. He even bought us a housewarming present."

Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estateguides that can help:

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