You and your Wetzel realtor took a lot of care choosing a place to live for your expat assignment. After all, when you’re living in a new country, it’s extra important to create a pleasant home environment. If you are renting, your housing experience will include a relationship with a landlord. Like any relationship, this one can be either satisfying or frustrating. Consequently, we’d like to offer a few tips to help you and your landlord feel like you’re a match made in heaven.
Different kinds of landlords
First, there are three kinds of landlords. If you rented in an apartment complex, an on-site property management company serves as landlord. They handle almost all the maintenance. This can include things as small as changing light bulbs.
If you’re in a house, you might also work with a property manager. Conversely, you may deal directly with the owner. Either way, you will have to do more of the maintenance than an apartment-dweller. You are responsible for changing light bulbs, air filters and smoke detector batteries. Something like a clogged toilet does not merit a call to the landlord. In addition, the tenant normally maintains the yard.
Communication is key
You can avoid most pitfalls of the landlord-tenant relationship through good communication. We encourage landlords to attend entry walks, which is a good chance to set the tone for your relationship. Ask questions to be sure you know what you can expect from them. Find out their expectations of you. Learn how and when they prefer to communicate. You may even want to invite them for coffee or dinner to get off to a friendly and informed start.
There are also some specific topics where it’s good to be sure you’re both on the same page.
If you think you might want a pest control or lawn care service, ask your landlord about them. They may have preferred companies, or even existing contracts that you could take over.
If the house needs any repairs, you should let your landlord know as soon as possible. Big problems like leaks become worse and more expensive with time. Therefore, your landlord will feel much more warmly toward you if you report issues promptly.
That being said, do some investigating before calling to be sure it really is something major. Any warm feelings may evaporate if an owner has to pay an electrician for a tripped breaker.
Changes to the house
You should definitely check before you make changes to your house. Most leases only allow you to hang things on the wall with regular nails. Anything beyond this requires permission from the owner. If you want to paint, change light fixtures, put a trampoline in the yard, etc., you need approval first. Even if your landlord agrees to your modifications, it may be on the conditions that you change it back or fix any damages they’ve caused when you leave. Be sure you have a written record of any agreements you’ve made to avoid future disputes.
Your landlord needs to approve any animals. They will want to know all the details about your pet, such as size and breed. There is usually an additional fee for pets, and the tenant is responsible for fixing any damage the pet may cause. The pet fee is NOT a deposit toward repairs, so you will have to assume the cost of damages on top of the pet fee.
Read your lease
The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to be very familiar with your lease agreement. Different countries have different norms regarding rental properties, so there may be important details that are surprising to you. For example, you will want to know that your landlord has a master key, and can legally enter under certain circumstances. If they trying to sell the house, they are allowed to show it if they give you 24-hour notice. You are not able to withhold consent for them to enter. Details like this are spelled out in the lease, and reading it carefully will keep you from being unpleasantly surprised. Forewarned is forearmed, as we say in English!
Keep your expectations in check
Finally, be sure your expectations are reasonable. Don’t be surprised if your house exhibits some nail holes in the walls or a few stains on the carpet. Landlords don’t have to fix normal wear and tear, or make the house look brand new. Some things are just beyond their responsibility. They can’t manage the behavior of the neighbors, or ensure that only three planes a day will pass overhead. They absolutely don’t have to paint cabinets because the color is out of style.
You invested a lot time, thought, and discussion into finding the right home. Getting along with your landlord is an important part of enjoying it to the fullest, so put put some effort into that relationship as well.