January 28, 2013

Why Some People Think Landlords Are ALL Evil Slumlords

Excuse me while I step on my soap box...

We often see people who have negative viewpoints of landlords and who seem to think landlords are all villainous slumlords.  I'm a landlord and my father has been a landlord across four decades so I have some experience from the landlord perspective.    Naturally I may get a little offended when I see random people disparaging landlords as a group of heartless opportunists.   But its a somewhat common thing and I think it has a logical reason.  I think the general negative view of landlords comes from peoples experiences and perspectives.  

Lets say that 10% of landlords are awful and 10% of renters are awful.   Thats just an arbitrary assumption for arguments sake.   Almost everyone rents a home at some point and most people end up having a few rentals in their lives.   Its not at all unusual to live in 5-10 different rental properties.   Its therefore common for renters to end up facing 1-2 awful landlords.   So most people rent and most people end up with a bad landlord at some point.   You may luck out and have only bad landlords.  This ends up resulting in a lot of people with negative experiences with  landlords.   Either because 1-2 of their landlords across 5-10 properties was bad or they lucked out and had 2 bad landlords in 2 rentals.   It is statistically likely that most people have had a bad landlord at some point.   That tends to sour peoples view of landlords and they make negative generalizations of landlords.

On the other hand very few people are landlords.  I'd guess around 5-10% of the population are landlords.   Landlords will see many renters over time and get exposure to good the bad and the ugly among tenants.  But most people have no experience at being a landlord and do not see the landlord perspective.

Therefore the end result is most people rent at some point and experience a bad landlord.   So its easy for people to end up with a negative impression of landlords all due to 10% awful landlords which is actually equal to the 10% awful renters originally assumed for this discussion.

Now I'm not saying that 10% of landlords or tenants are awful, thats just a made up number to illustrate the example.   There may indeed be a higher percentage of bad landlords out there. I doubt there are a lot of broad objective data on the quality of landlords.   I did find one study from a program at a University that surveys students who rate local landlords at the University of Pennsylvania.   They have a total of 58 landlords rated and the average score is 3.68 out of 5.   20 of 58 landlords rated 4 or higher while only 11 landlords had scores under 3.     Thats almost twice as many good landlords as bad landlords in this particular survey.   Of course this is a pretty small sample so its hard to draw any general conclusions but its at least one data point supporting the idea that most landlords aren't awful slumlords.

Another reason that landlords may have a general negative reputation is the situation in general.   Landlords are occasionally faced with the difficult task of having to evict a tenant.  Evicting someone is not something a landlord really wants to do.  Trust me as a landlord I'd prefer to never have to evict anyone and I'd much prefer they all pay their rent promptly and never break their lease terms.   Eviction isn't something a landlord in their right mind would do without good reason.  Eviction is a costly, time consuming bureaucratic hassle.   Simply put its easy to view landlords as the 'bad guy' if they are the ones 'putting people out on the street'. 



  1. I was with you until your final paragraph. 90% of tenants (going with your same assumptions) are good tenants and won't need to be evicted.

  2. SteveD,

    Of course. The vast majority of tenants will never be evicted. I did not say nor imply otherwise.


  3. Let me elaborate. I said: "Landlords are occasionally faced with the difficult task of having to evict a tenant."

    My father has had probably 200 tenants over the decades. He has had to physically evict only 2-3 that I can recall. That means around 1% or so of his tenants were ever actually evicted. He has had to "occasionally" evict a tenant.

    I clearly did not imply that "most" or "many" tenants are evicted. I said "occasionally".


  4. Even as a college student (when I first occupied a home not owned by my family) I was sympathetic to the crap that landlords have to deal with - the phrase "Nobody washes a rental car" comes to mind (if not "beat like a rented mule"). My wife is a property manager and interior designer now, and the number of things tenants break is unbelievable - on this side of the fence, I can say with certainty there are many more bad tenants than landlords.

    Speaking as a tenant (when I was) - your relationship with your landlord is like any other business relationship. As a tenant, I always paid on time, followed up on phone calls when something broke, and was very cordial - and I never had an issue through many years of renting. That's even when I rented from landlords who had horrible ratings (word of mouth, online reviews, etc.). I think some people just don't know what to expect and how to deal with other people - and just expect too much.

  5. Tenants also don't see the expenses the landlords incur. The property tax, landscaping, water, utilities, and all the other fix cost go up every year and the rent needs to rise to keep up with it. Most landlords aren't making money hand over fist.


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