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5 Moral Standards Landlords Should Live By

Fri, Mar. 24, 2017 Posted: 12:37 PM

In Christianity, being rich isn’t necessarily a bad thing—but it certainly can lead to some bad things, including greed, cruelty, and disregard for others.In Matthew 6:24, Christ states, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

In a capitalistic society where money is equated with status, and there are ample opportunities to earn that money, this presents something of a conflict of interest. It’s natural to seek profitability and wealth, but we must do so in a way that harmonizes with our core ideals.

The Plight of the Landlord

Homeownership is at its lowest point in over 50 years,according to Green Residential. Millennials aren’t buying homes as often or as readily as previous generations, in part because they’re dubious of the housing market, and in part because they just don’t have the buying power.

Landlords represent a massive inequality between two people; the key defining trait of the landlord is being able to afford a down payment on a home, while a renter cannot. In many cases, the landlord then strives to charge the renter more than his/her average mortgage payment, a situation that could easily lend itself to exploitation.

Is this Christian? Or is it just another honorable way to make money?

Setting Ethical Boundaries

It’s best that landlords set ethical standards for how to operate, for their own sakes as well as those of others. Even though landlords are bound by law to fulfill certain requirements,such as maintaining a habitable property, some things go beyond what’s legally mandated:

1. Set fair rent prices. You’ll want to set a rent price that covers your monthly expenses and gives you a little something extra, but it’s unfair and unwarranted to set higher rent prices just to make yourself a hefty profit. Thankfully, the market automates itself on this one in most cases—if you set rent too high, people won’t be willing or able to live in your establishment. Still, don’t try to take advantage of people by charging rent far higher than similar residences elsewhere.

2. Don’t exploit the poor. As the New York Times illustrates in this piece, it’s shamefully easy for landlords to exploit the poor of a given community. By taking advantage of egregiously low real estate prices, but still charging competitive rent, landlords can take the poor for all they’re worth, while preventing them from moving out because they can’t afford to move. These types of practices enable landlords to make significant money, but damage local neighborhoods in multiple ways and make the poor even poorer. This is legal, thanks to gaps in the law, but it certainly isn’t ethical.

3. Don’t discriminate. Thanks to the Fair Housing Act and several other laws, outright discrimination of tenants based on race, gender, or disability (along with other factors) is illegal. However, it’s still possible to discriminate as a landlord in other, subtler ways. On paper, tenant screening is a good strategy to weed out candidates unlikely to pay on time—but at the same time, don’t those people deserve a second chance? You don’t have to treat your rental property like a charity organization, but do give all your tenant applicants a reasonable chance to rent.

4. Maintain the property like you live there. As a landlord, it’s easy to procrastinate taking care of a non-emergency repair. Since you’re already busy and it isn’t staring you in the face, you may even forget it exists—but it’s affecting someone’s life, and you owe it to them to correct it as soon as possible. In general, you should strive to maintain the property as if you live there.

5. Give back. Property ownership and management is a reliable way to make money over the course of many years, giving you both a steady stream of income and stable financial assets that you can sell toward the end of your career. If you build wealth through these methods, you owe it to your community to give some of that wealth back in any way you can, whether that’s donating to a charity, contributing to a local cause, or just spending more time volunteering when you’re no longer a landlord.

These practices won’t just make you a better Christian and a better citizen; they may also ultimately make you more successful as a landlord as well. When you treat your tenants with respect and fairness, they’ll be more likely to stick around for as long as possible,reducing your turnover rates and decreasing your number of vacancies. If you currently manage property or you plan on doing so soon, we highly encourage you to put them into practice.

David Fournier