4 Misconceptions People Have About Landlords

Tenants and Landlords - Montana Department of Justice

Landlords are often vilified by the general public. They’re treated as evil, greedy people with dollar signs in their eyes. To hear some people talk, they’re basically “subhuman.” But here’s the deal with stereotypes: They’re often wrong, misguided, and exaggerated. And if you’ll take the time to hear us out, we’ll explain why landlords aren’t nearly as terrible as you’ve been trained to believe.

Don’t Fall for These 4 Myths

The name “landlord” can be traced back as far as 1,000 years ago. The phrase we use today is based on ancient English social structures where landowners were considered royalty. (Hence the “lord” part of the title.) They would then allow peasants to occupy the land in exchange for farming the land. So in one sense, the “tenants” of past centuries were servants to the landowners. 

The name has stuck, but the relationship is clearly much different. Today, a landlord is simply a property owner. There’s no servitude or subordination – it’s a transactional relationship where one party offers shelter and the other provides an agreed upon payment.

Yet despite the clear and obvious shift in what it means to be a landlord, many people still have considerable angst toward landlords. And their frustrations are typically rooted in long-held myths that, quite frankly, need to be abolished.

Here are a few of the top landlord myths that you should absolutely not fall for:

  1. Landlords Are Evil

Let’s start with the big heavy hitter: The notion that landlords are evil. Consider for a moment how preposterous this myth is. You’re basically saying that, because someone owns a property and decides to rent it out to someone else, this individual is evil.

What makes someone evil for wanting to make money from something they own? If you owned a house with a spare bedroom above a detached garage, wouldn’t you consider renting it for a few hundred dollars per month to help cover your bills?

When throwing accusatory darts at someone, it’s helpful to think about the situation through their lens. Reframe the details and consider whether you’re making baseless assumptions. Because in most cases, landlords aren’t evil. They’re simply practical.

  1. Landlords Are Super Rich

Part of the reason people see landlords as evil is because they also think they’re wealthy. (For some reason, being wealthy and successful is seen as despicable by a large percentage of the population.) But here’s the irony: Most landlords aren’t “one percenters.” In fact, they’re much more similar to their renters than they are different. 

It’s important to remember that not all landlords own their properties in cash. Many are heavily leveraged with financing. And as soon as a tenant pays them rent, they’re using some or most of that money to pay the mortgage. (If you’re paying $1,000 for rent, it’s not uncommon for a landlord to only make $200 or $300 in profit. The rest is going to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance, and repairs.)

Yes, some landlords are very wealthy. But for the most part, they’re just doing their best to support their families. Not so evil, eh?

  1. Landlords Should Fix Everything

Landlords are required to provide a reasonably safe living environment for their tenants. Depending on local housing codes and state laws, a landlord must:

  • Keep basic structural elements intact
  • Maintain all common areas so that they’re safe and clean
  • Keep plumbing and electrical operating safely
  • Comply with housing rules related to rodent infestations, sewage disposal, legal nuisances, etc.

A landlord is not required to provide you with the latest stainless steel kitchen appliances, provide unlimited hot water, or a fence in your backyard so Fido can run around. A good landlord will hire a property management service to handle reasonable repair and maintenance requests, but it’s time to stop believing the myth that landlords should fix everything. No house is perfect and you should have no expectation that it should be.

  1. Landlords Want to Evict Late Payers

Many tenants have this odd belief that landlords are always one erratic decision away from evicting them. But do you want to know the truth? Evictions are legally complicated and very expensive. No landlord wants to evict you. They want you to pay on time, but that’s it!

Landlords are People, Too

Do you view the grocer with disgust when you purchase milk, bread, and eggs from the local supermarket?

Do you become embittered when your cable company sends you a bill for your service?

Do you consider your friend evil when she sends a Venmo request to split the bar tab from last night?

Any sane person would answer these questions with a no. So why do we view landlords as evil? They’re providing a service and expect fair payment in return. The sooner we shift our way of thinking, the more freedom we’ll feel.

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