By: Wojciech Kic
Real estate management is as much about linguistics as it is about the physical management of an asset and the lease administration.
Take for example a typical answer to a question from a ten ant regarding the due date for the monthly rent on a lease of a single family house in Houston,Texas? “I know the answer!” replies the public.That’s an easy one.The rent is due on the first of each month. Of course. But is it really? In Texas at least, rental payments are due in advance of the month for which they are due.That means the first of the month is the first day of delinquency. Does the prospective landlord’s answer really mean “Pay the rent any time but never on time?”
How about another question? “If something is broken in the house who do I call to request maintenance?” tenants ask. “Call me anytime and here is a cell phone number
to wit” eagerly respond conscientiousness landlords.The answer carves the law in stone: “Request from me anything at anytime you want. I do not mind getting nickeled and dimed to death.The lease we signed I do not really understand and it means nothing
to me. Challenge me and I will prove it.” Now, if the landlord only replied “Thank you in advance for reporting all the necessary maintenance as you see fit” the landlord would at least communicate “Thank you in advance for your integrity.”
Much ado about nothing? A good many tenants do not care to engage the landlord in an early trash talk brawl. They pay the rent on time, self manage and otherwise do not pay attention to the land lord’s careless displays of linguistic (read: mental) slip-ups and lack of concern for self interest. But even the best tenants need help sometimes: “Can I break the lease?”
What breaks the lease is the conversation about it. A lease cannot be broken! Once accepted by the tenant it must be fulfilled. What it means is that the tenant moving out of town in pursuit of another job must make arrangements for the care of the property during her absence, to continue to pay the rent and to pay the marketing expenses to secure a new lease also known as the relet fee. The landlords, in turn, have the legal responsibility to minimize the tenant’s liability under the lease by attempting to secure a new tenant as quickly as possible. But does it mean placing the house on the market for lease before the current tenant moves out? The answer is: No.
Placing a tenant occupied house on the market before the expiration of the lease places the landlord in double jeopardy. It is the landlord’s job to secure a new credit worthy tenant, but that will not happen as long as current tenant is still in the house. After all, the ultimate value of the rental property to a new tenant is a property vaporized of the prior resident. A prolonged and expensive marketing effort now reflects the landlord’s advantage taking and lack of sincerity. When pressed, the landlord quickly errs, and makes the tenant’s problem his own. He prematurely accepts a new tenant who does not mind the clutter of the soon to be gone resident and eagerly accepts the landlord’s promises that everything will be tidy when she moves in.What the landlord is about to accept is an inferior lease. But even more importantly, he just created a new liability for himself. He made promises to the new tenant . . . to help the current tenant. What if the current tenant does not move out?
In the landlording business there is no room for knee jerk reactions by the landlord. The answer to the question about “Can I break the lease” is a written reply: “The lease cannot be changed after it is signed.” When moving early the tenant must move out first for the landlord to commence the marketing effort and continue paying the rent until the landlord secures a new lease.
The accumulation of verbal miscues benefits the tenant and confounds the landlord. Landlords must maintain the mental discipline when confronted by their tenant and stay focused on the lease agreement. It helps when landlords understand that without the lease agreement they have no basis for a relationship with their tenant.
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