Property owners who are scaling up, purchasing more properties, maybe hiring their first Chesapeake property management company, and bringing in more renters may come across a renter or two that they really connect with well. This isn't a bad thing—if anything, it can be a great long-term relationship that makes you money. However, problems arise if you treat any renters preferentially, such as by waiving fees or responding to repair requests more quickly, things that your renter could easily tell others about how you treat them differently.
This is true on the other end; if you only enforce the penalties laid out in the lease with Chesapeake-area renters that you don't particularly like or trust, you'll get a reputation for being a discriminatory property owner. This is a major reason why you should always enforce your lease and revise the lease if you discover elements of it are untenable. However, there are also many other reasons why enforcing the lease is the best decision for property owners.
Holding Yourself to a Standard Protects You
When renters realize that you aren't necessarily going to hold to the terms of the rental agreement, they feel freed from their own requirements. After all, if they can cite times when you didn't enforce the lease with other Chesapeake renters, they may use that as a reason to believe that you weren't serious about it. Noise disturbances, property damage, or renter disputes can all arise when you don't treat all renters according to the leases they've signed.
By saying that you always hold yourself to the lease, you give yourself a protective standard, making it easy to say, "these were the terms we laid out, and you broke them, and the consequences were always here in writing." By enforcing the lease with everyone, you don't have to worry about being called out for a particular violation or crossed boundary of your own.
Breaking Faith Encourages Renters to Do The Same
Renters who want to push boundaries or do things like miss rent or pay late are empowered when they know that you aren't holding up your end of the deal either. For instance, if you don't maintain the Chesapeake property to the standard you said you would, they may feel justified in paying less or paying late, justifying it by saying that you are a bad owner who doesn't care for the property. One example of poor behavior doesn't justify someone else also exhibiting poor behavior, of course, but that's not how renters feel when they sense that someone in authority doesn't respect them or keep up their end of the deal.
Lease Consistency Helps You Avoid Discrimination
Another major issue is that the Fair Housing Act requires certain aspects of your rental process to be standardized to the point where you don't end up creating discriminatory circumstances. If you discriminate against someone in a protected class by letting some people break the lease without consequences, you can face lawsuits. The easiest path forward is to enforce the lease with everyone here in the Chesapeake area. If you realize that you aren't prepared to enforce the lease as written, you need to amend how you do leases in the future, usually with a consultation with a lawyer to make sure your changes are legal as well. If you set up fines or other consequences, make it a high priority that everyone experiences them the same way if they break the same part of the lease.
Consistent Boundaries Are Prevention, Not Just Cure
While this sounds like a lot of work, it's hard work upfront to make easy work down the line. Think about it: if you are inconsistent now, you'll always have renters pushing boundaries, creating work and stress for you. If you are consistent now and get a reputation as someone who enforces the lease, you keep reaping the benefits of that reputation as a property owner down the road. People who normally push boundaries with property owners or Chesapeake property management companies will hear that you enforce the lease and aren't likely to try to live in your properties. Even if they do, they will know to expect consequences, and as a result, may stick with the lease terms better than otherwise. It's worth that initial hard work of establishing a reputation of being consistent and fair.
Enforce the Lease With A Property Manager's Help
If you worry about not being able to be a consistent, fair enforcer of the lease, you can get help! Chesapeake property management company Renters Warehouse Hampton Roads can help you know how to keep track of issues that might come up because of the stipulations in your lease and make sure that you are issuing warnings and fines or other consequences promptly so that no one thinks they are getting away with breaking rules. You can learn a lot more by downloading our guide for property investors and having a consultation with us today!