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Landlord Relations: What’s the Word? (Part 2)

Lease document partly defines owner-renter relationship

CHICAGO — Many laundromats across the United States occupy rented space, so working cooperatively with the landlord, and within the terms of the lease, can prevent headaches the laundry owner likely doesn’t need.

And that’s why maintaining friendly, regular communications with the landlord while backed by a good understanding of what the lease document accommodates puts the laundry tenant in the best position regarding the real estate where their washers and dryers reside.

If you’re a renter, what’s your experience been like? Do you check in with your landlord regularly, or is it the landlord who calls on you? How do the two of you communicate? Is your relationship based almost exclusively on your lease and the rent you owe, or has it grown beyond that?

Part 1 delved into the tenancy experiences of laundromat owners from Colorado, North Carolina and New Jersey. Let’s continue:

Communications styles and preferences can vary among landlords just as it can among tenants.

Most matters can be addressed over the phone or by email, and video conferencing can enable an absent landlord to “tour” the property, but there are times when a personal visit is most effective.

“We start with verbal communication but we move into written communication when we have things that we want to make sure are clearly coming across,” Melissa Berry, owner of Fort Collins, Colorado’s ExelAnce Laundry, says of her landlord. “After we’ve come to a verbal consensus, we usually convert to an email.”

She favors making contact at least quarterly, just to make sure that everything related to the property is going OK. The property owner travels from his home in Nebraska to Fort Collins periodically and stops by to check on things, she adds.

This type of regular landlord-tenant contact becomes even more important when the tenant wants to renew or extend their lease, Berry says.

Marc Fuller, owner of Charlotte, North Carolina’s 24 Hour Laundry, says communicating with his landlord—an elderly Greek man whose first language isn’t English—by phone has been challenging at times. The property owner doesn’t use email, so there’s no paper trail when Fuller reports an issue. “The best thing I have is text messaging his son-in-law who helps him out with certain things.”

Multi-store owner Scott Roberts operates two New Jersey stores: Wizard of Wash in Toms River and Suds by the Shore in Long Branch. Collectively, they operate under the name Laundry Bros.

“With the Long Branch landlord, it’s all done by phone or in person. With the Toms River one, it’s text messaging. We really just text back and forth,” Roberts says. “He’s an older gentleman. He spins a lot of yarns about tales of his past that you have to sit and endure. If you really want to deal with him, you have to go to his house. … If there are any issues, he’ll mail a handwritten letter telling you what the problem is and what he expects.”

Roberts says his Toms River landlord frequently alerts him when the latter receives notices of planned building inspections, utility company visits, etc.

An occasional email or a phone call is enough to keep the landlord-tenant relationship alive, he adds.

“In today’s day and age, if you’ve got a technologically savvy landlord—which, I think, is most of them—just drop an email and you’ll get one back,” says Roberts. “I always start with an email and if I don’t hear anything back, then I’ll call if I need to.”

Is it possible that the lease document can help define the relationship between lessor and lessee?

“I think it does, because you’re seeing where they stand on how much responsibility they’re going to put on themselves and how much responsibility they’re going to put on you,” Berry says. “Some of these leases, they put everything on you and they’re responsible for absolutely nothing.”

“Some landlords can be flexible toward the lease,” Fuller says. “Some landlords make the lease bulletproof, but when you talk to the property manager, they’re like, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of it.

“I think it comes back … to (having) a personal relationship with the landlord and how flexible they are, or how much they like you or don’t like you, because if they don’t like you, they will enforce the lease to the absolute letter.”

Check back Tuesday for the conclusion!

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.