Discussing rental Property with non-tenants?

A mom of a tenant in a rental property that we manage contacted us wanting to discuss her child's rental property, but since the mom is not named on the lease as a resident, we won't discuss the rental property with her. There are both practical and legal reasons why you should never discuss someone's tendency with a non-resident, not currently living in the rental property. This includes parents & even co-signers.

Hello, everyone! Joe White here, from Grow Property Management, your trusted Philadelphia property management company. In today’s blog, I want to share a recent experience that illustrates a common challenge many property managers and landlords face: dealing with inquiries from non-tenants about a rental property. This experience provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of understanding tenant rights and maintaining clear boundaries in tenant communications, especially for those of you managing or investing in rental properties in Philadelphia.

Just the other day, I found myself on a somewhat unexpected call. The person on the other end was a tenant’s mother who was extremely upset about a situation involving her child’s tenancy. She hadn’t come through our usual communication channels, which initially caused some confusion on our end. It turns out she was a cosigner on the lease, which prompted her involvement. Cosigners, as many of you know, assume financial responsibility for the property if the tenant is unable to fulfill their payment obligations. However, this financial responsibility does not grant them any rights to the tenancy or residency details, nor does it allow them to discuss the specifics of the living arrangements with the property manager.

This situation brought to light a crucial aspect of property management: respecting tenant privacy. It’s a fundamental principle that all landlords should adhere to. When the mother reached out, she wanted to discuss details of the tenancy that we simply could not disclose. We informed her politely but firmly that we could not engage in this conversation due to the privacy rights of the actual tenants.

This incident underscores a typical challenge in rental property management. Often, relatives or friends who have a vested interest but are not official tenants want to be involved. It’s understandable from their perspective, especially when they are concerned or trying to be helpful. However, as property managers, we must adhere to the legal and ethical guidelines that protect tenant privacy.

In Philadelphia, and indeed anywhere, managing rental properties means navigating these complex interactions carefully. For those managing multiple tenants, such as in units with several roommates (common with college or graduate students), the situation can become even more complex. It’s not unusual for each tenant to have one or more cosigners, potentially increasing the number of people trying to engage with property managers about tenant issues.

Here are some tips for handling such situations based on our practices at Grow Property Management:

  1. Establish Clear Communication Channels: Make it clear to tenants and their cosigners what the communication protocol is and who is authorized to discuss what aspects of the tenancy.
  2. Educate on Privacy Rights: Ensure that all parties understand the rights to privacy that tenants hold. It's important to explain these rights at the beginning of the tenancy to prevent misunderstandings later.
  3. Use Written Agreements: Have clear, written agreements that outline the role of cosigners. This documentation should explicitly state that cosigning does not grant rights to tenancy details or decision-making in property management issues.
  4. Maintain Professional Boundaries: Always maintain a professional demeanor and clarify that your primary responsibility is to the tenants. This helps in setting and managing expectations with non-tenants.
  5. Secure Legal Backing: Ensure your practices comply with local laws and regulations concerning rental properties and tenant privacy. Consulting with a real estate attorney can provide additional security and guidance.

Managing a rental property requires more than just keeping the property in good condition; it involves managing relationships and expectations. At Grow Property Management, we strive to ensure that all interactions are handled with professionalism and respect for privacy, which are key to maintaining trust and a positive reputation in the Philadelphia property management landscape.

Navigating these complex situations with tact and adherence to legal guidelines not only protects you and your business but also ensures a better, more respectful relationship with your tenants and their associates. As always, happy investing, and remember, the key to successful property management is not just in managing properties but in managing relationships.


Joe White

Joe White is a Philadelphia Property Manager and Real Estate Broker. He is the owner of Grow Property Management and has been involved in the management, sales and purchases of Philadelphia area rental investment properties since 2008. He is an author and works as a real estate investment consultant and construction manager.

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