I started a class on property management recently with a question to the attendees: “What do Landlords and Tenants have in common?”

I was surprised that most of the group thought I was about to tell a joke. “They both blame the property manager” they said. “Lawyers.” “They both eventually die…”


It struck me that if my posing a sincere question sounded more like a set-up to a punch line, then it may be time to review a few basic housing principals.

Here it is: What Landlords and Tenants have in common is that both parties want – and expect – to have safe, stable and affordable rental properties.

This expectation does not seem to be overly-idealist or unattainable. In fact, in my 30 years as a rental property owner/manager, this pretty much describes my overall experience.

Does it mean that I have never had a bad tenant? No. Does it mean that I have never worked with a problematic landlord? No.

What it does mean is that when things go sideways, like a repair that hasn’t been done, or a tenancy that spirals out of control, or demands that seem out of the ordinary, I know there are remedies available and procedures to follow to get through the issues.

If things go completely upside down and either party over-reacts, digs-in or behaves in bad faith – there are still remedies, but they tend to get more costly. By the time the string gets too wound around the axel, it may just be too knotted up to do anything except replace the axel!

So, how do we avoid the worst-case scenarios? Simple. Don’t allow them to happen. Minimize risks and maximize incentives. Like the old axiom says, the best defense is a good offense.

Landlords should maintain the property and budget for repairs and improvements – replace that old appliance with something nice. Landlords need to maintain their professional and legal boundaries and allow the Tenants’ right to habitability and privacy.

Tenants should respect their home and communicate their needs courteously. And of course, they should stay current on their rent. Rather than focus solely on their rights, both parties should spend some time taking stock of their duties, and observe the Golden Rule.

Like many issues today, it’s the extreme stories that get the most coverage.  We see Landlords and Tenants in the news when there is some outrageous conduct or bitter protest.  Yet is that really a fair depiction of our industry? I don’t think so.

The Rental Housing Alliance Oregon has been a resource for property owners for 90 years. Have Landlord  / Tenant relations deteriorated in that time? Or have they improved?

I can attest that if we traveled back in time to visit the rental conditions form either side, it would be easy to see just how much better we all have it now.

A couple weeks ago, I spent a day on a bus tour with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon to view Portland’s history of discrimination. It was eye opening and heart wrenching.

While we may all agree there is a lot more to do – it is quickly evident how much we have all improved our housing conditions, along with the legal infra-structure to continue to work for improvement.

The Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act can be intimidating to both sides. But these protections are the foundation of our business that support safe and stable housing. Still, it is not uncommon for either landlords or tenants to feel like they got the short side of the stick.

Consider this story:

A housewife called up a pet store and said, “Send me thirty-thousand cockroaches at once.” “What in the world do you want with thirty-thousand cockroaches?” asked the astonished clerk. “Well,” replied the woman, “I am moving today and my lease says I must leave the premises in exactly the same condition I found them…”

Ha! Ha! (It’s a joke.)