Letter: Keep your tenants happy, and you will be happy

Posted 3/5/20

Recently there has been discussion about commercial rents in Bristol, and as one who has been on both sides of the structure as landlord and tenant, I feel both qualified and compelled to add to the …

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Letter: Keep your tenants happy, and you will be happy

Posted

Recently there has been discussion about commercial rents in Bristol, and as one who has been on both sides of the structure as landlord and tenant, I feel both qualified and compelled to add to the discussion.

I am not interested in credit, nor do I invite criticism, but wish to simply describe a process.

Everyone likes to make money. Everyone wishes to succeed, and within a capitalist free enterprise system, all this is possible. But what is success really? All I can do is express a philosophy that is based more in what I would call fairness, as opposed to excess or greed.

In the end, it’s really about living with yourself and feeling comfortable in dealing with people. What I believe to be most significant, is to be guided by a strong sense of personal ethics that is based in, simply stated, fairness. People should treat others as they themselves would like to be treated.

I do not wish to distinguish between being a good landlord as opposed to a bad landlord, but to talk about what I believe to be a “proper” landlord. Being a proper landlord brings great responsibility, more than just cashing the checks at the beginning of the month.

A proper landlord should always approach a relationship with an attitude of, “How can I help and be supportive, how can we best achieve success together and carve out a comfortable living?”

The past 20 years of being a landlord has taught me a great many lessons. Rents should be reasonable and affordable. Yes, there are markets that drive certain rates. Costs do increase in time, and this too, becomes part of a formula. Setting up a system where costs can be controlled within reason, is something that has worked for me and other stakeholders. 

A triple net system of sharing costs has worked well for us. Taxes, insurance and maintenance costs mostly increase and are beyond the control of a landlord. Dividing these annual costs in an equitable manner, and holding rents to a fixed period, allows all stakeholders to plan and budget in a healthy manner.

Recently, we sold a building that we developed and restored into five units. We were approached by “hawks,” folks always talking about cap rates, vacancy rates and the likes. The investor types (mostly out-of-state people) always ran the numbers and made their determinations. I found it to be informative and quite entertaining.

My decision was to work with a buyer, who like us, would look out for the tenants. We were fortunate that we did find the right buyer, who I believe will carry on as we have. And we received a fair price for the building that we invested in.

It is most important to recognize the value of tenants and see them as people, not solely as a source of income. The results for us were to have long-term, loyal tenants.

Conflicts and issues can arise. Never would everything be seamless or without drama, but resolve may be achieved by dialogue, with reasonable solutions attained for all. A proper landlord is responsive to the tenants. Keep the tenants happy, and you will be happy yourself.

It is my hope that others might be encouraged to act with due ethics and fairness in mind, rather than be motivated by the fattest wallet. I have not been a unique landlord in Bristol, as I know of others who believe much the same as I do. We are all trying to succeed in this crazy world. Let’s help each other.

Stephan Brigidi
Bristol

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.