Understanding the Golden Rule of Renting...Mutual Respect

You are getting ready to look for an apartment, duplex, or a house to rent.  You drive your favorite neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs, searching for just the right place to call home for an extended period of time.  You have looked on the internet and scanned the news papers for rentals on a daily basis.  You feel you are prepared to sign a rent or lease agreement; but wait, have you really taken the time to review the landlord/tenant laws and maybe a rental or lease agreement beforehand?  It would be advantageous for you to understand your rights and obligations under the agreement you are about to enter into.  Preparing yourself in advance can help prevent some stress associated with finding a new place to live.

The best advice for both tenant and landlord is to enter into the contract with mutual respect of each other and the property.  Each should be considerate of the other’s situation and interact accordingly; basically do unto others as you would have done unto you.

I have heard of outrageous landlord conduct, including: discrimination, invasion of privacy, refusing to fix dangerous conditions or failing to return security deposits when a vacated unit has been left clean and undamaged.

Conversely, rental property owners all have at least one nightmarish story of tenants with bad behavior, ranging from late payments and property damage to breaking the law and police involvements.

As a tenant, you should understand that the property owner has a large investment in the property and that he is providing the tenant a roof over their heads.  Being a tenant, you should have a right to your privacy.  You should be able to depend on the owner to fix and repair those things that can occasionally go wrong and the landlord should call and make an appointment before entering your home.  When ready to vacate, in common decency and fairness, you should return the property to the owner in good condition.

In the long run, the renter is best served if they try and establish a positive relationship with the property owner from the beginning.  If the property owner has delivered a well maintained property, and makes all necessary repairs, the owner has the right to expect that the tenant will: pay the rent on time, get along with neighbors, and keep the rental property well maintained inside and out.

I have found over the years that the vast majority of problems can be solved if both parties are honest with each other from the beginning.  I don’t mean to oversimplify the problems that can develop, but if each party takes responsibility for their own actions, the chances are that good landlord/tenant relationships can develop and be of advantage to both.


Eric Ruxton and Larry Aikins are the owners of Terrace Realty Inc. and Terrace Associates Inc., in Redwood City. Terrace has been in business for over 50 years and in addition to being an independent Brokerage Company, also owns and operates rental properties.