Many landlords have an established custom of giving their tenants some sort of holiday gift. For some this is a big part of the season and they enjoy it very much. Others consider it a way of showing an appreciation for their tenants and business associates. And others don’t feel that it is necessary. There are several ways of approaching this topic.
Why it might be a good idea to give a small gift
It’s customary and appropriate (if old fashioned) for people to provide a small gift as a token of appreciation and as a part of the holiday spirit to the people around them. Many people give out gifts to mail carriers, gardeners, teachers or co-workers, and many landlords consider that giving a small gift to a tenant is no different and lets them know that you appreciate them and the fact that they are good residents.
It can also be helpful in building a cordial relationship between you and the tenant, preempting future disputes, opening channels of communication, and improving your reputation. Furthermore it can make tenants feel valued and make it easier for you to convince them to renew the lease when their time is up. At a minimum, you can spread good feelings around by giving a simple gift to someone else during the winter holidays—making you feel good, too!
Finally, it can be a great opportunity to get your foot in the door, see what is going on and find out if a tenant has a maintenance issue, an unauthorized pet, an unauthorized occupant, drug paraphernalia, or just a half dozen fresh Christmas trees decked out with lit candles.
Why you might just skip giving a gift
Most companies don’t give out gifts to their customers, and there is no professional reason why you should feel obligated to do it for yours. Maybe you are worried that you might be sending out mixed signals to your tenants that you are their buddy, and you worry that it might make it harder for you to enforce the lease later.
Many people in the rental business feel uncomfortable giving a gift to a tenant, because they reason that gifts are for friends and family, not acquaintances. It’s also common for landlords to choose to opt out of the holiday gift-giving mania where you must provide something for each person whose path you cross. If you have a lot of properties, even small tenant gifts can really add up and take away from funds designated for improving the property.
And there are Fair Housing issues to consider. While you are unlikely to get in legal trouble for saying “Merry Christmas” to non-Christian tenants, some people might nevertheless take offence. Of course if a tenant askes you not to give them a gift you should respect their wishes, but it doesn’t mean you can’t give one to everybody else. However, if you choose to vary your gifts without cause - say give a nice $20 ham to one tenant you like, but something cheap (or nothing at all) to a tenant that you don’t – you might be open to charges of unequal treatment.
What kinds of gifts are appropriate?
Generally you want to keep the gifts impersonal and in a price range that is affordable without being too cheap. Good ideas include gift cards for things like iTunes, Amazon.com or a local restaurant, gift baskets with cookies, coco, or even fruit, movie tickets, flowers, or something tied to your property or business (a t-shirt that says “I love living at ___ Apartments” is a great idea!)
A small investment of time and money in delivering thoughtful tenant gifts might translate into advantages in tenant retention and satisfaction and make the Holiday Season brighter for everybody.