He Said, She Said – Holiday Gifts For The Renters?

Since our last He Said, She Said on buying A $2K tube amp was a hit, we’re going to try it again.


The Background on Today’s Conversation


Kitty PoP gets to be the moderator in these debates…

We’re now in our second holiday season with our $50K duplex fully rented. Unlike last year where one set of renters was having money problems and we were eager to see them go, this year we have 5 sophomore and junior honors students at the local university who treat the place with complete love and respect. They’re great and we’re hoping that they want to sign on for another year. Since part of our philosophy on being a landlord is keeping tenants we like happy, a few weeks ago I asked Mr. PoP if we should add them to the Christmas cookie and card distribution list. His response: “No – we should give them cash.” Since cash costs more than cookies, I wasn’t ready to hop on that train. Here’s the gist of the conversation.


He Said

I may be letting in some of my work life here, but I view the renters as clients who are using our services. Unlike the last set of “clients”, (who were fired!) we’re hoping this set stays around for a while. To that end, I’m pretty happy to get ’em a few gift cards as a way of saying thank you.

After breaking out my trusty calculator I can see that the $100 we spent on the gift cards is about .5% of the $18,000 that we gross on the duplex each year (.5% is .005 fo the liberal arts majors in the room). When you consider that we usually lose a month’s rent when we switch tennants, and that the tennants can really make a mess of the place if they care to, putting a little money into maintaining the relationship doesn’t look so bad in my eyes.

Besides, they’re college kids for petes sake! Doesn’t anybody remember how much $20 was back when we were in school? It was big bucks! It almost seems scrooge-ish not to share our good fortune with those who have contributed to it with their rent this year.

She Said

Where Mr. PoP brings elements of his work into the mix when it comes to dealing with our renters as “customers”, I tend to think back on when I was a renter. None of my landlords ever even told me so much as a “Happy Holidays”, so I’d have been pretty freaking stoked to get a card and a tray of cookies.

They pay us, why the heck would we give them money at the holidays?  This isn’t even like tipping the garbagemen or anything, since we’re the one providing the service. To use that as an analogy, the renters would have to tip us extra this time of year!

Now, I know our renters are hard-working students. In addition to their studies, they’ve all got jobs on campus and at the mall to help make ends meet, and I have a lot of respect for them for that. But I just don’t feel like money off the rent or giving them a gift card is really going to make that big of an impact on their psyches that when they’re up for renewal in four and six months, respectively, that they’ll remember our holiday card and stay put.

But hey, I’m not the salesperson out of the two of us, so what do I know?

The Result

Mr. PoP was seriously digging his heels in on this one. When we started negotiations, he wanted to give each unit in the duplex $100 off the rent for the month of December, which I thought was a little ridiculous. I countered with a $10 gift card to Target, then accepted his $20 Target gift card counter offer. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that it became clear he meant $20 per tenant (we have 5 tenants – so $100!), not $20 per unit.

I growled but accepted it (she sounds like a lioness when she does that, its scary!-mr. pop). Having a fight with Mr. PoP over $60 just wasn’t worth it. End result – a compromise at a cost of $100, exactly in the middle of where negotiations began. But holy hell… they better renew or I’ll be ticked.


What’s your take? Is this a good customer relations strategy or just a ridiculous waste of $100? (Okay ~$75 because it’s deductible as an expense.) What would you have said if you were in the conversation?


56 comments to He Said, She Said – Holiday Gifts For The Renters?

  • I would have given them a free week of rent and a pot plant for the house. Finding new tenants can be a royal pain in the ass and you never know if they will be good or not. I would rather earn the little bit less and have good tenants that want to stick around due to nice land lords.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..30 Tips – How to Stay Safe on the InternetMy Profile

  • I think giving good renters a break on their rent during the holidays could be great business sense. You said that you wanted to keep them on for another year. This could be the item that kicks it to your favor. They might remember hey Mr. and Mrs. Pops gave us a $100 off the rent. We should stay here another year because they’re great landlords.
    Justin@TheFrugalPath recently posted..Book Review: A Speeder’s Guide to Avoiding TicketsMy Profile

  • I can see where both parties are coming from. Being a student I’d be stoked to get some Christmas cookies from landlords; but I think the most important thing is to keep great communications open and to have a nice unit (both of which I’m sure you do!) so you should be fine. :) I’m sure as students they’ll appreciate the gift cards!
    Gillian @ Money After Graduation recently posted..I’m still having a minimalist ChristmasMy Profile

  • I don’t buy Christmas presents for our renters and now you’ve made me feel really cheap. I did just put a new roof on one of their houses, though. Does that count?
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..The Difficulties of Shopping for My WifeMy Profile

  • I can see both sides of the argument. As they’re college students they may not be getting the best home cooked food, so a nice tin of cookies would probably be much appreciated. However, discounted rent is a pretty sweet deal and would probably go further in keeping them happy.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..The Risks and Rewards of Taking The Plunge – Part 2My Profile

    • I think they might already be headed home for their winter breaks, otherwise I’d think about bringing cookies over this weekend when I make a big batch, too.

  • I think you made a perfectly good decision on this one. None of my landlords have ever given me anything for Christmas in the past even though I kept everything spot-free. Putting myself in your tenant situation, it would be a very pleasant surprise to get a $20 Target card. You said it yourself, it would take you a month to find new tenants … would it really be that big of a deal to spend $100 in total? Nah. I’m sure they’ll be very happy. You never know when a little gesture can go a long way.
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..Sometimes It’s Better to Pay UpMy Profile

    • One of the gift cards was even a musical gift card. You pressed it and it played jingle bells or something ridiculous. Whoever got that better remember it, right?!?

  • As a renter for the past 10 years, I’ve never gotten anything from a landlord during the holidays. It would make a big impression on me if I received cookies or a gift card. I’d probably make even more of an effort to keep the apartment in top shape because I’d feel that my landlord valued me as a tenant.

    The cost to you is pretty minor, but the return could be major in the form of tenant gratitude and loyalty.
    Lyn @ Pretty Frugal recently posted..December Birchbox – All Wrapped UpMy Profile

    • I think it’s the *could* that I’m tripping up on. Since we’ve never done it before, I’m just a bit skeptical. But we did it, so now we’ll just have to wait a few months to see if it made a difference!

  • Russell

    As a recent student, I can tell you how much cookies are always appreciated. I also feel like they make for a more personal gesture, whereas discounted rent makes it feel like a professional gesture. I would think that they are more likely to think of you favorably if you build a better personal relationship, rather than just having financial transactions.

    • CincyCat

      What about cookies AND a discount? 😉

    • I think we have a pretty good personal relationship, but it’s one of those things that we don’t want the renters to think of us *too* much like friends and forget that they have contractual obligations or that they can be late with the rent because “the PoPs are so nice…” But I think I’ll try and drop some cookies off this weekend if they haven’t gone home for the holidays yet. Can’t hurt, right?

  • I think it’s a good idea to give your tenants a gift. The power of Good Will should never be underestimated. I can envision Derek and I bickering about this right amount to give.
    Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom recently posted..Time Well SpentMy Profile

    • Yeah, Mr. PoP and I rarely see eye to eye on what the best amount to spend is at first. We have to talk it out and see where the other is coming from and usually end up in the middle =) Hopefully without too much bickering!

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad recommends having a Bronze, Silver,and Gold status for renters with each level receiving better perks. This retains renters as they don’t want to move somewhere else and lose their “status” (Renters moved from Bronze to Silver after a predetermined time)
    Derek @ Freeat33 recently posted..Saving on taxes like SmithMy Profile

    • Hmmm… I read RDPD ages ago, but I don’t remember that part. I’ll have to go back and look it up.

      From your description, it feels a little paternalistic for college students who are in their first “on their own” apartment, but I could totally be misinterpreting.

  • Newlyweds on a Budget

    We’ve been renters for a while, and our last landlords would give us some goodies at Christmas time that we appreciated. My landlord now though , I don’t know, since it’s our first holiday with them as landlords but I doubt we’ll be getting anything.

    More than a gift card, though, I think what makes a good landlord if taking care of issues right away. We only email, and we try and take care of issues ourselves, except for important stuff, which he takes care of immediately. Also, whenever we’ve had to fix minor stuff (as required by the homeowners association), he’s always offered to let us do it first, and then docks it off the rent. For example, trimming some trees.
    I think the students would have preferred the $100 off rent, but the $20 gift cards will also come in handy. Let’s just hope they renew!

    • That’s nice that the landlord lets you do stuff around the place and docks the rent for you. Saves you $ and him time!

      We think we’re pretty darned responsive when the poop hits the fan. Like last May when one of the AC units broke. Our renter called us Sunday evening to let us know. A repairman went out Monday morning, they were put up in a hotel that night, and they had a brand new AC unit installed Tuesday.

      • Omg, a hotel? So nice! I would love to have a landlord like you.

        I once lived in an apartment where the fridge broke. It took a week to fix, and some of my food got ruined (thankfully, I noticed quick and had friends with spare freezer space). I definitely ate out more that week. My landlord grudgingly gave me a $50 rent credit but not without a fight wherein he accused me of being non-Christian. I also lived in a place where they change the locks and forgot to give me a new key. I got home at midnight, so, uh, yeah, no dice. I ended up driving an hour to my boyfriend’s place.

        I should add that these were both fairly nice places where I enjoyed living. Let’s not even talk about the bad places.
        Leah recently posted..2013 year-end surveyMy Profile

  • Given they are college students– I say the cookies were a better idea. Much more gratitude for the buck.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..I used to only have crazy friendsMy Profile

    • Yes, and I’ve decided I’m going to try and bring whoever remains cookies this weekend – but I think a lot are headed home to be with family for the holidays.

  • CincyCat

    We “pay” our insurance guy, attorney and accountant – and all three of them gave us some sort of holiday “something”. One even gave us a nice basket with a bottle of wine, fruit, nuts and cookies, and even some candy for our kids (tossed in extra – obviously not part of the basket). We thought that was very thoughtful… On the other hand, the other two gave us ‘corporate’ cards, not even signed in ink.

    I say go for the gift card idea.

  • I was a renter for many years and would have appreciated either, or even just a card. I think it’s a good business move to offer a rent discount or a gift card. If it was my unit I’d probably do the discount, but I think either is smart. Good tenants are hard to come by.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Have You Tried to Buy a Savings Bond Lately?My Profile

    • They are…. I think I get spoiled because Mr. PoP is pretty darned good at finding great tenants. But it takes time, so the less often we have to do it, the better!

  • I think giving a gift to your renter is really going above and beyond. When I lived in an apartment complex, they threw a holiday party with free food for all the residents, but we didn’t see any rent breaks or anything. Now that we rent a private residence, we haven’t observed anything special happening from our property management company, nor do we think we will. I can see how giving a small gift would engender some goodwill and maybe help the renter be nicer to you in the future, but personally a gift wouldn’t have any influence on retention for us. Also, if you give a gift this year, you’re probably stuck giving one every year until you turn the place over.
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..Zillions of Gifts, on a BudgetMy Profile

    • Being “stuck” giving them a $20 gift card seems like a price I am more than willing to pay if they keep re-upping for a new 1 year lease. =)

  • Our renters have only been there 2 months and we had that drunk move in incident, although they have been model tenants since then. Maybe if they are there next year. I don’t want to be too buddy buddy yet.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..It’s Fun to Stay at the YMCA-Gift Exchange RevealMy Profile

  • Although I think totally unnecessary to do, I think it’s a great idea. If you guys have a good relationship with them, buttering them up for a small cost of $100 to entice them to stay longer isn’t a bad idea… and if they’re good tenants and socialize with good people word of mouth may land you your next tenants when they move on. They probably don’t have much money being on a student’s budget so a little treat at the end of the year is always a nice surprise especially during stressful exams. Anytime someone recognizes ‘good work’ (or in your case respectful tenants) is always well received. It won’t be a wasted $100.
    Catherine recently posted..Understanding RESP’sMy Profile

  • I think getting something from the landlord is great, and if this increases your retention rates, then its money well-spent. I would have very happy to have gotten something from my landlord when I was in school.
    Marissa @ Thirtysixmonths recently posted..Why I Am a Maker of Things.My Profile

  • Regardless of what the final verdict was, the original choice to give them something is such a sweet gesture! I’ve never had anything given to me by a past landlord, nor do I know anyone who has. Kudos to you!
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..2012 Goals ReviewMy Profile

  • I have never received anything from a landlord. A friend of mine was out of province and had his friend make cookies to drop off to his tenants! This might sound weird, but as students, we valued fruit and vegetables very highly, if you’re ever in need of something.
    I think cookies are great. A rent discount would also be super fantastic (though I feel its association with the actual rent has a slight potential to backfire if you don’t do it again next year). Like others have said, they will likely tell all their friends and potentially hook you up with future tenants when they move on.
    Gift cards are also awesome, as you said, $20 is a lot as a student! Especially if it’s to somewhere like target where they can either splurge or get something they need like shampoo.
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Super Creative Gift Idea – One of a Kind!My Profile

    • Yeah, I got to choose the location of the gift card and decided on Target because I’ve seen renters from both sides shopping there from time to time. It’s a super Target, so if they need groceries they could do that, but could also have used it for Christmas presents, school supplies… I thought it was a good catch-all for a college student.

  • I don’t do gifts for my tenants, but I am on the other side of the ocean. What I did was freeze the rent for one good tenant that takes care of pretty much everything for me over there, and it was more than $100 per year, so I would go for the gift instead, although as a tenant I don’t expect anything from a landlord.
    Pauline recently posted..How much do you spend on gifts?My Profile

    • Yeah, if a renter is taking on extra responsibilities like that, I think it was very good of you to freeze their rent. The small cost you incur saves you a LOT of time and hassle if they move out to find cheaper rent elsewhere.

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  • I just read an article about landlords giving their tenants $70 off of the rent for the month of December. I thought that was so sweet. I think yall did a really nice thing, for sure. It will mean so much to them. We live in quite a tiny place, and all of our friends wonder why we don’t move. The reason is because our landlords are so kind to us and drop mangos on the window sill and bring us food when they have leftovers. Because they treated us so well, we’re about to start our 3rd year of renting with them. So, I think y’all have a winning compromise!
    Cat @ Budget Blonde

    • What’s the saying, “from your lips to god’s ears”? =)

      We really do try to be good landlords without being pushy and in their business. It’s our first time making a gesture like this, so hopefully it’ll pay dividends.

      Have a wonderful holiday with your family!

  • Must be an American thing! Landlords here are not known for their generous gestures :) The best Christmas present ours could possibly give would be to insulate this damn property (this could be a national movement..) I think that was a lovely gesture on your part.
    eemusings recently posted..In which I show my princess coloursMy Profile

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