Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.
I’m having a difficult time figuring out how to respond to a friend’s superstitious beliefs and thought perhaps you could make some suggestions.
My husband and I own a rental house that we are planning to rent to a friend. We are giving her a reduced monthly rate, and in exchange, we know she will be gentle on the house (we are exhausted from all of the college students who have rented in the past, and are looking forward to giving the house, and ourselves, a little break from heavy maintenance). It is a nice arrangement, as both parties get something out of the deal.
Within the past two years, we have painted the entire interior with high-quality paint. After the last tenants left, I washed all of the walls and they cleaned up to look as good as new. My problem is that the friend wants us to repaint the interior. She is willing to pay for the paint and to help with the process. I feel the house doesn’t need to be repainted, but she insists that painting will somehow remove the “energy” of the people who were there before.
One option is to humor her, but the house is nearly seventy years old. This makes cutting into the ceiling to give it a professional look very tedious and time consuming. Another option is to question her beliefs, but I have yet to find a tactful way to do this. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance,
It’s always risky to mix two different relationships, sometimes called dual relationships, because they often collide. Having your employer be your close friend, buying a used car from your brother, or renting your property to a friend brings the likely possibility that fulfilling one role will conflict with the other role.
If you think that the advantages of mixing the two roles of tenant and this particular friend are worth the risks, I think you will need to draw some distinct lines between the two roles right at the beginning, or they will collide again and again, probably with you making the concessions most of the time.
From the friend-friend perspective:
You don’t have to tell her that you think her superstitious beliefs about “energy” are ridiculous, but you don’t have to cater to them or indulge them either. You can be neutral about the nature of her beliefs, and still hold firm against having to repaint the house. Tell her that you don’t sense whatever she says she senses, and with all your other responsibilities, you cannot justify going to all the trouble of repainting the house for a problem you cannot sense. You’re glad she will be your tenant, because you know she’ll be gentle on the house. In that way, she will infuse the house with her own “energy.” A coat of paint is no comparison to a new occupant who lives there every day with a loving, respectful attitude. She will be good for the house, and the house will be good for her.
From the tenant-landlord perspective:
It’s your house, and your property. Unless there are laws requiring repainting each time it is rented, you have cleaned the interior and brought it to a state of freshness that is reasonable. Even if adding yet another coat of paint to the interior of a 70-year-old house is okay with you, still this is an expense in materials and/or a commitment in labor that you are simply not willing to provide. You have more important things to do. The whole point of renting to her was to reduce labor and maintenance, not increase it, and for that convenience to you, she’s getting a reduced monthly rate.
If it’s that important to her, then she can pay for a professional to do the labor as well as pay for the paint. You must have the final say on the color, the quality of the paint, and the professionalism of the painter doing the work. If your tenant wants to do the painting herself, and if you are willing to take that chance, make it clear that you expect a very professional level of work, and that you reserve the right to inspect her work during the process. If the workmanship is not to your liking, you will expect her to remedy the problem by paying for painters who are acceptable to you.
Have this all in writing, with signatures.
I know that these two perspectives are starkly different from each other. That is the problem with dual relationships. It’s hard to keep things “clean.” Renting a house is a business arrangement. It can be done with respect and fairness, even cordiality, but the mutually beneficial agreement should remain above being muddled, complicated, and spoiled by the emotions, expectations, and entanglements of friendship.
You might consider explaining this gently but frankly to her, helping her to see the dilemma that you are trying to minimize by keeping it understood that you and she will have to change “hats” when dealing with things about the house. In this you still do not have to specifically talk about how you regard her beliefs about “energy.”
If your friend/tenant continues to insist on her way, or if she starts insinuating a guilt trip about your friendship, then you are probably experiencing the first of many conflicts you will have in this dual, mixed relationship. In that case, it might be best for you to say that you can see that being her landlords will harm the friendship, and your friendship with her is important to you, so you don’t want that to happen. Then you will need to find another tenant who will treat the house well.