Christmas will be different this year – circumstances may have affected some landlord/tenant relationships. Some tenants may owe you months of rent due to job loss or sickness. Some may be dishonestly taking advantage of the laws allowing them to “defer” rental payments.
Also, circumstances may have changed with YOU, the landlord. Having gone without rental income for months while the expenses of running your building continue to burden you – do you even have the extra funds to consider gifting your tenants?
And … should there be conditions on to whom you choose to give gifts this year? Only to those who have continued to pay the rent? To those who have actually been affected by COVID-19 -lost their jobs or became sick? To all tenants – regardless of their situation?
I don’t know – you must decide; but below are some suggestions you may want to keep in mind while you stand in line with your children or grandchildren to see Santa through the Plexiglas.
Promoting Good Will
Sending/giving holiday gifts once a year to your tenants (customers) promotes good will and lets them know you appreciate them. It can turn bad tenants into better ones and makes it a little easier for them to write those rent checks all year long. Everyone wants to be appreciated and a small token of thanks can go a long way.
Here are a few ideas that will show your tenants you appreciate their business and who knows … that great tenant considering a move-out just may change his mind.
Everyone loves gift cards. You can enclose them in a holiday card with a note that says, “Thanks for being a great tenant” or in some cases… “Thanks for being our tenant”. Here are some inexpensive gift card ideas for you to consider:
- Movie Tickets
- Restaurants (Pollo Loco, Subway, etc.)
- Grocery Stores
- Pizza Delivery
- WalMart, Target, K-Mart
- Baskin-Robbins or Neighborhood Ice Cream Stores
- Gas Station
Gift Baskets/Online Deliveries
You can personalize gift baskets for smaller buildings or conveniently order online for delivery from a vast number of companies:
- Cookies and hot chocolate
- Pasta Night Basket (package of spaghetti, bottled sauce, bottle of wine)
- Cheese and meat
- Coffee and Tea
- Kitchen Basket (potholders, dish towels, cutting board)
(I suggest you avoid candles and plants. Candles can be dangerous and some plants are poisonous to pets or may cause allergic reactions.)
Think about that gift that keeps on giving – something that will offer your tenant a service and also benefit you in the long run. Give options and let your tenants choose from one of the following:
- Offer a one-day maid/cleaning service
- Install a ceiling fan
- Paint a room
- Replace those old blinds
- Buy a new appliance
- Shampoo carpets
Who doesn’t like money? Most experts, however, do not recommend a rent reduction for the month so if you choose this option, do so in a VISA or MasterCard gift card for $25 or $50. This gift is especially appreciated around the holiday season.
One very special landlord I know gives lottery tickets to his tenants. The tickets only cost one or two dollars each and provide them with the opportunity to win more! What a great idea.
Tenants with Pets/Comfort Animals
If you’re a landlord who accepts pets, (or your tenant has a comfort/service animal), you probably know how these pets are considered part of the family. Go to a local thrift shop (Salvation Army, Good Will, etc.) and pick up a basket for a dollar or two. Fill it with dog, cat (or bird) treats, toys or necessities. Your animal-loving tenant will love it!
Tenants with children? Kids love gifts, and when you make your tenant’s children happy, you make your tenants happy. I don’t know about you, but I find many like-new inexpensive treasures at thrift stores. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. You can fill a basket with children’s books, movies, CDs, toys and games for under $20! Wrap it up with clear cellophane; tie on a bow and voila!
Can I Write These Gifts Off?
Yes – keep those receipts! Gifts to tenants are an allowable business expense on your federal income taxes, but they are subject to limits. If you give someone a gift for business purposes, your business expense deduction is limited to $25 per person per year.
Remember … it’s not the size of the gift that matters. It’s the gesture. Even a card with a $5 Starbucks gift card can demonstrate your appreciation and thanks. Plus, it will help to create a better relationship with your tenants. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!
Patricia A. Harris is Senior Editor of the AOA Magazine and Buyers Guide.