Working as a landlord is as much an exercise in business management as a test of your people skills. You need the charisma to attract new tenants to your property and the patience to help them through the application and leasing process. Matters grow all of the more complicated when you find yourself renting to non-English Speakers. Non-English speaking tenants in the United States have as much of a right to housing as anyone else, but you’ll need the right tools on hand if you want to avoid miscommunications.
Communication when Renting to Non-English Speakers
English may be one of the most common languages spoken globally, but it certainly isn’t the only one. With international travel opening back up, landlords — especially those in college towns — are likely to see tenants that may not be comfortable speaking English.
Landlords don’t have to turn away non-English speakers, though — and nor should they. Instead, there are steps you can take to make communicating with non-English speaking tenants a little easier.
Consider a Translator
You don’t need to keep a translator on your official payroll to serve as an effective landlord. That’s not to say that knowing a translator doesn’t come with benefits when renting to non-English speakers.
If you find yourself contending with a non-English application, you can reach out to the translators in your area for guidance. Not only can these parties help you parse a complicated application, but they may also be able to mediate for you should you want to conduct an in-person interview.
Note that you should always pay a translator for any necessary tenant services. Not only does this do credit to the practice, but you may be able to deduct the cost of a translator from your year-end taxes.
Make Your Documents Accessible
Just as landlords need paper trails to reflect their important documents, tenants should also be able to access paperwork they’ve signed and shared them with their representatives.
When renting to non-English speakers, however, you need to ensure that your paperwork is not only physically accessible but available in a language that they understand.
To get ahead of the most complicated documentation issues, it’s usually best to have document templates available in Spanish and Chinese.
Other common languages encountered in the American rental market include Vietnamese, Japanese and French.
Use the Written Word when Renting to Non-English Speakers
Some people are better at writing in English than they are at speaking it. English, after all, is a language with several quirks; if you’re not raised to speak it, even sentences using “though” and “through” can become complicated to navigate.
With that in mind, ask any interested applicants or tenants whether they wish to speak to you about rental concerns or communicate via writing. Text, email, and even online chatbots can make it infinitely easier for you and your non-English tenants to understand one another.
Explore Your Multilingual Options
While you’re not obligated to learn other languages to better communicate with tenants, the practice has certain benefits. Today, learning a new language is easier than ever, thanks to apps like Duolingo.
While you may not become a fluent speaker while hosting your non-English tenant, these apps can still help you learn the terms needed to effectively communicate maintenance issues and rent disputes.
As a landlord, you can also take tax deductions on any efforts you put into improving your ability to communicate with tenants. If you sign up for language classes, you can work with a tax attorney to deduct the cost of that class from your April expenses.
Avoid Misunderstandings when Renting to Non-English Speakers
When you open up a lot to renters, you invite people from all walks of life onto your property. In doing so, you need to be prepared to work with people who come from different cultures or who speak other languages.
While you don’t have to learn these languages yourself, you’ll want to have the tools on hand to make non-English communication a little easier. Set these tools up in advance, and you’ll find that you have no problem keeping the lots on your property full of interesting people. Remember, variety is the spice of life.