What if I Have An Absentee Landlord?

It is no longer highly unusual for landowners to be an absentee landowner.  More and more beginning farmers (and farmers in general) and renting land from absentee landlords.  Are there any particular pitfalls or issues to be aware when working with an absentee landlord?

First, communication, while always important, is critical in situations with an absentee landlord.  Communication is how trust is built.  With an absentee landlord, communication becomes even more paramount because it is more difficult to be at the same place at the same time.  Non-verbal cues, such as body language and that “gut feeling” you get, may be missing.  If you communicate via the written word, tone, volume, and inflection are much harder to express.  Misunderstandings may occur much quicker and escalate quickly without a commitment to communication.  In the end, communicate with each other and then communicate some more.

An absentee landlord is also an ideal circumstance for a written lease and/or contract.  With a written lease, each party knows the exact terms and conditions of the agreement at a glance.  It also allows each party to know at a glance what they can or cannot do in regards to the lease.  A written lease also provides more legal protection and certainty than a verbal lease.

In the end, a relationship with an absentee landlord does not have to be markedly different than a local landlord.  It just may require a different approach.  Take the time to communicate and resolve differences, just like in any landlord/tenant relationship.  And if that requires conference calls, Skype, email, or other communicative aids, try to embrace the change in the method of communication.

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