Working for your landlord — good idea or bad idea?

By Josh Kendle

Home Forums Working for your landlord — good idea or bad idea?

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    • #3638

      My wife and I are renting a house while we search for one of our own, and I got the following email from my current landlord:

      “I’ve been thinking about updating my kitchen cabinets and countertops once you all decide to move out. I believe some small updates will bring a bit more return on my investment.

      Since you mentioned you were an architect that maybe you wouldn’t mind providing me with some basic specifications (cabinet sizes) and layout designs. Doesn’t have to be right away but sometime in the next month or two.

      I would like to take down the wall separating the kitchen and dining room to open it all up. Therefore, the stove an microwave would need to be moved. From there I’m not sure how to layout where the fridge and stove would be placed.

      Hopefully you can help me out with this and provide some basic information. ”

      He’s basically looking for free design work. I’d typically reply by saying: “I’d be happy to work with you on this. The kitchen has a lot of potential, and I agree it’s due for an update. Here’s an example of a kitchen I designed in a custom home (attached) that you might like. If you’re in town this weekend, let’s get together to discuss your goals for the renovation, and we can also talk about design fees to do the work. Let me know when you’re available – – looking forward to it.”

      My only hesitation is the power dynamic at play since he’s my landlord. I need him to understand that I take my work seriously and don’t work for free, but I also don’t want bad relations with the person that provides maintenance for the house I’m living in.

      Can I get some general feedback on my response?

      Has anyone run into something similar?

      Working for your landlord -- good idea or bad idea?
    • #3642
      Peter Twohy

        What ever happened? Exchange design fee for rent?

      • #3644
        Bruce Mitchinson

          Nice response.
          Brings it back to business instead of some implied favor, and you haven’t given away anything.
          I get similar requests from all manner of people, including the landlord, and have to move into a position so I am in control of the situation too.
          It can become a bit of a game sometimes.
          I’ve found that asking some of the curly questions that are included in the AMA sample scripts work a treat.

        • #3647
          David Sisson

            Just like any client you need to walk if the project or client looks bad. Perhaps tell them that you don’t take on projects that small, or consulting fees $300/hour. Make sure to establish power dynamic and get paid. He’s probably looking for a freebie. I generally shy away from projects that are for friends and family.

          • #3649
            Richard Petrie

              you should not be scared of making it clear that IP and design comes with a fee. You are a professional. If they have a less than professional attitude it does not require you to join them.

            • #3651
              Michelle Slinger

                Do not assume that it will be a freebie unless he asks for it. My response may be something like this…

                ” Oh that is wonderful you want to work with me. I really treasure Clients who respect my creative abilities and are willing to honor the value of my time and effort. I would be more than delighted to work with you based on that respect.

                Here is what I normally charge, but of course you as a business person you recognize that every scenario is different so we will have to determine what my service for this project will cost……

                I am sure that if you do engage me to do this design for you, that you would be rather pleased with the results and it certainly will add more prestige to your property.’


                In a welcoming tone you would have told your land lord, that you have value and you expect it to be paid for, while not running him off. The ball would be then in his court to take it or leave it.

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