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‘I’ll do it my way’: Las Vegas landlord lowers rents to keep tenants

Rent is on the rise, forcing some tenants to move out. But one landlord in Las Vegas is going against the trend. Tom Trout refuses to raise the rent on his multiple properties’ in fact, the landlord lowers rent. “They said that’s unheard of for a landlord,” he said, and he’s right. But the 71-year-old is undeterred. “I’ll do it my way, like Frank Sinatra says.” He explains that his properties are paid for and he doesn’t need or care about the money he could make from raising the rent. 

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One of Trout’s decade-long tenants and disabled veteran, Bill Donnelly, says, “I’ve never met anyone like him. He wouldn’t even take more money.” Meanwhile, Trout has only good to say about Donnelly as well: “He did 2 tours in Vietnam. He was in a foxhole. We’re just lucky to have him back in America. God bless the vets.” 

Landlord Lowers Rent to Keep His Tenant

For a 4 bedroom, 2 and a half bathroom, and 2-car garage home, Trout charges Donnelly $900 a month. When Donnelly first moved in, he paid $1,200 a month for the 1,600-square-foot property. However, the landlord lowered rent down to $1,100 by the following year, then to a thousand. And then to $900, where it has stayed. Keep in mind that rent prices in Las Vega have increased by 22% since 2015, according to Zillow. And in a post-pandemic world, there’s been a 13.52% increase since 2020. Meaning, Trout’s houses could go for much higher prices in the market.

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Rent increases have doubled since last quarter and will continue to rise as demand continues to grow, especially from people moving here from out of state,” said NVSAA Executive Director Susy Vasquez.

In fact, the fear of eviction is common for many people in the area. According to Census data, about 7.4 million people in the United States are behind on rent. Naturally, this negatively affects landlords as well.

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Tom Trout, the landlord who is lowering rent
Tom Trout, the landlord who is lowering rent. Image Credit: CHRISTOPHER DEVARGAS via The Las Vegas Sun

“The occupancy is full, but when you look at it as a landlord, the economic occupancy is still significantly lower if you have approximately 15% of your renters that aren’t paying rent,” Vasquez said. “Landlords have learned how to operate at the bare minimum.[1]

Meanwhile, Trout is well-aware of what Donnelly’s house could go for over $2,000. “If I raise the rent a thousand, I’m sure he would move out. Some people might think I have the I.Q. of a grasshopper but I like to keep my tenants.” In fact, when Donnelly offered to pay more, Trout assured him his house wasn’t going up for sale and if Donnelly tried to give him more money, the landlord threatened lowering rent to $800 a month.

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Read: Robin Williams Apparently Made ‘Every Company He Worked For Hire Homeless People And Put Them To Work’

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I’m fully aware of what I’m doing.”

The landlord’s goal is to keep long-term tenants he likes instead of having many renters pass through, even if that sometimes means lowering rent. “I’ve been through bubbles, and I’ve been through balloons, and the balloon breaks, and the bubble bursts,” said Trout, who’s rented properties for over 40 years. “So I’m fully aware of what I’m doing.”

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By trade, Trout is a geologist who had moved to Pahrump to stake out a gold mine. Still, he loves Las Vegas and keeps properties there but he doesn’t visit very often. As Trout said, “I don’t snoop around. When they rent a house from me it’s their house. I’m not a nitpicky landlord. If my tenants are nice, they get to keep their lease. If they give me a hard time, guess what? Out of the door.” [2]

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Treating His Tenants Like Homeowners

The only trade-off is that Donnelly usually pays for his own minor repairs. However, when his air conditioning broke down in the middle of summer, “it was taken care of in a heartbeat.” As Trout explains, “When they live in one of my homes, it is their home. And, therefore, they feel like a homeowner.”

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Trout began buying properties back in 1978 with money made in the stock market. He explains that he has owned them for so long, he could be generous with them. However, he chose not to release the exact number of properties he owns. Plus, the landlord declines to state whether he raises or lowers rent for his other tenants. However, despite the financial disasters of the pandemic, none of his tenants missed a month’s rent.

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Trout hasn’t been to Las Vegas to see his properties for over a year, leaving him time to focus on the things he cares about, like trading stocks, playing drums for a band at a local club, and exploring geology in Pahrump. [3]

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Keep Reading: Jay-Z and Will Smith Invest in Company to Help Low-Income Folks Go From Renters to Homeowners

Sources

  1. “As home-rental prices soar in Las Vegas, tenants are feeling the pressure.Las Vegas Sun. Arleigh Rodgers. August 10, 2020
  2. “Las Vegas landlord going against the trend, refuses to raise rent on tenants.KTNV Las Vegas. Bree Guy. September 14, 2021
  3. “‘I’ll do it my way’: Las Vegas landlord lowers rents to keep tenants.Las Vegas Sun. Casey Harrison. September 10, 2021
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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