I have been considered a “mom and pop” real estate investor for years and I hate the word “landlord.” I think everyone hates the word. I cringe when I hear it, and when I say it, but it’s really a struggle to find a word that describes the owner-operator of a handful of rental properties. After much thought and a careful review of appropriate synonyms, I offer an alternative that I will be happy to champion if the rest of the universe helps me. The new title should be, “Landholder.”

First, I offer some definitions and statistics to consider. Landlord is defined by Merriam-Webster as: the owner of property (such as land, houses, or apartments) that is leased or rented to another. It is believed to have its origins in the 15th century. Landlord should not be confused with a property manager, as one who is hired by an owner to “oversee the day-to-day operations of a unit of real estate” (Investopedia). Mom and pop investors own 22.1 million U.S. rental properties according to the National Apartment Association. According to TransUnion, the average number of units owned by mom and pop is 3.

Alternatively, a “landholder,” as defined by Merriam, is “a holder, owner, or occupant of land.” Cambridge defines landholder as “someone who owns or rents an area of land.” Now we have some definitions I can wrap my arms around. Forget that preprinted rental leases have used the terms “tenant” and “landlord” for years, I can practically see a way to substitute landlord with landholder. I can also see how an intentional effort on the part of landlor….landholders to change the written leases, can introduce the new term. This act will not change the world overnight, nor over a millennium, but I think we all would agree that it is an effort in the right direction.

There are several other options that would not work as well as landholder. I am particularly amused by possessor, freeholder, publican, proprietary, hotelier, and laird. The word “lessor” would work, along with the tenant as “lessee.” Honestly, we would always be confusing the two and would default to using landlord again. 

Well, there it is – my everlasting contribution to the real estate investing world. Perhaps this idea will spread across the nation like a wildfire. I pledge to begin using “landholder” on any new leases and to refer to myself as landholder where applicable. I cannot speak for others, most of whom own many more properties than I. In the words of the prophet, I’m starting with the man in the mirror.

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