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TikTok’s Landlord Influencers Want You To Stop Being Mad and Start Landlording

Extremely online landlords are regularly told their jobs are “inherently corrupt” and that they, personally, are "greedy animals.” But they claim their mission is noble—and that they deserve some sympathy too.

From the first time Tat Londono went viral on TikTok, the ferocious anger her videos could generate was clear. In the comments, people accused her of gentrification and immorality, and even suggested she was a primary reason for the international housing crisis. “Where's your conscience?” one person asked. 

The reaction was not unusual. Londono, a real estate professional with decades of experience buying, selling, and renting out housing in Canada, was becoming part of a growing cadre of landlord influencers, a uniquely modern phenomenon. 


On TikTok, landlords like Londono have found a niche since the start of the pandemic, which coincided with the rise of the social media platform in the U.S. There, they regularly flaunt their wealth, explain how they traveled their road to success, and offer tips that suggest that you—yes, you—can one day become rich and happy like them without much hassle.

“You only have to have 20 or 30 units to have a life that would be what I might consider an upper-upper-middle-class life,” said Paul Berger, a landlord in Alaska who started posting to TikTok at his daughter’s suggestion. Scott Ulmer, a Florida real estate investor and landlord who regularly posts on TikTok and YouTube, said that his single “biggest piece of advice” is to buy one rental property a year for 10 straight years. “You could change the course of your life,” he said. Plus, he added,  being a landlord is “not that difficult.”

Such suggestions have led to regular condemnation of the landlord influencer class by people who take umbrage with the idea that the only thing standing between them and their own real estate empires is a little gumption. Ulmer, for one, has been called a “landleach,” and the most common criticism Berger receives is that he should get a “real job.” Other online landlords told me they are regularly told their jobs are “inherently corrupt” and that they, personally, are nothing but “greedy animals.”  


The landlords on TikTok represent a new evolution for what historically has been a class of people largely content to lurk in the shadows, collecting checks and organizing to push legislation and housing policies favorable to themselves. Pandemic-inspired eviction moratoriums helped foster a sense among some landlords that they are an under-appreciated and aggrieved class that needs to defend itself until people, if not taking pity on them, at least empathize with their tribulations.

That has been a difficult sell in recent years, as a national housing crisis has made home ownership difficult in many markets and pushed rents up around the country. This has made landlords, even more than before, targets of scorn and ridicule and emblematic, in some people’s eyes, of the ways capitalism is failing the working class. Critics say that landlords make easy money doing little, something the landlords say minimizes the risk, investment, and work involved in maintaining rental housing. “What do you want me to do? Go sit in an office? I'm providing a service,” said Berger. And online, they are increasingly telling their side of the story—or at least trying to show they are humans, too. 

Within the creator economy, there is perhaps no more hated, perplexing, and, they say, misunderstood group. On TikTok, Londono regularly mixes stories of flipping homes with discussions of her latest car purchases and other evidence of her lavish lifestyle. The decision is a calculated one, she said. Through her platform, she hoped to inspire young people and teach them about a path to a lucrative career that didn’t require a college degree. But doing that requires getting their attention. “When we talk about the cars, we talk about the house, we talk about my revenue property, it's so that people could envision themselves doing the same thing,” she said.  


Doing so comes with a cost. One landlord influencer, after filming himself traveling to Dubai for the World Cup in December, received a flurry of enraged comments. “How many families did you evict to afford this,” one commenter wrote. Even more than the typical influencer, Londono is regularly flooded with comments from people she describes as  “socialists,” who want to “cancel” her. But she posts through it, the reason being that the benefits make the criticism worth it. 

In her first viral video, in which she explained how she flipped a townhouse into a multi-unit, income-generating apartment complex, she received more than two million likes, nine million views,  and numerous people celebrating her know-how.  “Queen sh!t” one person said. Soon enough, she had more than one million followers online. Today, that number sits just under three million.

Londono’s TikTok is the result of calculation. A friend told her that, unlike Instagram, on which she was already successful, the platform required carving a specific niche to be successful. Real estate was the clear choice, as she not only runs a residential brokerage firm in Montreal, but starred for a time in an HGTV real estate show. Things only started to take off, though, after her son became her director. Unlike Londono, who is 50, he seemed to inherently understand what worked, and she soon was paying him to craft her videos.


In that way, she is like many landlord influencers, who skew older and need the help of younger people who play a pivotal background role in their popularity. Ulmer, the Florida real estate investor, is admittedly not a “social media guy by nature,” and he said the amount of time it can take to craft video can be “profound,” so he hired a multimedia journalist away from a news station to handle his accounts. That allows him to film a bunch of videos for a few hours on a Friday, and then let other people handle the rest. 

A natural businesswoman, Londono was quick to try and figure out how to translate the attention into cash. On Instagram, she had been able to generate a six-figure side income through some smaller-scale brand deals. But after she gained a million-plus followers on TikTok, the opportunities came flooding in. “Monetizing social media is insane. I understand why these people do it full time,” she said. She started receiving brand deals from “the big boys,” as she put it, like Fundrise and Adobe, and charging for group classes on how to become successful like her, an increasingly common revenue opportunity for business-oriented influencers. (Such classes have garnered a reputation for doling out questionable advice at a high price. Another landlord influencer told me he himself had been “tricked a few times” by real estate influencers early in his career. “I was one of those people that paid for a lot of guru stuff and got nowhere,” he said.)


Another TikTok landlord, Deandra McDonald has been able to start making money online through ads, sponsorships, and affiliate links, and has received offers to speak to property managers at conferences. But McDonald, a Black woman who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, said she also realized how easy it would be to take less ethical advantage of the situation. Recently, she applied for an online contest to have half her tenants’ rent paid over the holidays and asked her audience to vote for her. When she won and excitedly shared the news with her audience, it was suggested that they could crowdfund the money to pay the other half of the rent too. McDonald squashed the idea. “I was like, ‘Hey, you would just be paying me, and that's not right,’” she said. But it dawned on her that she could have “just taken the money”—something her tenants perhaps wouldn’t have minded if it meant they owed less.  The conundrum represented the at-times dueling obligations of the landlord influencer—to their tenants, yes, but also to their followers.

Many of the landlords I spoke with said their primary motivation was to help lift others up. After spending decades as a landlord in Alaska, where he has managed more than 100 units at times, Berger sees his role as “helping young landlords” achieve success by sharing what he had learned over career. “We all want to have a legacy,” he explained.  Berger, who has 35,000 TikTok followers and offers tips on practical matters like flood preparedness and how to handle apartment damages, doesn’t make money through his platform. A self-described specialist in “small landlording”—by which he means one to 100 units—he sees himself as distinct from the “cocky” and “confrontational” landlord influencers who talk down to their tenants and shoot videos in Lamborghinis and boats. A Christian, Berger even said he sees landlording as a sort of missionary work that he enters with “an attitude of service.” “Most tenants are struggling with something. That's why they're tenants,” he said. He sees his job as helping them to “find their way.” 


McDonald, the Charlottesville landlord, started to post about her experiences as a landlord in hopes of showing other Black people and women that they could do it too. Growing up in Harlem, she had never thought she would be able to own property in the city, and scrimped and saved as a lab tech and lifeguard after she graduated college with student loans until she was able to buy a  two-bedroom townhouse in Charlottesville for $85,000. Soon after, she became “addicted” to buying real estate and ended up buying entire apartment buildings. At only 31, she already owns “25 doors,” as she put it, and works full time as a landlord.

When McDonald first started learning about real estate, she found the field to be male-dominated. So when she started posting on TikTok herself, she was determined to help other women realize that, for example, “changing a toilet is not as hard as you think,” she said. “If people don't see it, they don't believe it.” She’s found particular success with a “flip the script” routine, in which she starts out assuming the persona of a stereotypical, angry landlord, then switches to her actual, more empathetic self. 

Others hope to help the public better understand the landlord’s trials and tribulations. Raul Boloufe, a real estate investor in South Florida—“We do a lot of those signs that say, ‘We Buy Houses,’” he said—hoped to show the “real side” of landlording when he started posting on TikTok, including evictions and “shitty conversations.” He said a lot of the media coverage of the rental industry can feel stilted and one-sided, oftentimes highlighting tenant-related issues like job losses and affordability issues—legitimate concerns, he adds—without proper consideration for the plight of landlords.


“There's things that we go through as landlords,” he said. Asked for specifics, he referenced rising taxes, housing prices, insurance costs, and interest rates. “It makes it more expensive to buy an investment property. Costs go up for us as well,” he said.

Pushing this message can backfire and quickly become an exercise in false equivalency, though. One such situation occurred last month, when Boloufe posted a four-part series called “Raising my tenants rent,” in which he filmed himself calling one of the tenants on a home he recently purchased to inform her that he hoped to raise the rent from $1,100 to as much as $2,200. Boloufe saw the request as justified, seeing as rising prices of homeownership meant—in his eyes— that he had “to pass” that cost “on to the consumer, which in this case, is a tenant.”

The tenant responded furiously, as did others online. “Watching this made me sick to my stomach,” one person replied. Another said Boloufe had the “moral compass of a Disney villain.” Boloufe knew the video might be “controversial” but he was “shocked” by the scores of people who attacked him online. He was only doing what landlords do “every day,” he said. To many, that was exactly the point.

The hatred can be difficult to ignore. For a while, Londono tried to respond, which her son eventually asked her to stop doing. She reluctantly agreed. “It was hard because they tried to take me down,” she said. Still, she sometimes slips in a video of, for example, her in the back of an animated cop car below the text “POV: They Make Capitalism Illegal.” Ulmer brushed off the criticism—“opinions are like assholes. Pardon me, but everyone's got one”—but McDonald admitted that the hatred that could come her way surprised her at first. Growing up, she had never been treated poorly by a landlord herself, and she didn’t hold the same animus many people feel for the landlord class. Reading through the angry comments, she came to realize how lucky she had been as a renter. No landlord had ever not fixed a broken appliance or walked in unannounced. And many of her fellow landlord influencers talk about their tenants as if they are “just dollars” and happily evicted people or raised their rents, which she doesn’t agree with, she said. 

“I was really humbled,” said McDonald, who tried to change her tone and be more sensitive to the fact that a misplaced joke could come across as punching down.

McDonald sees people’s frustration as justified, but feels that landlords have become a strong source of resentment because they are a regular face of broader capitalistic forces, one that people have to write a check to every month. “If you're mad at landlords, you're probably mad at all capitalism. Because the tomato that you spent 50 cents on also cost five cents,“ she said. “I think that people who are chronically ill might feel the same way about their pharmacists.”

She’s not trying to change people’s minds. “I'm not trying to prove to you landlording is ethical,” said McDonald. “The point is, if you choose to invest in this particular sector, I think there is a way you can do this that benefits both parties.” But she also thinks that anger is better pointed at the broader system, emphasizing that people should use their frustration to fuel political change.  

Londono, for her part, sees attacks as the cost of fame, one that has led to criticism of people far more celebrated than her. 

“People are saying Mother Teresa was a scamp. People are saying Gandhi was a womanizer,” she said. “You could be a saint, a real saint, and someone will burn you at the stake.”