The word “landlord” carries a lot of baggage—so much so that I recently noticed a landlord community on Facebook change their name to say “housing providers” instead in order to distance themselves from the term. Perhaps that’s why the creators of The Tenants chose to name their game after the interesting and eclectic hodgepodge of individuals who live in your in-game properties rather than the character you actually play: a “housing provider” extraordinaire. But no matter how you feel about landlords IRL, whether you’re at war with yours or have always wanted to be one yourself, you will have fun playing this rental and renovation sim.
The Tenants by Frozen District is in early release on Steam and similar to another title of theirs, House Flipper, it lets you fulfill your dreams of cleaning, organizing, and renovating homes, all while making a ton of money in the process. It’s like all the building and decorating parts of The Sims without the micromanaging of characters’ lives. But The Tenants continues on where House Flipper stops—not only do you renovate properties, you also rent our your properties out to the unique and big-personalitied characters who live around the city, and you find yourself responsible for any problems they encounter with their homes in the process.
It took a few renovations before I really felt like I understood what I was doing, but after a while, I began to feel confident in my decorating skills. After I finish up renovating a bathroom for a client who was very concerned with “first impressions,” I know it’s time to sit back and wait for the agent to judge my choices. She looks at the toilet brush and gives it a heart-eyes-emoji reaction. The bathtub itself only gets a regular smile—I should have gone with the more expensive option. Just then, my in-game phone rings: my tenant back in my first rental property is having trouble with some mice. She’s already dealt with cockroaches and a broken radiator, the poor woman, so I made sure to deal with her issue quickly. That being said, professional pest removal was a whopping $1,600, so I sent my uncle over to deal with it instead.
No matter what stage of the game, there are always choices to make, whether it’s finishing that renovation on a deadline or ensuring your tenants are happy and want to continue living in your property. The more tenants you get, the more responsibility you take on, and it can be frustrating to have to stop and deal with problems, but you can always choose to be that kind of landlord and let their texts go unanswered if you prefer. It's all up to you, so if like making judgment calls, decorating, negotiating, and solving issues, then this will be right up your alley.
Advancing through the game further, I was pleased to learn that there are more job types than just renovations. I eagerly took my first assignment helping another landlord keep an eye on her open house and didn’t regret it. Unlike when I rent my own properties, I get to play with this other person’s money when it comes to background checks and tenancy histories, so I ran them on everyone. One particular woman seemed to love every item in the property I was showing, but her checks showed that she had gone to jail for a lot of icky stuff, and her previous landlord said she had been a bad tenant. To top it all off, her personality type was listed as “alcoholic.” When I saw she had a job earning $78 grand a year and was willing to pay a high price for the flat, though, I said “whatever” and rented to her anyway. (It wasn’t my property, after all.) I got 5 stars for the job, the other landlord saying in the review she left that she would have liked it if the tenant had a longer rental history but had no other complaints.
That seemed a little too easy.
And so far, that’s my major gripe with the game. This is where I’d like to mention again, however, that the game is in early release. There are still tons of changes coming, and I absolutely understand that. I’m going to talk about the game as it is now, but that’s not to say I think this is the finished product.
So, back to my grumbles. The game is fun, but gets repetitive, and the answer to getting 5 stars on renovations seems to be to complete the provided checklist with the most expensive items available, and that’s it. Easy. Since you renovate rooms and homes with your clients’ money—and there’s always more than enough of it available—this isn’t particularly difficult, which ruins a little bit of the fun. There’s no real question of which items to use (pick the most expensive version), whether they match (at least early in the game, they almost certainly won’t), or even where you put them (as long as they’re all accessible). The name of the game appears to be this: spend all of your clients' money that you can. That being said, perhaps I’m not far enough into the game for more nuances to be made apparent—or maybe that’s something that’s coming later in development.
Things are different, though, when it comes to renovating your own place. In my first apartment, left to me by my late aunt and cleaned and repaired by my handyman uncle, I was reminded by a pop-up that the nicer I made it, the more tenants would be willing to pay, so I bought expensive furniture and fixtures, aiming to make it fantastic, and quickly realized I was down to $17 before I’d added interior doors or painted the walls. Whoops! Since it’s my first place, it was guided by a tutorial-like system still, so I was encouraged to go ahead and try to rent it right then… and I did. Someone moved in and, aside from the pests and other mishaps, she seems very happy in her plain-walled, no-doored home. When she moves out, I can continue to renovate the space.
Overall, the game has a unique feel I really enjoy. I love the graphics and the fun, mumbly voices of the characters. That being said, at least early game, so many of the items and decorations you can put into homes are, for lack of a better word, ugly. From the floor patterns to the furniture, a lot of it doesn’t inspire artistic passion. What I love about decorating in The Sims is making everything look nice and match or complement each other, and there’s really very little of that here until you earn more items, but I suppose you have to have something to look forward to, right?
Speaking of The Sims, I long for cutaway walls when I’m renovating the narrow rooms in cramped apartments, and I’m so happy to hear those will be coming soon. Especially in the early properties, which are often small and oblong and have narrow rooms, it’s annoying to rotate the whole screen to just to set a single item down against a wall, and I’ll be glad when that work becomes a little more streamlined. Another thing The Sims has that I long for here is the ability to preview paint on the walls or different flooring with a simple mouseover. I hope that’ll eventually get added in too, as it makes it easier to visualize what you’re doing before you have to buy anything.
The scoring of your work at the end of every renovation is really fun. I love the faces by the prospective tenants as well as the agent who reviews my work, even if I do get offended when they make gross-out noises, haha. The reviews are great as well. They don’t differ a ton right now (if I get compared to a person’s brother-in-law with a spackling knife one more time…), but I think that’s another byproduct of being early access and can certainly be forgiven.
The renovation goals are pretty clearly defined with ratings and guidance available to look over throughout your work, which I like. There are also last-minute elite jobs, with a hint that you can put unique items from those jobs in your personal storage if you want some free loot. Either they didn’t tell me how to use storage, however, or I missed it (you don’t have to click to advance the dialogue if your uncle has more than one thing to say, so there’s a possibility I simply looked away and it’s my fault) but either way, I don’t see the option, so I haven’t gotten to be a sneaky thief on a renovation job yet, but I'm certainly having a good time.
The landlord side of things can be a bit enigmatic at times. My first tenant was happy with me one moment and moved out the next. (Maybe her lease was up, but nothing indicated this other than her text that she was leaving, so I’m not sure.) That being said, the tenants themselves are really fun, and while I’ll surely be unhappy if one never pays rent or decides to wreck my place, that's the risk you take being a landlord, isn't it? Meanwhile, my current tenant may or may not have a better history than my first (I couldn’t afford background checks with my first tenant—a poorly managed $17 leftover dollars only gets you so far), but he is an alcoholic, and the first thing he did after getting approved to move in was chug a beer and vomit in the toilet. I love it. I learned from the patch notes that there are apparently drug manufacturers too. I can’t wait to see what sort of wacky and frustrating tenants I might get next. There are also “babysitting” jobs, where a landlord pays you to deal with their renters’ issues for a set amount of time so they can get a break, so there’s no shortage of fun interactions and crisis management situations throughout the game.
You also have to keep up with your bills, of course, which the patch notes say is becoming more streamlined soon. Renting out an apartment is new to me, and I'm not really sure how much it makes sense to charge the characters yet, so I don’t know if I’m renting my properties above or below market rate, but I do know I’m making a profit and able to pay all my bills on time, so maybe that’s all that matters.
To conclude, this game is a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see where the developers take it next. They recently announced that they’re on pace to deliver the 1.0 version of the game in 2022 along with some other helpful fixes they’ll be implementing soon, like the ability to queue actions for your dear uncle when he’s helping repair and clean properties for you, and additions like a new district, item color variants (yay!), deposits, inspections, evictions, and more!
Through this game, you can be the landlord you always wanted and cater to your tenants’ every need—or you can be an unforgiving tyrant and make your occupants keep up with rising rents while you skimp on pest control and repairs. You get to knock down walls and decorate your dream home with someone else’s money. You can manage multiple properties and rent to all sorts of crazy characters that sometimes you’ll love and sometimes you’ll hate. The Tenants really has it all, and I'm definitely going to stick around to see how it continues to develop.
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