Tenant Talk Back: Testimonials of Renting Experiences

Today the Witt leaves rent’s history for a spell, and the Rent Lobster makes a dash from advice to bring a more interactive piece regarding real life experiences to assist both tenants and landlords. Naturally, tenants only speak of landlords when angered, seldom giving any praise. However, this is to be constructive on both ends as we all seek to improve in the ever growing world of rent. The Witt and The Rent Lobster will start us out. Anyone else with a story is encouraged to share. To the testimonials!

From the Witt:

My first renting experience was early in college at UGA living in a one bedroom apartment on the edge of campus.  My experience here was generally good–I lived there one year, moved away for a year, and then moved back for two more years.

The management and I were eventually on such good terms that they generously waived late fees if I forgot to send in the payment until the third or fourth of the month. They were generally pretty good about sending maintenance when I called and they were pretty fair about security deposit issues when I left.

My one problem was how they would show the apartment without my permission or knowledge (oftentimes they would leave messages, but I wouldn’t hear them until after they had come in and gone). It’s a matter of Privacy; I feel like a landlord should always get your approval before barging in (within reason, of course–if you never pick of your phone you sort of tie their hands). There were definitely two or three occasions I woke up, scantily clad, to find young ladies touring my wreck of an apartment at 9 AM, to my embarrassment.

My second renting experience came at a much busier apartment complex when two friends and I rented a three bedroom condominium in a complex that had several hundred units. Probably because the three person staff was too small to effectively cater to the hundreds of their college-going tenants, the service was not quite equal to what I experienced in the other complex.

To be fair, meeting the demands of nearly a thousand college students is probably impossible. A good example of this I think is one instance when my roommates had piled three or four full trash bags outside our front door. I got a letter, pasted on my door, threatening a fine if we didn’t clean it up. This was certainly fair, but what really irked me was a sentence in the middle of the note that said something like, “Trash is an unsightly problem that hurts our atmosphere and has no place here.”

Of course this was true, but did they really have to declare such an obvious thing to us as if we were children? Would it not have been better to simply say, “Clean up or else!”  It certainly seems like a more appropriate way to deal with adults than talking down to your tenants and making your relationship seem adversarial.

To be clear, we were not without fault, and I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned here.  If we had picked up our trash like any reasonable tenants should have there would have been no issue in the first place.  Our landlords, however, or at least their staff, compounded the problem by addressing us pedantically and insulting our intelligence. If either of us had made an effort to behave reasonably and responsibly, we could have preempted the mild tension that resulted.

I am anxious to hear other people’s stories or their thoughts about my own.  I will continue to post ideas as they come along.  Till then.

-The Witt

From the Rent Lobster:

Firstly, I applaud The Witt; as an intern, the taste of college renting still leaves a residue on his palate. Such a gander into emotions manifested through the interpersonal relationship between tenants and landlords truly gives insight to both parties. Why talk to your tenant as if s/he is a child? The main outcome will always be animosity.

Next, I’ve had the unique opportunity to play both landlord and tenant simultaneously, and hopefully, I can display both sides of the sword. As a tenant, I’ve noticed that landlords tend to speak to their tenants in a reprimanding tone similar to what The Witt described earlier. Instead of forcing tenants to action by threat, an amicable request most effectively solves the problem. Try this one:

“Dear Tenant, please do not place trash on the exterior of the apartment as a courtesy to your neighbors; thank you for your cooperation and let us know if we can be of any assistance.”

As a first time notification, this would likely maintain the sanctity of the fragile bond between management and tenants, while accomplishing said tasks. Adequate communication is critical to happiness from both ends, keeping tenants in their dwellings longer with an increased willingness to adhere to the rules. In this manner, property managers are able to create a sense of community—one in which tenants care to be a part of and maintain (remember it is always less expensive to keep old tenants rather than to find new ones).

The Witt’s experience with people “barging in” his apartment without warning to show potential future renters involves a law within the Federal Housing Code that is frequently ignored. As mentioned in a previous article, Tenant Rights Landlords Should Know, the resident must be made aware 24 hours ahead of any entry from the landlord—an unanswered phone call is not adequate and this justifies tenant departure from the dwelling without any future payment.

I have been the third party to this scenario (the potential buyer), and the experience of bombarding into a surprised tenant’s home is very uncomfortable, especially when the area is full of mess. To say the least, I lost all interest in purchasing the property. At days end, the current tenant will likely leave, and you won’t make the sale. This is another issue surrounding poor communication.

As a landlord, my tenants have ranged from college students to single families. In my early stages of landlord-hood I implemented the pay and deduct from rent strategy for the purposes of work orders. Simply put, anytime a tenant sent a work order and I approved, the tenant would deduct the cost of the services from the next month’s rent upon providing a copy of the receipt.

Here’s the problem: the tenant would simply call the first name in the phone book for services needed, disregarding price or quality. Every month, unnecessary money was lost simply due to inefficiencies in this regard. Here’s what I did to solve the problem: I spoke with multiple plumbers, electricians, lawn maintenance companies, pest control, and carpenters. In a sense, I built relationships with these companies, growing familiar with their pricing and ability.

Furthermore, if the damage in question was clearly the fault of the tenant, than the service provider would notify me and send me the invoices directly (that way I wasn’t charged for tenant damage). The tenants could continue to take care of issues and deduct from rent, but I kept a list of contacts available for tenants for any services needed and informed them of my arrangements with said service companies.

In this manner, all work orders could be addressed efficiently with a sense of cost effectiveness. Let’s be clear, I’m not necessarily suggesting a pay and deduct scenario, but I do suggest providing a list of contacts for tenant purposes.

It’s time to here it from you! Everybody has a story, bad or good, and each ends with something to be learned. Let’s help each other to make the renters world go round. Simplifying Life, Simplifying Rent.

The Rent Lobster
RentPost, LLC

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Tony Salloum

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  • I forgot one more – I lived in a home where I received all the mail from the previous owner; he never corrected the issue, and we also received mail from “businesses” addressed to unknown people. We looked the businesses up on our secretary of state’s website, and it seemed that the person the letters were addressed to had started 37 corporations in a period of 5 months……. strange, to say the least. We were extremely unhappy that we were included in such suspicious activity, and the landlord dropped the rent as a result. There isn’t a moral to this tale, but I thought it was an interesting one to tell.

By Tony Salloum

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