TPFKAA on Renting – “It was as though ‘renters’ were another species, quite distinct from their human, homeowning neighbours.”

TPFKAA, from comments at VREAA, 22 to 24 Dec 2010:

“Our previous landlord increased rent because he had miscalculated property taxes. Massive assessment forced his payments into greater than rental income, and he tried to ask us to pay voluntarily a 15% increase so the rent would cover the taxes. He raised three years in a row by max allowable until we had had enough. Then he sold for a $400K profit, minus costs.

When we moved in to our current rental three years ago, I brought some raspberry plants (the kids love eating raspberries fresh off the plant) that we had planted, from our previous rental. The neighbour saw me and looked amazed. She said: “oh, I have never known renters[in italics] to put in any money”. the way she said it was as though “renters” were another species, quite distinct from their human, homeowning neighbours. Persistently, these neighbours place their garbage and garden cuttings over on our side of the property line, so as not to sully their beautiful, OWNED garden. (We maintain ours with 30+ hours of tending a month). They also treat the front of our house as their parking spot. Granted, they have been there 17 + years to our 3, but still…. I can’t help thinking that if we weren’t mere “renters” this would happen less.

[Current rental experience] in roughly chronological order:

Crackhead tenant in other suite steals our things the week we moved in, and soon gets evicted, Accuses us of ruining her life, and threatens our child with abduction. Strange men had been visiting her all hours of the day, and the sickly smell of crack smoke coming through the vents caused me to tape bags over all the heater vents. Lucky it was summer. This is an upscale Burnaby neighbourhood with 1m houses all around. She and associates came back to ransack carporch and break in to our car twice more before, like the mice, she disappeared. I sealed up carporch to make into complete garage, landlord donated materials that were already here and paid for the rest. no compensation for stolen property. I lectured landlord on not giving us any notice of his obvious concerns about this tenant, who had moved in two months prior to us.

I notice door is broken from attempted break in, soon after we move in. I fix with wood glue and clamps and screws.

My father in law spends 30+ hours per month (its more like 40+ hrs per week in summer, no exaggeration) landscaping and tending the garden. Landlord pays $50 per month + a couple hundred on materials, which is fair enough by him, no complaints about this behaviour as I guess he could just go back to getting a guy to hit it with a petrol strimmer once a month to whack the weeds down as he used to before us. I am sure it adds something to equity, though; the neighbours are so pleased that they don’t live next to weedy wasteland any more.

Our shower leaked through the floor for three months before the landlord finally came to repair, himself. Leaked again after two weeks, landlord (more accurately his brother, but they are interchangeable) came a month later. It still drips. There is a huge fungus/mold patch in the laundry room wall where the water went, and a hole in the ceiling where he fixed it. The beam holding the ceiling is rotted and green with fungus.

Every few months people knock on the door and tell us that the gutters are overflowing with leaves and totally blocked. Landlord doesn’t care.

Other shower leaks through the tap so barely any flow makes it up to the shower head… landlord promised to come back. asked him four times before giving up. Three years later, still leaks the same way. Father in law just showers in the meager flow.

Tap handles dropped off in other shower. I just bough replacements from home depot. Shower dripped for a year before drip turned into pour. (had long since given up on landlord coming). Had to shut off mains at midnight, open it up and put washer in backwards to stem flow overnight. Next day, mains off, trip to Rona with stem and washer, come back and replace. How lucky is the landlord that I own a 7/8ths socket?? a plumber outcall at midnight is what my wife would have done.

We have mice. I bought traps and battled them for a year, killed around 35. mice disappeared. came back this winter. I bought more traps. landlord no intention of getting pest control. Still spend hours each week trying to catch one. landlord paid for traps.

Deck stairs rotted and last two steps collapsed. We step down gingerly. One year already.

Oven part of gas stove failed. Repairman said 420 in parts to repair. Landlord told us he did not want to pay for a gas range, we tell him we prefer gas. He planned to buy cheapest electric replacement he could find ($340). waited several days, then, last week he tells me he was too busy, so maybe next week? I said wife wants to bake for christmas. He says ok, will you come and help me carry one from other rental property. I donate 4 hours of my time. We carry stove here, carry old one out. New stove doesn’t fit. We have to move all food out of kitchen, tape up cupboards, cover everything with sheets so he can cut the countertop.

After all this, and several other repairs I can’t remember, I blow my fuse finally and ask him to reduce the rent by $25 a month (off $1800, or $2600 including other suite). He initially thinks I have asked him for a one-off payment of $25 and agrees readily. Once the confusion is resolved he gets angry and thinks I am blackmailing him. we have an argument for about an hour before he agrees to try it; in return I will maintain the house to whatever extent I can.

On the flip side, he doesn’t bother us much with inspections or busybody nosiness… that’s a good feature. He is a nice guy, but I can’t stand his save-every-cent-I-can attitude. I believe he is either ignorant (unlikely) or just anticipates land value only, tear down and rebuild, so won’t invest anything in maintenance if he can avoid it. He tells me that I am the first tenant that complained about having to fix stuff ourselves. He says that his other tenants are very happy to just hand him receipts for “whatever needs to be fixed that they fix”. Of course, I am happy to save himself and myself some money too, if I can take care of the repair myself, but I told him it’s only fair he share the savings. I suppose we could pressure him to fix stuff, but he could just raise the rent by maximum allowed every year as our previous landlord did, but then we will be forced to leave. He has increased it once by the maximum in three years, so keeping pace with inflation.”

[cited in ‘Renters’ side-bar]

11 responses to “TPFKAA on Renting – “It was as though ‘renters’ were another species, quite distinct from their human, homeowning neighbours.”

  1. Why would anyone put up with such conditions? Are you getting an incredibly great deal on the rent?
    I thought there was a high vacancy rate for rentals, and rents were dropping, am I wrong? (I hope not, since we plan to move to BC in summer 2011)
    Are there not laws to protect tenants, requiring landlords to deal with leaks, mold, and vermin?
    Any renter who tolerates such conditions without protest deserves what they get.

    • Similar thoughts.

      Legally you can withold rent (under conditions) to the Landlord if he does not fix repairs. Mould etc. would be considered a health hazard and can have some other repercussions for the landlord (legally that is).

      But, as the saying goes: It’s one thing to have the right and another to get it.

      So in this case, he could go into an all out “war” with his landlord and probably win it too, but in the end still lose the apartment / house.

      But yeah, if I (or anybody living with me) puts that much time into the upkeep I would seriously try to get a rent reduction or look at a different place.

      As for the rental market: It was soft in 2009 and let to lower rents, problem is that with the increased activity over the last year the rental prices have increased again, though how long is anybody’s guess. If the market has the bottom falling out in the spring we could face a lot of unwilling landlords again.

      Meanwhile, most of the rental price decrease I saw was in Condos not in houses, so if you’re looking to rent a house next year you may still be SoL, at least in Vancouver proper.

  2. Renters often have to endure with this type of situation, and I think it is why many people prefer to own even though the number may not make any financial sense.

    • Actually you don’t. People just put up with it because they are being indoctrinated that as a renter you have no power / rights.

      If people would actually read the tenant act they would realize very quickly that they do have tools at their disposal to force the Landlord to fix these things.

  3. Interesting anecdote but man, unless you’re getting a steal on the rent, find a better place to live.

  4. I have rented two different properties in Vancouver and I have not had any problems, I can actually say I had the totally opposite experience. In both cases the land lords did a lot of reference checks before renting us the place. The last place I was in kits was a third floor in a heritage house, the land lord took great care of the place, he repainted the house while we there, he did all the yard work, and was very responsive to problems when we had them. The place was great, we left because we were expecting a baby and wanted in suite laundry. I would say that when renting look for a landlord that does a lot of reference checks, and that is is interested in Maintaining the property.

    In a situation like the one above I would just find another place to live, there is no point in doing the maintenance and all that stuff you did if you are renting.

  5. Can you not just do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent, that’s always what I did

  6. “Deck stairs rotted and last two steps collapsed. We step down gingerly. One year already.”

    I always check for this kind of thing before I move in. Rotting stairs should be obvious, especially to someone with maintenance skills like you. I wonder if your landlord bothers to pay for liability insurance (hint hint lol).

    During the summer, a piece of one of my backstairs chipped off beneath my foot. I broked off the small hanging piece as it wasn’t a significant hazard. A few days later, before I could even notify him, he was there replacing the step.

  7. Thank you for all the replies. We have to bear in mind that this is a highlight reel of the worst moments, compressed into a single read. We have been here for three and a half years, and the long spells of “no action” diluted the above horrors somewhat. My Father in law got quite seriously physically sick – and took weeks to recover the two recent times we moved (he has a stress-sensitive gastro-intestinal problem) so we have to consider carefully whether it is worth moving – and risking all that stress for a place that may in the end be no better than this one.

    In the first instance, the crackhead tenant was quite an aberration; two good tenants have since occupied the other suite. As for the mice, we may be partially to blame for our naivete. I initially wanted to preserve the furry little critters’ lives, and caught them in a live trap and released them in the forest. Soon after I discovered that housemice cannot survive in the wild, but will have to find another human habitation to infest or will die anyway. Concurrently mousecrap appeared on the couch and in kitchen cupboards. Sympathy melted away, and I began to use snap traps. We still worry that pest control will use poison, and with a toddler in the ouse that is something we will not even consider.

    My father in law’s previous rental experience, before I joined the family with my wife, returning from overseas with me in tow, was actually far more negative, so much so that my father in law is quite happy with the present state of affairs and would rather quietly fix things ourselves in order to keep the present place at reasonable rentals.

    Don’t forget that in our last three years’ rental, at a houe we also liked, the rent went up by a total of almost $300 by the third year. That’s a big increase. So I guess we have become hypersensitized to rent increases. It probably isn’t that much trouble to fix some things ourselves and bill for materials, compared with the trouble of moving, so we put up with it. It’s just the principle of the thing drives me nuts sometimes; I am making extra payments into his equity with every cent I spend extra on top of the rental.

    I am toying with the idea of just letting him do his worst and increase the rent as much as he sees fit, and in return make him fix everything in a timely manner. We’ll see. If not, I will fix the shower and the stairs this coming year and see where it goes.

    I see this situation as the confluence of two forces: landlords who buy investment properties for eqity gains and not rental returns, and so psychologically find it hard to make investments into upkeep; and renters for whom stability is sometimes important enough to be willing to put up with some hardship.

  8. I should add that at the time of writing the highlighted list of happenings above, I was still mad with the landlord and with the situation… so it constitutes a rant, rather than a cool and clear headed assessment. Facts that support putting up with the status quo were not included; I hope that I have since shed more light on our circumstances. The decisions to move or fight are not taken lightly, and all parties’ opinions and needs have to be taken into account. My anger alone or the apparent justice/injustice of the situation are not the only determinants.

  9. Does this software have an “edit posting” function to avoid these “chain replies?” I should give it a few minutes to make sure I’ve added all the comments I want… discipline, TPFKAA!

    ANyway, just wanted to address Mike’s comment:
    “I always check for this kind of thing before I move in. Rotting stairs should be obvious, especially to someone with maintenance skills like you. I wonder if your landlord bothers to pay for liability insurance (hint hint lol).”

    Actually I hve never maintained a house before living in this one. I figure it out as I go along. You can learn anything from the internet these days, from fixing a leaking tap to avoiding being trapped at the peak of a housing bubble.

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