Dear Vancouver Landlords:
Why do so many of you make renting your apartment so difficult?
It starts with the ad. You know what your apartment looks like; you know how big (or small) the rooms are, what floor it's on, which cardinal direction it faces, if it has a balcony, what's covering the floors. You know if your building has parking, allows pets, allows barbecues. But guess what? I don't.
Now I have to phone you to find out.
If you put up an ad about your rental apartment, and you leave out important details, be prepared to answer questions about those details. But more importantly, be prepared to receive calls about your apartment. That also means responding to voicemails left for you by prospective tenants. (And it seems like the property management companies are the worst offenders on this point. I guess they figure it's less trouble to repost the same Craigslist ads over and over again instead of returning voicemails.) And if you want to cut down on the calls, put the building's actual street address in the ad so I can Google Street View it - its amazing what you can tell about a building just by looking at the outside!
Finally, through divine intervention, I'm able to speak to you and get answers to my questions. Your apartment sounds great - I'd love to view it! Sorry, but no - Thursday morning at 11:00am isn't good for me. I'm employed Monday to Friday during the day - isn't steady employment something you're looking for in a prospective tenant? Begrudgingly you agree to a Saturday morning appointment at the time of your choosing to view - how gracious.
I arrive to see your suite. Wow.
Let's clarify a few things, shall we?
* The adjectives "spacious" / "roomy" / "large" / "oversized" does not apply to any unit whose square footage begins with the digits 4 or 5 and is only 3 digits long. Wishing for something does not make it so.
* "Garden suite" is just a seven dollar word for "basement suite".
* Unless you're Morticia Addams, "garden level" should never mean "below ground".
* Yes, I will check to see if your apartment is on the Bedbug Registry. Yes, I'm familiar with how difficult and expensive a problem bedbugs are, and I don't want any of my own, thanks.
* "Newly renovated" shouldn't refer to historical events. Avocado green isn't coming back, sorry.
* "South Granville" is the informal name for "Fairview", the neighbourhood between Burrard and Cambie, and from the water up to 16th Avenue or so. That south end of Granville down by the airport? That's "Marpole". If you don't know what neighbourhood you're in, don't guess - find out.
* Know the rules about renting in this province. The Residential Tenancy Office has all the information you need to know, and great FAQs like a list of your Rights and Responsibilities when entering into a tenancy agreement.
Let's say through some miracle that your suite actually is as you led me to believe in your ad and on the phone. I like it, and I want to rent it. Great - let's do business!
Now as a landlord, I can understand your position. You want to make sure that your tenants can pay their rent, have a job, and are responsible adults. You want to make sure that they're good, respectful people, and will look after your property. And you know what? Kudos to you. So you want me to fill out a detailed application with tons of my personal information, give you permission to check my credit score, and provide some rental and employment references. No problem - happy to do it. We're entering into a business relationship after all!
But wait - it's the second to last weekend of February. I haven't found a new place yet, so obviously I haven't given notice where I am - I don't want to be homeless if I don't find a new place! So yes, I'm looking to take possession for April 1st. I have to give my current landlord a month's notice, after all - giving the proper notice and acting like a responsible adult are my usual ways of making sure that I have those sparkling rental references and steady job that you, as a prospective landlord, are looking for in your tenants.
What's that? You want to rent it for March 1st, and won't entertain my application for April? You want me to just screw over my current landlord in your favour and just up and leave? You suggest paying March's rent on both apartments?
Are you insane?
Fine, I'll come back next weekend and apply, just in case you find somebody (already homeless? living at their parents' house? desperate enough that couch surfing at the end of the month is preferable to staying where they are? was kicked out of their old place midmonth?) that wants to rent it for March in the meantime. Maybe you're the betting type, and you want to gamble that you'll fill the vacancy for March instead of taking the sure thing for April. What have you got to lose - you told me to come back next weekend, right?
Like a sucker, I do just that. Places worth renting seem to be hard to come by, so I figure it's worth it. So here I am, back again on the following weekend. Can we do this?
Oh, what's that? You, as the building manager, don't make the decision? You have to send in the application to your "screening company", and you'll let me know in "a few days"? I have to give notice tomorrow to be able to take your place on April 1st. You don't see a problem here?
Why didn't we do this last week when I was here? Why did you send me away? Why are you making this so difficult?
You want a tenant with sterling rental references, a six-figure salary and Bill Gates' credit score, and is never home (or is at least deaf and mute) who wants to rent your broke-down, misrepresented, dirty, embarrassingly-small underground suite sandwiched between the elevator shaft and the dumpsters on a moment's notice. Dear Vancouver landlords, I wish you luck.