January 18th, 2k7
Current mood: pissed off
House hunting. What should be a fairly enjoyable experience – sucks. I’ve done this before, so I really should know better, but I guess some fools never learn, huh? So, I set out with a list of things that I’m looking for in my “dream rental,” and end the day tired and frustrated.
Normally, I can clearly see both sides of a given argument. When it comes to rental applications, I’m lost. This is the scenario: I want to rent your house. You want me to fill out paperwork with my life story, and a current phone and address list for every person I’ve talked to since the first Tuesday of February, 1998.
Is that enough? No it most certainly is not. You also want me to pay so you can have someone else verify that I didn’t mis-spell the name of the street I lived on six years ago, and I don’t have any bounced checks, and my second cousin’s stepsister’s cat isn’t a pedophile.
So that’s certainly the end of the humiliation, right? Nope. I get to PAY for this privilege . The amount varies of course, but usually it’s between $25 and $100 per person. Whatever the amount is, in most cases it’s deducted from your first month’s rent IF you pass their inspection. If you don’t? They get to keep it. That’s a lotta lattes just for you to tell me that I’m not good enough, thank you very much.
In case I’m being overly-subtle, I have quite a few problems with this process:
1) I understand a property owner wanting to protect their investment. It would be foolish not to. But why should I have to pay for their insurance policy? If you want to screen people before you’ll rent to them, YOU pay for it.
2) First/Last/Deposit. wtf? First/Deposit I understand. Why do you want my last month’s rent NOW? I could move out ten years down the road after you’ve jacked up the rent five times, then what? What if I die, and you rent the place out two weeks later? The rental agreements always stipulate a 30 day notice anyway, so why the hell does it matter? It’s just more money that YOU get to earn interest on until I move out.
3) Credit. I have probably talked about this one before. The credit situation in America (and probably most of the rest of the western world) sucks! I want to rent your property, and you want to make sure I pay my bills on time. That’s what the references are for, but you want MORE. So you run my credit, and find out that I didn’t pay for my Penthouse subscription, and I owe my dentist so much money they repo’d my dog’s braces. Does this mean I don’t pay my rent? But I “apply” for four or five different places because I don’t know who’s going to accept me, and I don’t want to live in my car. So this ends up being five “hits” on my credit, which is a negative mark on my credit for a year. So how the hell does this help me? It doesn’t. Once again, the consumer is hosed. (for more of my thoughts on credit, check back tomorrow)
That anyone thinks they could discover the “character, general reputation, credit and mode of living” (a direct quote from the application) from a credit check baffles. It also scares me. But hey, it takes all kinds to fill the freeways.
But what is one to do? How can you get past this crap? You know you’re not going to find anyone at one of these rental agencies who actually gives a damn, so there’s not an “inside” solution. But you still need a place to live. Well, I do. I’m not sharing my Explorer with my cat and my roommate, that’s for damn sure. We’ve decided to narrow our search to private party rentals only. Reasonable people looking for decent renter, with realistic expectations.
I haven’t figured out how to tell a rental application “hey, my credit kinda sucks, but I’m working on it. My rent it paid before ANYTHING else, and I’ve gotten my damage deposit back from every place I’ve ever lived.” But I can walk up to a human and say that without hesitation.
My point, I guess, would be this: Housing is just one more area of our daily lives that has been striped of its humanity. People are afraid to talk to each other. Property owners are afraid their going to let someone in to one of their places that is going to destroy it; but at the same time, they’re too afraid to talk to you one-on-one and figure out if you’re high on life, Starbucks, Red Bull, Jagermeister, or eightballs. (or some weird combination)
Twenty years from now you’re going to need to present your RFID-enabled federal identification card, your equifax-ID and a DNA sample. Don’t want anyone with superstrain avian flu in my hepa-sealed condo, ya know!
But it’s not quarter to midnight, and I’ve been up since 5am, so I’m going to sign off. Tune in tomorrow for more.