Welcome to our Home Sweet Homo, the ongoing series where Hansen and Kristen turn a cardboard box into a home. Learning to be an adult is hard and paying to do it’s even harder! Thankfully we’re your Handy Homos, here to make U-hauling as painless as possible. Plus we’ll make sure you get your damage deposit back!
The semester’s winding down, summer’s starting up and Homo Depot’s opened their garden center! If you haven’t made plans to hightail it back to your parents’ or faraway lands, it might be time for you to make it on your own. Not only does summer give you the opportunity to walk around in your underwear without blasting the furnace, but you’ll finally have enough daylight to turn your hovel into the hovel of your dreams! But there’s one catch in all of this: your landlord.
You never know who you’re going to get in the risky game of Landlord Roulette. Did you luck out with an adorable hexagenarian that offers to build your
stripper pole “maypole” and trades rent cheques for bushels of freshly picked grapes? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and the guy cashing your cheque blames you for high heating bills, lagging WiFi and the sins of their previous tenants? Ugh, people are the worst. But unless you plan on living off the grid, you’ll eventually discover just what flavour of Shitty Landlord you’re dealing with.
The Snorlax: this landlord could not be bothered. I don’t have time to fix your lock, can’t you just use the front door as your emergency exit?
The Cheapskate: this landlord refuses to invest any more money in their property because they only see you as a dollar bill. And just like a dollar bill, they imagine you’d be comfortable living in a metal drawer or a room the size of a piggie bank. Why do you want us to fix your heat register? Just wear extra socks!
The Other Roomie: this landlord has no sense of boundaries and hasn’t caught on that you are paying to live on their property. They often mistake you for a mischievous houseplant or their own child. You’re super quiet and you’re an amazing neighbour but I’ve started a contract writing for a TV documentary series, it’s a high pressure job and I work non-stop and sometimes, the gatherings are a bit bothersome of late so I was wondering if you could go to people’s place sometimes instead of entertaining here some of the time. Is that too forward of me to ask? I hope not. Other than that, I hope you’re enjoying the place and that the studies are coming along great.
The UnHandyman: this landlord has good intentions but seems to have learned their craft by watching Home Improvement reruns. Sometimes they outsource repairs to their equally unqualified relatives. Your sink’s leaking because you keep pouring boiling water down the drain.
The Pseudo House: this landlord is proud of their house and takes any criticism to a disturbingly personal degree. They’re glad to rent out their Beautiful Apartment to you, as long as you don’t touch anything. This apartment was in pristine condition when I rented it to my son four years ago. My hardwood floors are scuff-free, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t wear shoes on them.
The Voicemail … Beep.
You may not be dealing with one flavour of shitty landlord, but an assortment. The Neapolitan of Shitty Landlords! When they prove themselves to be lazy, cheap and incompetent, it’s tempting to write off your apartment and find another. But in a competitive housing market, you have no guarantee that you’ll find a place or that your next your next landlord won’t be the Spumone of Shitty Landlords instead. If you wanna put down roots, figure out what makes them tick so you can
deal with their bullshit make it through your lease scar-free.
Before you go to the bargaining table, make sure you know exactly what you’re entitled to. Every jurisdiction has different tenancy laws, so it’s important that you know your rights. Signing your lease? Go over it with a fine-tooth comb and make note of what they’re responsible for in terms of bills and maintenance. Make sure to stash a secondary copy just in case.
Channel your inner Harriet the Spy and keep note of all of your interactions with a Google doc or calendar. Did they cash your cheque? Fix your stove? Enter your house unannounced? If you had a verbal conversation, send them back a written summary. Get a paper, pigeon or digital copy of all of your written agreements. This may sound like overkill, but paranoia and pessimism helps the world go round. Eeyore taught me that.
Help! I’m scared they’ll kick me out if I ask for too much.
Although it seems like you’re powerless, just remember that you’re the one paying their bills. It’s a big hassle to evict you and find a replacement, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep you around. My current landlord complains that his other tenants keep dying on him, but I have yet to learn the secrets of reanimation, so all I can do is nod. But what I can do is remind him on a regular basis that I’m a sprightly and young steady stream of income. Emphasize how much you want to stay there and how any upgrades ensure you will. If they’re still hesitant about major projects, you can always show how serious you are
with a marriage proposal by signing a longer lease.
Help! This isn’t up to code.
I once had an UnHandyman that consistently outsourced repairs to her favourite sketchy contractor. Any complaints of drafty windows or leaking faucets quickly devolved into tear-filled laments about tapping into her retirement savings and having nothing to show for it. Although it’s precious that your Other Roomie wants to confide in you, you weren’t asking for a guilt-based friendship, just a new tap.
Score brownie points by doing your own maintenance. Take the initiative to patch your own holes, paint your baseboards or re-caulk your bathtub instead of waiting on your Snorlax. You’ll gain your Pseudo House’s trust for larger projects while investing little in terms of time or money. Hansen and I will show you just how easy it is.
Only call once you’ve researched the solution. It’s easy for repairs to fall by the wayside if your Cheapskate imagines they’ll cost too much. Unless your house is on fire, you can spend a few extra days talking to pros before you get your landlord involved. Take a trip to Homo Depot or google your problem so you know what needs to be done and how much it should cost. If you have the means to do it yourself, tell your UnHandyman how much the components will cost. If your Pseudo Home insists on doing it themselves, give them a deadline along with the contact information of a professional. If they won’t repair your sink in a timely manner, Mr. Rooter will!
Give them a sweet deal. When it comes to upgrading you apartment’s amenities, the Cheapskate will always look at the price instead of the review. Before you buy yet another shitty showerhead, price out higher end models so they can settle on the option you wanted from the beginning. Make use of Homo Depot’s comparison tool to emphasize the savings or make your own spreadsheet if you’re comparing between companies.
Help! This place is hideous.
If you signed your lease without negotiating clauses for the terracotta walls or sunflower wallpaper, you might fear that you’re doomed to a Blossom themed kitchen for the rest of eternity. But if you find the place revolting, chances are they (and their next tenant) will too. Go into Used Car Dealer Mode and sell them on the potential lying beneath your kitchen’s hood.
Do a walk-through with your landlord and see what they nitpick. If they mention thet ugly carpet or peeling paint, jump on it! You might discover that they have new laminate in their budget, but their previous tenants never complained. Let your Pseudo House know you’re willing to take one for the team and suffer through the inconvenience so they can have a nicer apartment. If you’re a really amazing haggler, you might be able to negotiate a lower rent while tolerating “unlivable” conditions.
Let them see your plan in action. Put all of your Pinterest procrastination to good use by creating an inspiration board for your renovations. Find a paint colour that you like? Take it a step further than a swatch and virtually paint your kitchen with a colour visualizer or Photoshop. If your flat’s stuck in the wrong decade, include articles proving that modern touches will increase its rentability. If you’re switching out hardware or fixtures, install the knob or light so they can see the difference makes. Not only will an inspiration board let you flex your scrapbooking muscles, but it’ll give you a clear attack plan and prove your commitment. Just keep in mind you might need to explain Pinterest in layman’s terms if your landlord “lives in the middle of a field without any internet access because of lightning.”
Help! I don’t think they’re gonna pay me back.
Everytime I go to Homo Depot for a new fixture, I cross my fingers that my Cheapskate won’t renege on his agreement. If you’re worried they won’t follow through, get your agreements in writing and half the cost up front. Look into each store’s return policy and only buy items that are refundable. If they’ve made no indication they’re going to pay you back for the remodels, only purchase items you’ll want to take with you and replace their shit when you move out.
Do the reimbursement work for them. If your landlord has agreed to pay for repairs, there’s a good chance they’re claiming it on their tax return. Make it easy for your Snorlax by submitting your receipts with an itemized expense report. When it’s time to hand in your rent, give them a call ahead of time with the exact cost of repairs down to the cent. If your Cheapskate has “forgotten” their chequebook, have next month’s rent ready minus the amount you’re owed.
Help! They aren’t doing anything.
If you’re at your wits’ end dealing with The Voicemail and your upstairs neighbour letting their dog pee off their balcony and into your rosemary, it might be time to pull out the Calling the Authorities trump card. It’s easy to put on the Big Girl Pants, but can you deal with the consequences if things go awry? Do you have a place to stay if things get uncomfortable or aggressive? Can you deal with a black mark on your rental history? If the problem still outweighes the risks, be prepared for a terse conversation or a messy showdown.
The passive aggressive jerk in me always wants to go out in a righteous blaze of glory, cancelling my rent checks and violently shaking my finger until they see the error of their ways. Do not do this as it’ll weaken your case. Keep sending those cheques until a higher authority agrees that your landlord is a scumbag.
It’s best to stash your valuables and important documents with a friend before you pick up the phone. Send all your correspondence by registered mail or fax so they can’t feign ignorance. Make your case by showing a detailed timeline of repair requests, missed meetings and cashed rent cheques. If they still don’t respond, up the ante by sending your next letter via notary. Call up your housing registrar to learn how to escalate your claim and terminate your lease. It’ll make for some bad blood, but if your documentation’s in order, you can prove to you next landlord that they were a jerk and you’re still a shining example of responsibility that other tenants aspire to.
Now go out there with your shiniest smile and charm the pants off of your landlord. Or let us know how you dealt with your particular flavour of crazy.