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funetical 05-02-2010 10:27 AM

Question About Apt Complexes Nestor.
I thought I was going to buy the house I was in. Now we are not. I can't find a house I like so my family and I are are moving into an apt. I'm trying to sign short term leases in order to keep my options open. To my experience the rent is raised at every lease signing. Is this normal, and if so why?

Nestor_Kelebay 05-02-2010 11:33 AM

Well, to be perfectly honest, I think it's much the same reason why my building insurance and property tax keeps going up every year. My insurance company knows it's a hassle for me to phone around to different agencies trying to get a lower quote, and the City of Winnipeg knows that I have no choice in whether I pay my property tax or not.

I don't think there's ever been a reduction in the amounts I pay for water, gas or electricity, and all of the services I pay for (like renting a garbage dumpster or my annual boiler inspection or advertising costs) have never gone down in price. They keep going up, maybe not all of them and maybe not every year, but when you're paying a dozen different kinds of bills throughout the year you notice that price increases are a common occurance. So, landlords compensate for that with rent increases every year.

And, to some degree, I also believe that landlords are opportunists and realize that moving is a big headache for people. They realize that few tenants are going to go to the trouble of moving over a 3 percent rent increase, especially if it means uprooting the family, and finding a place at a lower price close enough to a school for the kids to walk to. So, the landlords know that a small rent increase will be tolerated, but if they raise their rents too much, they'll be paying property tax on an empty shell of a building.

Here in Manitoba we have rent control legislation that was originally designed to keep rents low. It did that initially, but there have been very few apartment blocks built in Manitoba since 1980. Because of the restriction on rent increases, most landlords have let their properties go to he11. Here, apartments costing more than $1500 per month aren't subject to rent control. So, those apartment blocks that have been built have everything you can imagine; underground parking, indoor pools, exercize room, in-suite storage, dishwasher and garburator, etc. etc. etc. And the end result of all of that is that we have less than a 2 percent vacancy rate here in Manitoba. And, our Premier said that's not a problem since Toronto has less than a 2 percent vacancy rate and no one there is complaining. But, the difference is that Toronto has a wide variety of different apartments available for different rents. Here in Manitoba, that 2 percent consists of apartments you wouldn't want to live in and apartments few people can afford to live in. So, as a result of rent control laws, apartment prices are going up rapidly here now because of the lack of affordable and desireable apartments. Toronto has those, Winnipeg has lots of undesirable apartments and lots of unaffordable apartments. So, comparing 2 percent in Winnipeg and Toronto is comparing apples to oranges.

Nestor_Kelebay 05-02-2010 09:53 PM

Here's a tip:

I don't know why, but the architecture of most apartment blocks is such that it allows for a brick planter (for flowers) in the front of the apartment block.

Look for an apartment block with flowers planted in the planter.

The reason for this is that NO caretaker is going to give himself extra work looking after flowers just to make the building look nicer for that #$%@ing owner. If there are flowers planted in the planter, you can be sure that they were planted by the owner, or the owner's wife, and that's a pretty safe bet that the owner lives in the building.

You're always a lot better off with an onsite owner because if there's someone causing a problem in the building (like playing stereo loud at night) or getting drunk and having loud arguments, the owner is going to be aware of it, and kick out the offending party. Lotsa times where a caretaker is running the show, he really doesn't care if there's a problem or not, or if the tenants are happy or not. He gets paid the same regardless. Owners will evict problem tenants before the problem tenants evict his good tenants.

Also, having the owner on-site is much better for repairs and maintenance. Generally, an on-site owner will do the repairs and maintenance himself, so he's a lot more willing to replace the burnt out bake element in your oven for $19 than a rental agency would be to hire an appliance repairman to do it for $190. That's something a caretaker could do, but the point is that an onsite owner is typically going to become more and more skilled with time, just like DIY'ers. Caretakers don't take as much interest or pride in their work, and make far less effort to learn new skills. (Quite honestly, people tell me that my building looks tremendous compared to what they've seen, and it's not because I'm doing such a fabulous job. It's because I'm competing for business with caretakers who don't give a $#!^. It's easy to look good when your competition isn't even trying.)

Probably about the best way to find privately owned apartment blocks is to look in the free "Renter's Guide" publications you can pick up in your city at convenience stores. You will find that each of the agencies will take out full page, half page or quarter page ads advertising several of the buildings they manage. Privately owned apartment blocks will take out the 1/16 page ads in the back of the publication because they're advertising an apartment in only one building, not several buildings.

So, the SMALL ads in the renter's magazines will generally be privately owned buildings, and you can tell if the owner is handy from the way the place looks, both inside and out. If the building looks well maintained, the owner is handy. And, if there are flowers growing in the planter, then he's probably married and he and his wife live onsite. (Single men just don't see any point in flowers.)

funetical 05-03-2010 03:24 PM

Nestor my friend I thank you. I spent most of the day looking at places and using your criteria and sad to say most of the small places are now being run by property management firms. Aside from buckling and paying to much for nothing I don't know what else to do. One of the places said they have event coordinators on site. That seems like a trick to make more off me from something I'll never use. Have you ever had any one negotiate rent with you? Successfully? I understand you probably set reasonable rates, but I'm going through the complexes looking at poorly done work thinking I don't want to pay for an eye sore.

Nestor_Kelebay 05-03-2010 10:02 PM

Read the next post before you read this one. It occurs to me that if you're not crippled and reasonably handy, you could get a deep discount on an apartment simply by being the caretaker of that apartment block. The work is light, and it's do-able in the evenings and weekends. If you're married, then you're more attractive to a rental agency or owner because then there are two people that can share the household and caretaking duties between them. After all, MOST of the work is very light, such as vaccuuming carpets, changing light bulbs and showing empty apartments. Basically, all most caretakers do is keep an eye on things so that the rental agency or landlord knows of any problems that occur. Looking after an apartment block is no more work than looking after your own house because you won't have to do many of the things homeowners choose to do, like their own plumbing, electrical or appliance repairs. If you mow the lawn of your house, you can mow the lawn of an apartment block. If you vaccuum a living room carpet once a week at home, you can vaccuum the hallway carpets once every two weeks in an apartment block. Think about it.

What the HE11 is an "event co-ordinator"? In an apartment block? They have those in nursing homes to organize activities for the residents so they're not totally bored out of their wits all the time. What kind of activities would that person organize for tenants? That's gotta be a scam.

Yep, I have had people try to "bargain" with me over the rent, but in my case it's a foolish proposition. That's because I would only be inclined to do that if I were desperate to find tenants, and that's never been the case. I have never had a problem finding people who want to rent an apartment from me. My problem has always been finding people I want to rent an apartment to.

That's because everyone tells me that my suites are the nicest (or among the nicest) they've seen, and I know my rents are reasonable. So, what incentive is there for me to negotiate on rent to get a tenant?

What I look for are:

1. Tenants with excellent references from previous landlords. Tenants that can't provide a very good references will give me the name and phone number of one of their buddies who's gonna pretend to be their landlord for when I phone. But, only dumb people try to do that because regardless who they claim their landlord is, I go to the City of Winnipeg Property Tax office and look at the Property Tax Statement on the address they're claiming to live at. That statement has the name and address of the registered owner on it so that it will show in a windowed envelope. That way the statement can be mailed without separately addressing the envelope. If the name of the landlord on the Application for Rent Form doesn't match the name of the person paying the property tax on the building, I don't bother checking any further because I know I'm being lied to. Someone is giving me a bogus landlord thinking I won't be able to tell that he's not the real landlord. If the names do match, then I'm reasonably sure I'm going to get a good reference from that landlord even before I phone him/her.

Then, I check the Provincial Court Registry. If you ever sue anyone, or get hauled into court by someone, (including the Government), that becomes a matter of public record. Here in Manitoba, the Province has a web site where you can search that public record for names. If someone's name comes up in a divorce case, that's no big deal since half the people that get married also get divorced. But, if the file keeps stretching on and there are subsequent restraining orders filed against the prospective tenant by their former wife, that's another matter and it suggests to me that they may have emotional problems. One applicant I had was 65 years old and was married and subsequently divorced 4 times in the course of 10 years, all to Phillipino women. The one he wanted to move into my apartment with was only 34 years old. What the heck is a 34 year old woman want to do with a 65 year old man, except get into the country and stay here. I ended up phoning Immigration Canada because it seemed to me that what he was doing was marrying Phillipino womean who only wanted to get their Canadian citizenship out of the deal, and then divorcing them once they were landed immigrants. Also, if you declare bankruptcy or are taken to court by anyone (like a credit union, bank, business or a utility company for not paying off your loans, debts or your utility bills), that's all in the public record for anyone to see. The record will say who is suing who over what, and the court's decision in the matter, and that tells me who was in the right and who was in the wrong. If the tenant phones me and I say that I checked the court records and they try to convince me the judge made a terrible mistake because he didn't know all the facts, I stop listening and start hanging up.
Then, if the tenant is clean so far, I phone their landlord and get a reference on them. So, I've actually checked them out quite a bit before I even phone their landlord.

2. Tenants who are likely going to stay a long time. That's because every landlord has to clean and fix things up when the tenant leaves, and they have to spend money advertising the apartment for rent and spend time showing it to prospective tenants. The less turnover there is in a building, the less work there is for the landlord to do.

3. Tenants that are responsible, easy to get along with and reasonably financially secure. I don't want tenants that are irresponsible because they cause damage using my property for things that it wasn;t meant for. I once had a tenant cremate a dead pet bird using the self clean cycle on their apartment's stove. I like tenants that are easy to get along with. Often I find that older tenants figure they own the place and are telling me how to run my business, and it seems that they find ways I should be running my business that benefits them more than it does me. Finally, tenants that are making a good income
tend to buy new clothing, bedding and furniture rather than look for used clothing, bedding and furniture. Used clothing, bedding and furniture can often harbour bugs like cockroaches or bed bugs, and that can create no end of problems for me.

The people I find generally make the best tenants are either young couples who are intending to get married or young married coulples. That's because both of them are trying to impress each other with how reasonable they are, and I end up being the beneficiary of that good will. For example, if one of them accidentally drops a hot steam iron on the carpet and leaves a scorch, they're not going to say to the other: "Hey, let's say the scorch was there when we moved in!" because the other would think: "Under difference circumstances, you'd try to screw me too, wouldn't you?" So, each one is more concerned with impressing the other than they are about the financial consequences of perfect honesty, and that makes life easier for me. And, of course, young married couples tend to stay a long time because they're saving up to buy a house, and that takes a good few years to do.

There are bound to be DIY'er landlords where you live too. It may take a while to find them, but I can't believe that there aren't people just like me managing and renovating rental properties in your neck of the woods too. I know several DIY landlords here in Winnipeg whom I met through the Manitoba Landlord's Association, so I can't believe there are NONE where you live. It's like fishing. This time you went out and didn't catch a thing. That don't mean you won't catch three fish the next time you go fishing. And, I maintain, the best way to find them is by looking through for the small ads because those people typically only have ONE building that they own and manage. If they owned more than one apartment block, they probably wouldn't be able to keep up with the amount of work, and would rely on caretakers and contractors just like the agencies. And typically if there's a woman involved, she'll do whatever she can to help hubby make the place look nice, and so you'll invariably see flowers growing in the planter outside.

I'd say keep trying to stick to short leases, but keep looking. The more you look, the more you find. You can't argue with that premise: The more you look, the more you find. You keep looking, and you'll find those DIY landlords that are operating in your area. You've been looking for what? One day, so far. You can't expect to find all there is to find in one day's worth of looking. Would you look for a new job that way and give up after the first day?

Nestor_Kelebay 05-03-2010 11:09 PM

Another option you perhaps hadn't considered is that if you're handy, you might consider getting a position as a caretaker in an apartment block.

Caretakers get a discounted rent in exchange for their doing basic work in the building like mowing grass every 2 to 5 weeks (depending on weather), vaccuuming hallway carpets, showing empty suites, etc. The amount of work done by the caretaker and the rent discount are all variable depending on the personal situation of the caretaker and the requirements of the rental agency. Often companies prefer married caretakers so that on the weekends (when people typically move in and out, and when people come apartment hunting) the two can co-ordinate their activities so that one of them will always be in the building to show empty suites to prospective tenants.

I'd say that if you are reasonably handy, consider being a caretaker along with your usual job. Typically, MOST of the job involves just maintaining the hallways and laundry rooms of the building; vaccuuming carpets, changing burnt out hallway light bulbs, keeping the laundry rooms clean, etc.

That's one way you could get a deep discount in your rent without any negotiating, and generally the amount of work involved is easily do-able in the evenings and weekends.

funetical 05-04-2010 11:01 AM

I'm going to give it a try. I'm not the greatest handyman in the world but I can do all kinds of small projects well. The event coordinators are stupid. Reading more info on it they have parties and what not. Seems exactly like an old folks home. I'm trying a few more places, nut now I know how to approach them better. Unless they really need me in the complex I think negotiating with them would be dumb. I'll give it a try and report back with the results.

Nestor_Kelebay 05-04-2010 06:27 PM

Give it a shot. If you've been hanging around this web site, you already know more than most caretakers.

Besides, what's there to lose? You get a discount on your apartment for doing small jobs around the building.

TxBuilder 05-05-2010 01:56 PM

I wish I had known all that when I was living in apartments. Interesting read guys.

funetical 05-05-2010 04:02 PM


Originally Posted by Nestor_Kelebay (Post 44455)
Give it a shot. If you've been hanging around this web site, you already know more than most caretakers.

Besides, what's there to lose? You get a discount on your apartment for doing small jobs around the building.

I've done repairs in the past and took them the receipt and had my rent prorated,but then the woman told me I had to attempt to let them get it done, then I could do that, but that she strongly discouraged tenants fixing their own issues. I just shrugged my shoulders.

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