For the first time in almost a decade of living in houses, I'm looking for an apartment/condominium to rent. And much like dating after getting out of a long marriage, there are many things about renting that have changed over the years -- almost everything, in fact. From predictable factors like rental prices going up and amenities going down, to interesting new developments like clauses for using cannabis, bedbug infestations and "pet rent," finding a rental property isn't as cheap, easy or fun as it used to be.
Here's a list of the top five reasons why renting an apartment today is a huge pain. Okay, I lied -- renting an apartment was never actually fun, but now it's worse.
5. F*ck you, busted housing bubble
Hearing all about the housing bubble bursting -- how it happened, and its effect on rental prices and availability -- is one thing, but experiencing the ramifications firsthand is completely different...and much worse. With so many folks losing their homes and moving to rental properties, a studio apartment now costs what a one-bedroom-one-bath used to cost, a one-bedroom costs what a decent-sized two-bedroom unit used to go for, and a two-bedroom apartment is now priced the same as that house you used to rent. And if you want more than two bedrooms in an apartment, or a condo, you may as well sell your organs on the black market.
And trying to rent a condo with some sort of parking space won't cost a kidney, half a liver and a lung -- it will cost your entire body.
4. Rental agents have gotten worse than used car dealers
I recall rental agents using some artful euphemisms and strategically-angled photos to try and sell me on apartments that weren't nearly as nice as they were advertised, but these days, property managers will utter some insane lies -- and expect you to be grateful that they bothered to talk to you in the first place. I have seen agents try to pass off basement apartments as "first floor"; set up an appointment to view a model apartment, wait for you to show up, then say that they don't do actual showings because "nobody does that anymore; it's all virtual tours"; refuse to confirm or deny the existence of air conditioning in the rental units; ask you to pay expensive "administration fees" in addition to the expensive application fees; and keep repeating, "We have a pool!"
And all of these examples came from one apartment complex that was not exactly upscale.
3. Pet rent equals extortion
I learned early on in the apartment-hunting process that the term "pet-friendly" means something different than I thought it did; I think the term "bend over--no lube" would be more accurate. The majority of rental properties want a pet deposit, which is reasonable, but charging $400+ (non-refundable) for a cat is a bit much, and $25+ every month for "pet rent" is not friendly at all -- it's extortionate. People love their pets. Rental agents are exploiting this, and if I'm gonna pay this much money for my pet to live with me, I will expect the leasing agent to feed, bathe and massage my cat for me, make a few vet trips and provide free catnip upon request.
In other words, my cat had better get a good job and earn her keep.
2. Renting rooms is a fresh sort of hell
There are a lot of lonely, desperate, cash-strapped and creepy people renting rooms in their homes -- more than I imagined, anyway. I took a gander at some listings for room rentals to get a feel for prices in my area, and ended up reading ads for the grotesque hilarity. I read an ad by a single mother with two children trying to rent a room in her tiny, two-bedroom apartment, an older single lady who wrote out her entire life story and wanted a roommate because she had no friends, and every other ad seemed like an older, single male looking very specifically for a young female roommate, charging suspiciously cheap rent -- if any at all.
I'm pretty sure answering an ad for a room rental is how slasher-flick directors get some of their ideas.
1. The grass is always green on a rental property This may be an area-specific issue, but I noticed a lot of rental agents asking for lease clauses about marijuana growing, which doesn't seem out of the ordinary because any type of farming venture on a rental property is generally discussed and agreed upon. But heavens-to-Mary-Jane, there sure are a lot of stipulations about cannabis use by renters. Rental reps don't seem to be weed-friendly (they just haven't thought to ask for weed deposits or weed rent yet) and go out of their way to let prospective renters know that getting high on their properties -- red-card, almost legal or not -- is not okay.
Could this be a bigger joke on rental agents?
Every single rental property I have ever lived in, from my school dorm on, was populated by some pot-smoking mother*ckers, myself included. Regulating people's personal behavior is usually problematic, and it does not make any difference how many times a lease states it, or how many "No Smoking" signs are put up: Folks who like to smoke weed are gonna do it where they live. And rental agents who actually want to enforce anti-marijuana regulations? To them I say a big, fat, "Goodluckwiddat!"
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