Renting: one of the most exhilarating yet soul-sucking experiences of adulthood. On one hand, you have a place to call your own, one that you’ve paid for and can decorate mostly however you’d like—as long as it doesn’t involve paint or nail holes—you can walk around naked and blare German folk music to your heart’s content (neighbors permitting). On the other hand, literally all of your funds for the month go toward rent and utility bills, and you have to answer to “the man.” Aka, your landlord.
In Iowa City you basically have two options when it comes to renting: either sign your life and rent money away to the monopoly of a company that rhymes with “Departments Aowntown” and is notorious for screwing tenants over, or take a chance on an independent landlord who may or may not be worse.
In my time in this fine city I’ve experienced both the big company and the independent realtor side of things. The large company experience was not great, mostly because there wasn’t really a way to directly contact someone with an issue or complaint. Thankfully, my current landlord is a pretty good dude, if not more than a little oblivious.
For example, we’ve been having drainage issues in our shower and I contacted him last week to notify him of the issue. He said he’d stop by to check it out last Tuesday and run some chemicals down to see if it might help. The week came and went, and it was still having issues, so I emailed him just to update. He replied that he forgot. Not a big deal, because he ended up stopping in right away, but here’s the interaction between him and my roommate. Let’s call him Joe.
Joe: So you definitely have a blockage. I put some chemicals down the drain, but it probably won’t work because of the standing water.
Roommate: So do we have to wait to use the shower because of the chemicals?
Joe: Yeah, usually you have to wait 6 hours but I don’t know since the chemicals probably won’t work.
Roommate: …So can we use the shower?
Joe: Uh no…that sucks doesn’t it? *chuckles*
Anyways, like I mentioned, I’ve had a little bit of experience with dealing with different types of landlords, so here’s a list of things I’ve learned so far.
- Be aggressive
Make them fear you. Although not too much because then they might not let you rent from them. Assert yourself early on in the renting process so they know they can’t take advantage of you. (I’m looking at you, Departments Aowntown). When they’re showing you the place, call them out on things that could potentially turn into bigger issues. Thankfully, my mother and my roommates’ mothers did this for us when we rented from the big company. Which brings up the next item on this list.
- Get mom involved.
This may not be an option for everyone, but if you have a very spirited mother who is good at instilling fear in those who do you wrong, it doesn’t hurt to give them the contact info of your landlord. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned. When we rented from the big company and were given a unit with a bathroom cabinet severely water damaged and showed signs of early mold formation, I’m pretty sure the company’s office received at least three phone calls or emails a week from our mothers until it was finally fixed.
- Document EVERYTHING
Before you move anything in make sure you take photos of anything and everything they might deduct from your deposit. I know they tell you to do this, but don’t be anything less than thorough with it. Even blinds that look like they might fall apart, but are still functional—document it. Send them an email with all the photos of as soon as possible and make sure you save a copy for yourself in case it “accidentally” gets lost in their records. (Still looking at you, Departments Aowntown.)
- Make friends
Machiavelli questioned whether it was better to be feared or to be loved. Just like with ruling, in the case of renting, you want to be both feared and loved. This may seem like a step backwards from #1, but making friends with your landlord can be a huge benefit. This is generally easier with independent landlords, but being on your landlord’s good side will guarantee that your renting experience will go much more smoothly. If anything goes wrong or breaks and you’re on really good terms with your landlord, your issue will be resolved quickly and mostly painlessly. Although Joe made it so we couldn’t use the shower for an evening, he had a plumber over first thing in the morning. Thanks, Joe.
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