Types of landlords and finding a place to live
I know it’s the very beginning of a new semester and thinking about moving or your accommodation is probably the last thing on your mind right now. But believe me when I tell you it is NEVER too early to start thinking about these sorts of things, especially considering the housing market in Victoria.
Victoria is known for having very few available places for students to rent. They are either way too expensive, disgusting and unsafe, rented out already, or looking for mature adults and will not even consider renting to university students. Trust me, we have all been there.
I have lived in pretty much every type of rental in the last four years. I have lived in residence, a house with five other girls, a basement suite with one other roommate, and I am currently living in an apartment with one roommate.
With these various types of rentals comes different types of landlords, which I have divided up into three categories. Stay tuned for the horror story I have about my live-in landlord (type three)!
1. Absentee Landlords
First, you have absentee landlords. These landlords have usually bought a property to make income and will most likely live out of the city or in our case out of province.
In our case this was a pretty sweet gig; our landlord loved us because in comparison to his last tenants we were angels. We kept everything clean, paid rent on time, kept in touch to ask a question about the house, and were very respectful.
When they came to visit us and check on the house they even bought us Christmas gifts and a card. If something did go wrong, like when our washer broke one time with all my clothes in it and I could not get them out, we would contact him and he would send someone over immediately to fix it.
However, I have heard of absentee landlords taking a very long time to respond to texts, calls, and emails when it comes to fixing household problems which is definitely something to take into consideration.
Absentee landlords are also usually the ones that rent out entire houses which leads to problems of their own. In our case, the house we rented had room for six people to live with three bathrooms and one kitchen. It was a very small space and a lot of people living there. Make sure you pick your roommates carefully. That’s all I am going to say.
2. Building Managers
The second type of landlord is building managers. These are people hired by a larger company to look after the building, show the apartments to prospective renters, and to make sure everything is in order.
They may or may not actually live in the building; in my case she does. My building manager is absolutely lovely and is usually around, my building is kept clean, my neighbours are quiet, and the common areas like mail and laundry rooms are clean and kept in very good working order.
One night I got locked out on my deck because I shut the door a little too hard and the lock fell down, locking the door. My roommate had left that day for the long weekend, so nobody could save me.
I had to call my parents and get them to call the company that owns my building to get my building manager’s number because my phone was dying. She came down right away and rescued me from the deck. My roommate and I still live in this building and intend to until we finish our degrees.
It is in a great neighbourhood downtown, close to grocery stores, coffee shops, and my job. The only downsides are the rent is a little more than I would like to pay and to get to school is quite the trek.
3. Live-in Landlord
The last type of landlord is the live-in landlord. These are the ones that live in the same house as you, whether you rent a single room, the basement suite, or an upstairs suite.
For some people, this is not a big problem as they will probably keep to themselves and it is pretty handy if something goes wrong in your suite and they can fix it quickly.
In my case, though, it was absolutely terrible. My roommate and I had a bad feeling when we went to see the basement suite, but we were running out of time to find a place and the rent was a really good price and the location was right between UVic and downtown, with grocery stores and buses close by.
The landlord was a man in his late 60s. He was retired and was home all the time, and showing beginning signs of dementia. But we didn’t really have a choice; it was either that or not have a place to live for the summer and the next school year.
It was a 6 month lease and my roommate was planning on going home for the summer anyway, so it was just me living there. We signed the lease then he gave us a hand-written list of rules we also needed to sign.
The rules included things like no musical instruments, no parties, no pets, and no extended visitors, pretty standard stuff, then rules like no exercise equipment. After we moved in and my roommate went back to the mainland, I found a job at the grocery store nearby working late shifts and overnight shifts.
When I would be leaving for work the landlord would corner me outside and talk for ages even though I told him I needed to go to work. He got really mad at me one day a few months in and accused me of being “a party girl” because I was coming and going all the time at weird hours — I usually got home from work around 1 am or 6 am — and that I was too loud.
I would literally come home from work and go to sleep and if I wasn’t sleeping I would be watching Netflix on my laptop, not exactly loud activities. His behaviours were weird but I just chalked it up to being old and kooky … until I opened our storage room door one day to get a can of soup and saw a massive rat standing there looking at me like he owned the place.
I called my roommate and she came home and we went to talk to my landlord together. Turns out he knew there was a giant hole in the storage room that leads outside and he’d had problems with rats before.
He told us we were overreacting, that it wasn’t a big deal and that he didn’t need to hire an exterminator. Instead, he left out rat poison and peanut butter. My roommate went back home and I slept in my car in a parking lot.
After weeks of calling my mum crying because I could hear the rats running through the walls and sleeping in my car, the landlord finally filled the hole with cement. Then the light above the stair burnt out and he refused to fix it, and the lock on our front door broke and he didn’t fix it.
Late one night a friend was walking over to see me, and he saw my landlord looking through my window. Understandably I was freaked out, so my friend and I went for a drive and I slept on his couch. All the blinds remained shut after that.
Things like this kept happening and we kept asking him to fix these things and told him it was our right to live in a safe place. Near the end of our lease he gave us a formal notice that he would not be extending our lease and told us if it was up to him he would evict us immediately. We moved out at the end of our lease, demanded our damage deposit back because he didn’t want to give it to us, and left.
Good things to know when looking for places to live
- When going to view a place make sure you bring someone with you. If nobody is available, text someone the address, the landlord’s name, and the time you expect to be finished the viewing.
- Your damage deposit cannot be more than half of one month’s rent (there may be another deposit for pets).
- Make sure you and your landlord sign the BC Residential Tenancy Agreement.
- Also, ensure you have a copy for yourself and DON’T LOSE IT.
- Do a walkthrough of the house with your landlord before you sign anything. It is also a good idea to bring someone with you as a witness.
- Film the walkthrough to document any damage that is already there. If the landlord says you can not do this I would recommend running.
- Get everything the landlord says they will fix in writing. I have had them deny saying they would fix things many times.
- If your landlord does make you sign any extra agreements or rules keep a copy of that for yourself too.
- Keep all documents, pictures, and videos in a folder on your computer.
- If something does go wrong, just know that as a tenant you do have rights and the UVic law centre offers advice, assistance, and representation to clients who cannot afford a lawyer.
- Problem-solving and BC tenant contacts