The Failed Grown Up Guide to Not Being a Colossal Douche

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I’ve been showing our house to prospective renters the last few days, Sunshine, and I feel there’s something I need to address. I know that finding a new place to live is hard, that renting a room in a house full of strangers is intimidating, that the people you move in with will have a very real and lasting impact on not only your stay in that place but your life in general.

Believe me, I get all of that.

Since I first decided to go back to school, I’ve moved all over this end of town. I’ve lived with good friends, acquaintances, ex-boyfriends, an ex-boyfriend AND a current boyfriend at the same time, and total strangers. It’s never exactly easy looking for a new place, moving in with new people, or learning to deal with the people you’re now living with.

That being said, no one needs to be a complete douche canoe when they’re looking at places. Just showing this place to prospective renters, I have seen more douchebaggery than most people will see in a dozen life times. There has been enough douche in this house to build a douche canoe, with matching douche paddles, to be floated down a douche stream to the Douche Rapids, over the majestic Grande Douche Falls,   where the douche rocks will obliterate it into a million douchey pieces.

That’s a metric shit-tonne of douche.

So here, for your very own reading pleasure, I give to you……

The Failed Grown Up Guide to Not Being a Colossal Douche

Step #1: Show the Fuck Up

I had three people scheduled to come here today to see rooms. Two showed up.

I had one person scheduled for yesterday. No one showed up.

I have lost count of the number of times we have had someone scheduled to come here to look at a room, and they just don’t bother showing up. And it’s not like we give them no options in contacting us. The landlord gives them his phone number, I Facebook message with them, we all email back and forth, I’ve even given my phone number to a few of them to text in case they’re running late (which I stopped doing after the random 3 am attempted sexts from dudes who saw the place).

Now, I have a job. The other people in this house who help me show it have jobs and/or school. We have busy fucking schedules.  None of us are just sitting around the house, waiting for people to saunter up at their leisure to peruse the joint.

Today, I woke up at 4am to go over the list of things I needed to do today. I was up by 6am when the boyfriend left for work. I showered, drew in my eyebrows, and then cleaned until 9:30am when I left for work.  I worked until 3pm. Had to pick up cat food and dish soap, so I skipped my break in order to run to the grocery store in our plaza. Power walked home with a backpack full of groceries to be here by 3:25. Put away groceries, changed, did a quick sweep of the floors and ran a dust cloth over the tables, and was sitting on the couch waiting for my 3:45 appointment.

They never showed up.

I busted my ass cleaning all morning, then busted my ass at work without a real break, just to bust my ass to get home and get right to the cleaning, all because some douche nozzle said he was showing up here at a certain time and he never fucking showed.

The people showing you a possible place to rent bust their asses off to make sure they are there to show it to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s some tiny bedroom in a shared apartment or a penthouse fucking suite: someone is taking time out of their day to show you that potential new home. Be there, be on time, and if you’re going to be late for the love of all things sacred PLEASE let them know!

Step #2: When you DO show up, show some basic fucking courtesies. 

I have had people show up here in the middle of a driving rain storm, soaked right to the damn bone. I offered towels to dry themselves off with and to throw their socks and shoes on the heating vent to dry off a bit while we toured the house. One guy refused the towel, refused to take off his shoes, and insisted that his three friends do the same. Instead, they thought it was perfectly acceptable to track mud and water through the house.

Of course, after they left I had to report back to the landlord. I’ve studied sociopaths and psychopaths for years, so he sees me as a pretty good judge of character. The first thing I mentioned was their total and utter disrespect for the place while viewing it. If you can’t be bothered to show some basic fucking respect while you’re just viewing the place as a potential tenant, then what are the chances of you respecting the place while you live here?

That dude emailed the landlord and said he’d like to take the place. The landlord said “thanks, but no thanks”.

The place you’re looking at isn’t the only thing being judged. Whoever is showing you that place is checking to see if you’re a fit for them, too. No landlord wants to rent out their spaces to people who are going to just fucking destroy them.  If someone can’t bother to take off their muddy fucking shoes, then what are the chances they’ll sweep or vacuum or mop EVER?

The house manager here for years used to rent rooms to a bunch of his friends and frat brothers. A lot of them were pretty cool and easy to get along with. The one dude who lived here when I moved in became a really great friend to me and used to call himself Uncle Sandwich to my kitten (he’d feed him meat from his designer sandwiches from the Italian grocer’s down the road). Most of the time, renting to people he knew worked out. One frat brother caused some serious issues when he moved out though.

You see, my bedroom is one of two that is carpeted. Fratty McFraterton lived in this room before me. Mr. Manager never bothered to ask him about the places he lived before, or talk to anyone he lived with outside the actual frat house. If he had, he would’ve known that this guy wasn’t exactly someone who cleaned up after himself. As it turned out, he didn’t vacuum his room once in the more than a year he lived here.

When I moved in, I vacuumed and sat down on the floor to organize my books a bit. And that’s when the hives started popping up. Because that damn carpet hadn’t been vacuumed in at least 13 months, dust and food had been ground into it and had to be cleaned out. Like, Mr. Manager had to go out and rent a carpet cleaner and we had to steam the entire fucking room. But the damage had already been done.  That summer and early fall, I spent 94 days covered in hives. 94 fucking days! I saw doctors and specialists, had my eyes swell shut, had to carry an EpiPen and even had hives on my butthole.

The Landlord caught wind of this. The fact that he let someone rent a room here (a damn nice room, for a damn good price, with AC and everything), and that person showed so much disrespect was just mind boggling. The carpet has been cleaned half a dozen times since I moved in, and it will never be the same colour it once was.  He doesn’t want more people coming in and destroying his house like that again.

So the first impression you make, the respect you show me or anyone showing you a prospective place, has a huge role in whether or not anyone wants you to live there.

Step 3: You’re a grown up. Fucking act like one!

It’s perfectly understandable that sometimes you can’t go visit a place on your own. Some people take a friend with them for safety reasons. Others come from out of town and have someone showing them around, or someone who volunteered to drive them. Some people need a health aid, or a translator, or have a parent or two with them to show them that they’re not moving into a crack den. And some people have just never moved out on their own before, and have someone along to make sure they ask all the right questions.  That’s all cool.

But it’s you who is looking to rent the place. You’re the one who would live there, you’re the one who needs info, and you’re the one being judged here.  Having your mommy come along to talk for you is just going to give us something to laugh about later.

Had a young man come here the other day to look at a room, with his mother in tow. Well, actually it was more like she was looking at the room while he tagged along. She made a big show of telling me how her Special Little Man was 25 and moving out on his own for the very first time. I swear, she talked about him the same I was I talk about my baby kitten, who is an Extra Special Very Good Boy sometimes. He was going to go to university and get a BA in Psychology, which would make him a Very Important Special Little Man who would have people just throwing jobs at him. He didn’t have time for silly things like cleaning and cooking, so we’d need to do that. He was going to have a degree, did I have any idea what kind of doors that would open for him?

I so wanted to say, “Yeah, it’ll open the fucking door to the liquor store where I work. I’ve got the same damn degree sweetheart, with a second honors degree on top of that. And I still manage to scrub my toilet and wipe the counters down after I use them.” But I put on my best Customer Service Face, smiled and just said,”Oh ya, ok” while I nodded my head over and over.

The Special Little Man barely spoke. He seemed like a nice enough guy, the total opposite of his mother. A little spoiled, but totally eager to get out from under his mother’s thumb and into the real world. If his mother wasn’t there, I never would’ve known he can barely cook, and had never done laundry, and wasn’t allowed to even use a broom at home because he had better things to focus on. I probably would’ve recommended him to the landlord, told him he seemed like a nice respectable guy.

As it is, that boy won’t be renting a room here. Especially after his mother announced she’d be here every other weekend “at the very least” to make sure we were “taking care of him”.

Step 4: Read the fucking ad!

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Our ads are pretty basic. It shows a few old pictures of the house, tells you the price of the rooms, you share common areas and a bathroom, and it’s a mature home; no loud parties, no selling anything illegal from the house, all utilities included except cable and the internet. It flat out says that you are renting a ROOM and that you will be SHARING a bathroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen with everyone else.  I come right out the second people walk through the door here, and I show them which areas are common areas.  That’s how people have always shown me apartments and homes in the past too.

The ad pretty much tells you what you’re paying for. You get a room all to yourself, with a lock and key and everything. You share a kitchen and living room with everyone. You share a bathroom with one or two other people. The landlord tells you that when you email him saying you want to see the house. I tell you that when you walk in the house to see the rooms.

But this is a small sample of the things I’ve still heard from prospective renters in the last year or so:

  • what do you mean I have to share a bathroom with someone?
  • can’t you just not rent out the room next to me, so I get the whole basement to myself?
  • I thought this room came with a private bathroom.
  • what do you mean I have to share a kitchen?
  • you mean it’s just a bedroom?
  • I thought I was going to be seeing a full apartment.

I think you get the picture.

The fucking ad has PICTURE of the HOUSE in it. It talks about the BEDROOMS for rent. It mentions all of the COMMON AREAS that you would be SHARING with other people if you lived here. It ain’t fucking rocket surgery to realize that this is a room available in a house.

And the last two steps combined bring me to our next step.

Step 5: It is what it is. You’re not getting any more out of it.

You pay for a room here. You cook for yourself, you clean for yourself, you take care of yourself, you even shop for yourself. You are a grown-ass person, who will do grown-ass things, and take care of their damn selves. We do not have maid service or a chef. I’m not here to take care of you. You are paying for a room, and that’s it.

Last week we had a fellow look at the rooms downstairs, and start asking about the maid service schedule. He asked about grocery services. He wanted to know who would be doing the cooking. When he was told that he had to do all of that himself like a Big Boy, he had the fucking gall to try and lowball the landlord for rent to make-up for what was “missing”. He wanted a $400 room for less than $200!

Remember the woman with the 25-year-old Special Little Man who was going to be so fucking important someday? She was fucking appalled that her Special Little Man would have to do things for himself. He was far too important to do things like feed himself, or wash a fucking dish. She seriously expected everyone in the house to chip in and hire a maid to come in and scrub the floors, do the laundry, wash the dishes, and scrub out the bathrooms three or four times a week. If we weren’t willing to do that, then she wanted a discount on the rent.

People come up with all sorts of crazy-ass demands when they come look at the place. I’ve had people try to demand we get a brand new BBQ because ours is old and used. I’ve had people demand no one keep things in the kitchen but them. People have wanted to have the entire basement or main floor to themselves, without paying to rent the other rooms there. They’ve wanted other people to cook for them, to clean for them, to do their grocery shopping, to be their private guide to the city. Hell, I even had one girl who lived here try to turn me into her personal stylist, even though I have ZERO sense of fucking style!

Unless an ad says something like, “Private maid cleaning/cook available for a price/ room and board, meals included”, don’t expect any of this shit. Your parents, or your last roommate, or your last partner may have done these things for you. But was anyone doing any of this for them? Nope, and it’s not getting done for you here either!

A Few Final Thoughts

If you go looking for a place to live, and you act like a total and complete douche, no one is going to want you to live there.

If you come here and start bragging about how smart you are, how your degree is going to mean people will be throwing jobs at you, no one here is going to be impressed.

If your mommy comes in here to tell me that you’re far too important and special to do anything for yourself, or you come in here demanding someone else do your cleaning for you, no one here is going to jump up and cater to your every fucking need and whim.

If your mother comes in here and refers to you by little names that sound like something I would call my kitten, the Most Precious And Perfect Fuzzy Little Baby Man,  I will do my best not to burst out laughing in your face. But that’s as far I’ll go for that.

Basically, if you come in here doing any of the douchey bullshit I’ve just warned you about, I am going to tell everyone about it. I’ll tell my boyfriend, our roommates, my coworkers, maybe even some of my favourite regular customers. And we’re not going to sit back and revel in your awesomeness. No, we’re going to laugh our fucking asses off, make fun of you, and try to figure out who in their right mind would actually want you as their roommate.

So don’t forget, Sunshine: don’t be a douche. Don’t let your friends be douches. Don’t try to out-douche other douches. Just be a fucking awesome person, like are right now.

 

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Our Microwave Just Broke

So while I was making my dinner, one of my roommates tried to reheat his leftovers in the microwave. It made this awful loud noise that scared the crap out of the cat, and refused to heat anything. I messaged the landlord, and he said he’s look into it tomorrow.

Now, I like this roommate. He keeps to himself, doesn’t leave big messes everywhere, spends a lot of time on campus, is very respectful to everyone here, and the cat loves him. He joked that he was going to have to eat take-out now, and I suggested he reheat his food in the oven when I was done with in. He came back to the kitchen once my food was done, looked at the oven and said, “So how does this work? Do I just put my plate in there?”

I just had to teach a soon-to-be-grown-up how to use an oven.

He didn’t know how to turn it on. He didn’t know you can’t just throw a plate of food in there. He didn’t know how to use a baking pan.

This boy has never had to make anything more complicated than a pot of rice. He has buckets of leftovers in the freezer here that he just reheats and eats over rice.

So once again, I somehow get to be the adult in the house and teach people how an oven works. Is it scary that I’M the adult?

Roommates From Hell: How To Pay Rent

So yesterday, I walked you through some of the stuff you will most likely find in your lease. There was one thing I didn’t mention though, and that’s how to pay your rent.

Now, in our house, the actual home-owners live in another country. They bought this house while their son John was a student here, and their son still lives here now. Both he and his dad are members of the Armed Forces, and can have some pretty erratic schedules because of this. Last fall, John went away for a 10 week training program to complete his basic training for the Reserves. Now, when he is here, he is the acting landlord. It is his responsibility to collect rent, maintain the yard, keep things generally in order, and deal with all of the other tenants. When he left, he didn’t really appoint anyone to do his job. I offered to collect rent from our two newest tenants in the basement, if they had any problems with the options for payment provided in the lease.

Really wish I hadn’t offered that.

Now, our lease is perfectly clear on how we can pay our rent, and actually gives us a few options. Since the actual landlord can’t be here to personally collect rent, he gave us three banking options. One was to write a series of post-dated checks and give them to him. This way, the money could always come out on the date on the check. The second way was to go to the bank (not very far from here), and deposit the money directly to the house’s bank account. He gave the account number and detailed instructions on how to do this. The last option was to use online banking to pay either him or John. With all three of these options, the tenant automatically gets some sort of rent receipt (cancelled check, receipt from the bank deposit, or the printable email confirmation of rent being received).

Now, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumbass downstairs couldn’t quite grasp any of this. They insisted on paying their rent in cash, in person, to John every month. Pretty tough to do when John’s gone, right? So before he left, he told them the three options they have, and that they could talk to me if they had any problems. Then I wrote a note, detailing the three options, and put it on the fridge where they could see it. And, coming up on the first of the month, I reminded them of their three options.

First of the month, I wasn’t at home. We had a family crisis at the moment, and I was bedside at the local hospice. Again, I left a note and talked to the Tweedles, saying rent needed to be paid and I wouldn’t be around much for a little while. Instead of doing the sensible thing and paying their rent the way they’re freakin supposed to, they took a fit when I didn’t drop everything to personally collect their money from them. One guy actually pouted, and they gave me hell when I got home.

But wait, it gets better.

Remember how I said the options given automatically give a rent receipt? Well that’s no accident. The landlord chose those options so that when John was not here to collect the rent, the tenants would still be able to have some sort of receipt on demand. This was explained to the guys when they moved in. Yes, John had formal receipts that he could print out and sign if someone wanted them for tax purposes. But for the month-to-month workings of the house, if you wanted a receipt then you had to pay according to the lease.

When the first of the following month was approaching, and my family crisis was over, I approached the Tweedles in the kitchen and reminded them about November’s rent. I thought I would just point out how to pay, remind them to pay on-time. You know, how things should work. Well Tweedle-Dumbass flipped out! Since he paid in cash and I deposited said cash, he did not have a rent receipt from the past month. Apparently he needed one to show his father, who was helping him out financially. I explained to him again that he would have had his receipt if he had paid according to the lease, but that didn’t help. The little turd actually puffed out his chest, flexed his arms, and started crowding my personal space, claiming he was going to have his father call me to get a receipt. Turns out, he somehow wanted me to print out a receipt, and for John to somehow sign it from his military training more than 8 hours away. Logical, isn’t it?

I explained again that if he had paid according to the lease, he would have the receipt, but that did nothing. I told him to read the lease, read all his documents, and then we could try to work something out. I even offered to talk to his father to explain the situation. Well, it turns out the Tweedles never read their lease, and had no clue who the landlord was. Somehow they thought that I, another tenant of the house, was their landlord. I never said anything to them to make them think this, I wasn’t the one who toured the house with them, I wasn’t the one who had them sign the lease, and I wasn’t the one they gave their first month’s rent and security deposit to. Still, they somehow thought that, since John wasn’t here that somehow made me their landlord.

I explained to them again that 1) I rent a room here; 2) John’s parents own this place; 3) John is the acting landlord; and 4) they were already told to pay the rent one of three ways so that they could have receipts in events like this. I then explained further, going into detail about the benefits of each payment method. When I said that post-dated checks meant that rent was always paid on the first, Tweedle-Dee took his turn to flip out at me. He started yelling at me, claiming I was somehow implying that they were going to skip out on rent, or be late with payments, or try to jerk us around to get their rent. In the end, I gave up on talking to them, and messaged both the owner and their good friend across the street. They agreed that the friend would take their payments if they insisted on paying cash, so that they would have no reason flip out on me anymore.

Funnily enough, the first of the month came and went with no sign of Tweedle-Dee. It seems he went to a Halloween party, then downtown to the bars, then to a friend’s house, and didn’t come back until the 4th. When I reminded him that the neighbour still needed rent from him, he acted like I was a nagging parent forcing him to clean his room on a nice day. He stomped his feet, pouted, and actually said “I’ll pay it when I pay it”.

Damn, I really don’t miss those two!

Reading and Understanding Your Lease

A lease is a legal document. Legal document. That means that once you sign it, you are bound by it. So you would think people would read through these things before they sign them, wouldn’t you?

After getting burned by a bad lease once (they sold the house out from under us and forced us to move out with less than one month’s notice, which was perfectly allowable under a clause in the lease), I’m a little pushy when it comes to leases. I think everyone should not only read through their, but have to read through it with their landlord there to answer any questions or concerns. You need to make sure you understand what it is you’re signing, before you go ahead and sign it.

Now, before we get into specifics of your lease, there is one thing you need to know above everything else: you need a copy of your lease. No, I’m not being a smart-ass here. I mean after you read through it and decide to sign it, you legally have to be given a copy of your lease for your own personal records. And you damn well better keep that thing, too! You may need it if things go sour.

Finances: Your Basics

There are a few things you absolutely need to have included in your lease, such as how much you are responsible for paying each month, and when you move in. Most places will have you give them a security deposit, which is usually equal to one month’s rent. Legally, if the place is in good repair when you move out, you get this back. It should state all of that right in the lease.

Now, what you pay each month should be in there. What is your monthly rent? Does it include utilities? Right now, I’m lucky with the lease I have. I am renting a room in a house (currently have 3 other roommates, with room for one more). For around $400 a month, I get my room, all my utilities paid for, basic cable, unlimited internet, on-site laundry, on-site parking, a backyard, and some of the furniture here is also included.  Most places are not this amazingly great, though. Always check your lease to see what, if any, utilities are included in your lease. You may have to pay for your own internet, or electricity, or for all your utilities separately.

Also, you need to know any and all penalties in the lease. Some landlords throw in a charge for bounced checks, late payments, damages above and beyond the security deposit, or other such things. I knew one person whose roommate got hit with a heavy fine for smoking in his room, when the lease clearly said there was to be no smoking in the house.

Length

So just how long is this lease for? In college and university areas, many landlords have an 8 month option and a 12 month option. If you’re only going to be around during the regular school year, make sure you’re not signing a 12 month lease! Even if you move off site before the lease is done, you are responsible for the payments.

You should also see if the lease mentions what happens after the lease is up. Some landlords make you sign a new lease for a full term. I’ve known others who automatically transition the lease to a month-by-month lease, meaning you can move out any time you want with only one full month’s notice.  Know which one your landlord requires, in case you like the place enough to stay there multiple terms.

Boundaries

This is one part of the lease a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to. After getting burned by our previous landlord, my then-roommate and I made sure to go through our lease with a fine toothed comb. There were some things in there that made me laugh, which apparently had to be included after bad experiences with former tenants. No storing tanks of butaine, propane, or any other highly explosive or flammable gases in the apartment. No waterbeds. No keeping of fireworks on site. No creating compost piles in the livingroom. I shudder to think of the reasons why they had these rules!

There were also a few things in there that were really, really important to know. If we wanted to leave before our lease was up, we were not allowed to sublet the apartment to anyone else, and would be held responsible for all payments. We were not allowed to have any pets at all, not even a goldfish in a bowl. There was even a clause about the number and frequency of overnight guests (which is a long story you will probably hear about involving our upstairs neighbour and the grow-op).

When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes, things go wrong. Pipes clog. Stoves catch on fire. Homes get vandalized or broken into. I can remember a few years back, on my damn birthday, I was living in a basement room in a house. I could hear something hitting the back window, and young voices outside. It turned out to be two local teens (15 years old), who decided to draw all over the back of the house with a giant Sharpie and dig random holes in the backyard. I called the police, and listened while the boys were questioned (“Why were you drawing on the house?” “Duh, we were bored. And like, we didn’t know people live here.” “What about the car in the driveway, and the for rent signs, and the lights on in the house?” “We didn’t see any of that. Can’t we just go?” It was comedy gold). Afterwards, I had to contact the landlord. Thankfully, it said right in our lease what to do if something like this happened, since our landlord lived a few hours away. I took pictures of the damages (why do young boys like to draw dicks on everything?), and sent an email to the landlord, telling her what happened, showing her the pictures, and giving her the information from the police that I was asked to pass along. We were able to get the house cleaned up and everything taken care of in a matter of days.

Your landlord should include some sort of contact information in your lease. In larger apartment buildings or dorms, you might have on-site management who can take care of things right away. In other situations, you may have to make a few phone calls or send a few emails. Either way, how to take care of things like this should be in your lease.

Now that you know all of this, go take a quick read-through of your current lease, if you have one (and you kept a copy of it). And the next time you rent or lease some place new, you’ll know a little of what to look for in that document.

Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent, Pt.2

Last night, I went over some of the things you should be doing before you start actually checking out places to rent. Once you’ve gone through all of that, you can start actually going on walk-throughs of rooms/houses/apartments. When I started doing this years ago, I basically just walked into the place, checked to see if the walls were still standing and the windows were intacts. I, admittedly, did not do any of these things.

I also have a long list of horror stories about my past living arrangements. Someday, I’ll tell you about the night I had to call the cops and guard my apartment door with a giant butcher knife because some drunk guy was puking in the stairwell and trying to kick in my upstairs neighbours’ door. Yes, it’s something funny to tell now, but it was not fun then. And most of the things that I came across in those places, while they make for great stories now, were just hell to live through in their own little ways.

So, here’s a few things you can do to try and find the best quality place for your money.

FROM THE OUTSIDE

First, take a look at the property itself. Is it well maintained? Are the neighbouring properties maintained? What is the parking situation like? You can tell a lot about a place from the first impression you get before you walk in the door. A well maintained property outside means that the owners are more likely to maintain the inside as well. If the grass is overgrown, there’s weeds everywhere, the bricks are cracked and pieces are falling into the parking lot, and the windows are all cracked, they really don’t care about the place. These may be the types of landlords who will wait months to fix leaky pipes, or a leaky roof, or busted appliances.

Also, are the neighbouring properties looking the same? If all the buildings in the area are looking a mess, then maybe this isn’t the best place to be moving into. If no one cares, then there might be worse problems they have to deal with than long grass and weeds, like crime or neglect.

Parking is another thing you should be looking at. I got rid of my car the beginning of my second year of university, and have just never replaced it. So when I looked at places, the parking situation wasn’t high on my list of priorities. Even if you don’t drive, though, your friends and family might. You should know the parking rules for the area, whether it’s a parking lot or street parking. Some areas only allow street parking with a permit. Other places are strictly parking meters. Some lots only allow a certain number of visitor parking spots, or will not allow visitors to park in a resident’s spot (even if that resident has no car). It’s best to know what the situation is before you decide to go signing any documents.

FROM THE INSIDE

Once inside, you need to get your sleuth on. First,,,,,,,check for obvious signs of damage and neglect. This includes mould, cracks in the walls and floor, stains, water marks on the ceiling, peeling wallpaper or paint, peeling floor tiles, burn marks, rodent droppings, bugs, and random people who have taken up residence in a vacant apartment (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it). If a landlord can’t even cover up the bloodstains on the wall from the previous tenant (knife accident in the kitchen, blood sprayed the wall, I later found out), then they’re probably not going to come take care of the roaches or mice or mould you find later.

Next, you’ll want to start looking for the electrical outlets. Make sure there are a bunch of them, and they are conveniently placed. I’ll never forget the apartment that had more than half a dozen plugs in the hallway, but not a single one in the bathroom. Make sure every room has outlets, and make sure they work. It’s best to bring along a cheap night-light (you can get them at the dollar store), and use it to check each and every outlet you can find. You would be amazed at how many non-working outlets my old apartment had (hint: it was more than half of them in the whole place!).

Next, go take a look at the windows. Check for signs of damage (water damage, warping, peeling wood, mould) and, if possible, feel for drafts coming in from outside. In the summer, this may be pretty damn hard to do, but those signs of damage can usually indicate some sort of draft. Next, see if the windows open. I once had a place that had no A/C, in probably the most humid city in Canada, and most of the windows were painted shut. I could not sleep in my bedroom, and instead had to sleep on an old broken loveseat in the livingroom under one of the few working windows.

Now, you’ll need to start opening things. Check in the kitchen and bathroom cupboards for anything wonky. Often times, landlords will put the roach and ant traps there, so they’re effective but not obvious to potential renters. You’ll also be looking for signs of damage. A landlord may replace the cupboard doors after a kitchen fire, but won’t repair the damage inside the cupboards. Also, doors that fall off them you try to open them are a huge red flag.

Closets are the next check. Open all the closets, not just to check the size (but definitely DO check the size). Again, landlords may neglect to fix or cover-up the damage in these areas, and would just close the doors instead. Also, make sure the closets are as big as they seem. My current closet looked pretty darn big when I first looked at this room. I can’t possibly fir all my clothes in there (and I’m not a huge clothes-horse or anything) and have to have two dressers to keep most of it in. The problem here is with the set-up of the space. You’ll want to check the rods and hooks (which are oddly placed in mine, giving me less space to work with), and look at any shelving. Also, if it’s a large closet, check for lighting. And if the ceiling is high, check out the top corners with a flashlight. This is where bugs will sometimes hide, and it’s best to catch them early.

And finally, talk to the landlord about the appliances in the apartment. Here in my area, appliances are usually included with the place. I’ve seen times when this is not the case though (Jenna Marbles talked about having to buy her kitchen and laundry room appliances in her last newest HouseTour vlog). If they are included, make sure they work. Like, the whole appliance. I’ve seen fridge/freezer combos with only a working freezer, stoves with only one working burner, and dryers that take three full drying cycles to dry a small load. Ask the landlord about all the appliances, and check them personally whenever possible.

ON THE WAY OUT

After you’ve taken your tour of the place, see if there are any neighbours around you can talk to. I don’t mean go knocking on people’s doors trying to talk to them. Maybe walk around the immediate neighbourhood a little bit, see if anyone is outside. Introduce yourself, tell them you’re thinking of renting in the area, and see what they have to see about it. Not only will this give you a bit of an idea of what the area is like, but it also means you’ll know a few neighbour if you choose to take the place.

So these are just some of the things you should be doing when looking at a place to rent.  While it’s not an exhaustive list, it’s the things I most regret not doing before moving into some of the places I’ve lived. There are a tonne more lists and resources out there for anyone who feels like playing with the Googles. One great resource I found was the blog How To Grow The Fuck Up. They have a four part series on how to rent an apartment, but this post here has a great list of things to look into when you’re doing your walk-throughs and tours.

So, I hope this helps a bit. See you all again tomorrow, Sunshine!

Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent; Pt. 1

Not that I have actually done most of these things. No woman in my family had ever moved out of the house until they were married, so no one was really forthcoming with advice for me when I announced I was going to move out. So, I basically thought it was going to be easy. I looked at a few places with different friends, and then decided to move into a place with my best friend (and her fiancée, and her mother, and their 6 cats, and their ferret). I moved a few more times in the years after that while in school, and am currently starting the long journey to FINALLY moving into a place that is just mine (no roommates other than my cat). With each new place, I learned from my mistakes. And damn, were there ever a tonne of mistakes.

So, before you actually start physically looking at places, or touring places, here’s a few things you should be considering (which I probably did not):

1 ) What is your budget?

Now, this will be different to figure out, depending on your income. For people who work a set amount of hours every day/week/month, this is simply figuring out how much money you make, and how much you can spend on rent. Many experts recommend looking at your budget as a whole, and working from there. Gal Vaz Oxlade (from tv show Till Debt Do Us Part, and the infuriating to watch yet amazing to gather tips from tv show Princess), has some great worksheets in her Resources section of her website ( http://www.gailvazoxlade.com/resources.html ) to help you do different types of budget and budget analysis.

One of the sheets in this resource section deals specifically with students (the Student Lump Sum Money Worksheet). For many students, the majority of your money for each semester is given to you in one lump sum through your student loans, bursaries, scholarships, and grants. This worksheet can help you work out your total budget for the semester, and break it down into a monthly budget.

Basically, you need to look at your money situation to make sure you can afford the place you want to live in. What would happen if you rented an apartment for $600 a month, but only had enough in your budget to afford $380? That’s $220 each and every month that you would have to make up for in some way, or risk being evicted.

2 ) Pick you basic location

This doesn’t mean “find an apartment building”. This means “look at the area you want to move into, that is most convenient for you”. For students, this is most likely in the immediate area of their school. Take a look through this area and take a good look at the housing situation. Are there more apartments, or private homes being rented? Are things run mostly by rental agencies? Is the area safe? What is around this area?

I know some of this sounds stupid, but hear me out. In apartment buildings, you’re more likely to be able to find a one bedroom or bachelor place, where you can live totally by yourself without any roommates. There’s also the option of a two bedroom place, that you can share with a close friend. House rental could mean renting an entire house with a group of people, or renting a room in a random house that has other random people living there. Also, there are more likely to be things like house parties at houses (obviously) than apartments, meaning there are more likely to be loud nights at your neighbour’s place.

Safety should be a huge concern for you when looking for a place. I don’t care if you’re not even 90lbs soaking wet, or the 350lbs linebacker for the school’s football team: you need to worry about your safety. Many local police websites have a section where you can look at crimes and crime rates throughout the city. Now, no area will ever bee 100% free of crime. It is always a good idea, though, to look at what you may be getting yourself into. Is that nice apartment building you saw surrounded by drug busts in the recent past? 27 murders in the building last year? Or is the worse you would likely see around there probably a loud party, or bike thief? It’s always better to know these things ahead of time, than to just take a place and find out the hard way.

And what is around this area is a HUGE thing you should be looking at. Obviously, if you’re trying to stay close to school or work, they will be near your chosen area. But what else is there? Things you should look for are grocery stores, laundromats, bus stops, restaurants, shopping centres, hair salons, banks, and any other type of business you would need in your life.

3 ) Know what you want.

Now that you know what’s in the area, and the types of places around, and the amount of money you can spend each month on rent, you can start looking at what you want in the area. I suggest looking at ads for a variety of types of places first (rooms for rent, bachelor, one bedroom, two bedroom), just to see what the prices are like. Sites like Kijiji often times have pictures of the properties, so you can see the size and condition of the places you are looking at. Also, they tell you if things like utilities (water, electricity, gas) are included in the rent, or if they are extra. This is SUPER important to know before renting a place, because it impacts your budget hugely.

Now, you can decide what it is you want. What do you want more: privacy, or a cheap place to live. I always went the cheaper route, and didn’t look into things that I now know are essential to me. I would rather give up a little bit of my privacy, for example, and have a roommate if that means I can have A/C in my place. I live in one of the most humid cities in all of Canada, and suffer from eczema that is made worse by sweating in the humidity. I spent one horrible summer in a dingy little apartment with no A/C, because it was an apartment and I only had to have one roommate while I was living there. After that, I moved into a house with 6 other random people just to escape the heat and to live in a basement room with no A/C controls (meaning it was absolutely freezing all year). Right now, I have my A/C and I’m down to 3 roommates (all males) in my current house, plus my cat. While this is not ideal for me right now (I miss being able to watch TV in my underpants and sing in the shower), there are certain benefits to it (A/C, utilities included, everyone loves that cat, house is in good condition, no infestations of any sort, no mould, and I get my own private bar fridge in my room for my wine, cheese strings, and candy bars). I know that I cannot afford all of these things if I were to move into an apartment right now. You need to know your necessities, and where you are willing to compromise. Some people don’t need A/C, or are so frugal with their utilities that they don’t mind paying them separately (many places offer cheaper rent if you will pay your own utilities).

And remember, if you decide you don’t need something, make sure you are really ok without it. If you opt for a place that does not have on-site laundry facilities, for example, you damn well better make sure you have a laundromat nearby that you can easily get to. There is nothing fun about carrying a month’s worth of laundry and sheets on the bus to get to the laundromat that’s too far to walk to.

4 ) Start looking

Now that you know more about the area, what you can afford, and what you are willing to compromise on, you can start seriously looking at places. I’ll have a whole other post on what to do when you’re inside the place, checking it out. Right now, you’re just looking at a bunch of possible places.

You’ll want to look at places that fit your budget (obviously), meet your standards of privacy, are clean and infestation-free, and are in the general area you’re looking in. Don’t get too narrow of a focus (can only look at one-bedroom apartments on the 5th floor or above with a balcony, A/C, and in-suite laundry, for example), but don’t make it too broad either (somewhere, anywhere, where there isn’t a tonne of mould and the neighbours aren’t running a house of ill repute, for example).

Also, you’ll want to look at some rather specific things. If you have a pet, make sure the place is pet-friendly before you decide to go see it. If you have issues with mobility, you would want to make sure the building and apartment/room are accessible to you. Basically, you need to make sure you can actually live in a place before you try to live in a place.

So that’s the basics for part one of Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent.  In my next post, I will be going into what you should be doing once you actually pick a few places to look at (yes, you should look at more than one, just in case the one you have your heart set on turns out to be a bust).

Share The Load

I know, I’ve been quiet for a while now. I’m on assignment on a temp job, working 8:30am until 4:30pm, which means I’m up and out of bed at 6am. Some days, after a full 8 hours in the office, I have my awesome night job, which is 5:15pm until 9:15pm. Weekends are filled with my awesome night job, doing ALL the laundry and grocery shopping, catching up on chores, and having a little too much wine with my dinner.

There are days where I leave the house at 8am and don’t get home until a little after 10pm. That’s 14 hours of work and commute. Add to that the 2 hours of prepping for the day in the morning, and night time prep for the next day (and for bed), and studying for my product knowledge tests for my night job…… and I’m running on empty here. There have been days when I don’t have to go to my night job, and just go home and collapse on my bed for a few hours out of sheer exhaustion.

(It also doesn’t help that the boyfriend seems to be dreaming that he’s a chainsaw or a motorcycle every night, complete with impressions right in my ear. That really cuts into what little sleep I can get each night.)

Needless to say, I can’t keep up with everything I did around the house when I was only working 12 hours a week. And honestly, with 4 other people living there, I shouldn’t have to.

You see, as much as one of my roommates would argue against this, I am the main roommate when it comes to cleaning things up. Yes, he likes to scrub the bathroom and wash the towels and clean the counters. But I am the only one who sweeps, vacuums, mops, washing crud off the walls, organizes the cupboards so things can fit in them, cleans the fridge (even when it’s someone else who spills stuff in there), or does anything else that everyone else should be doing.

And it’s driving me up the wall.

I may have mentioned before that the two roommates who live in our basement (we refer to them as The Tweedles: TweedleDee and TweedleDumbass) don’t exactly clean. They leave food dried to the counters and stove, wash their dishes with cold water, and leave crud stuck to the outside of pots and pans. Last week, while the school was on Winter Break, I had to go into the basement to check the seal on their shower…… and I broke out in hives. I’m allergic to mold, and their bathroom is full of it. It hasn’t been cleaned since they moved in this past September! Their bathroom was also, for some reason, full of cups, glasses, silverware, and bowls. They have bags of garbage piled up in their common room (which they have claimed completely as their own, and use as a giant laundry hamper now).

Last night, after coming home from a very long 14 hour day, I walked in on them using MY dish soap and sponges to clean off their dinner plates. Then, they left dirty pots, pans, and glasses all over the food-encrusted counter.

And I have bloody-well had enough!

No one should have the burden of caring for a shared house/apartment/dorm room/shared van down by the river all by themselves. If there are multiple people living in a space, then there should be multiple people cleaning and caring for that space. It’s not hard: clean up after yourself! Divide up the larger jobs, like mopping and vacuuming, and do your share.

So if you seem to have a cleaning fairy that swoops in and cleans up all your messes for you, wake up! If you’re not cleaning up after yourself, then someone else is. Unless you are paying that person do clean for you, they are not your maid. So be a grown-up, and clean up your own damn messes.