Well, that was certainly…an experience. It was and and and and combined.
So when we last left you, we were still looking for a place and our agent was seemingly irritated with us. But we HAD to find somewhere to live.
As it happened, my dad and stepmom had come down to see us (Monday the 15th), so they were around for our last look. We only had like three places left, and we had already decided that if none of those worked, we were packing up and heading home a day or two early—we were THAT frustrated.
So we scheduled to meet our agent at the first house. The first good sign was the neighborhood—decent houses with well-kept yards (already miles above most of what we had seen). As a bonus, it was very very close—2.5 miles—from Tom’s new office.
Within 10 seconds of entering the house, we knew we wanted it. It had a nice open floor plan, wood floors, utility room, updated kitchen, etc. Only the rooms on the second floor could change our mind—but those were great, too! Tom and I were both ready to leave and go sign the paperwork immediately, considering how quickly we lost out on the last house we loved and wanted. We made the agent call RIGHT THEN to make sure it was still available—yes, we had to specifically ASK her to call.
Unfortunately, it was a bit above what we had wanted/hoped to spend, but this house was so far above everything we had already seen…and LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION—we HAD to jump on it. So we went back to her office and, honestly, everything seemed confusing to her—almost like she had never done a rental. I asked which checks she needed (although from personal experience, I know it should be the security deposit and pro-rated rents) but she assured me she just needed the cleaning fee and the first month’s rent. Okay, whatever. So we wrote some checks and turned in our application.
Then she was talking about how we needed to get the Sellers Disclosure and the Lead-Based Paint docs from the other agent. Huh, what? Those are only if we were BUYING the property, not simply RENTING it. Or so I thought… apparently things are done completely different than I am used to in NC. We didn’t have a lease to sign because we hadn’t been accepted yet…so we had to wait. The other agent had to share our information with the owners and see if they wanted us—apparently they had denied like eight people so far! Of course, that didn’t make us feel any better.
So we waited. And waited. We got a call that night that the other agent was still trying to reach his clients to discuss us. Good lord. Again, SO not what I’m used to. In our office, if the credit score is fine and there is nothing outrageously horrible about the people, they are accepted. MAYBE the property manager has to call the client to ask “Is three pets okay?” because that option was never requested before…but it was not a 2-day process.
So we waited. And were just about sick with nerves. Sleeping was just about impossible. I woke up throughout the night and couldn’t sleep due to acid reflux I am sure was brought on by nerves (it was the worst I had ever experienced thus far in my pregnancy). We knew our agent was going to be out with clients most of the following day (Tuesday) but we still expected a call. Which never came, so we had to call her.
Of course, when we called, she had “just gotten off the phone” with the other agent, and told us that the other agents was getting together with his clients for dinner that night to go over our application. I just thought YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. This isn’t life or death here, it’s a freakin’ rental! You look at the credit score, look at our app, and be done with it.
So again we waited. And waited. No call came that night. The next morning we called our agent—I mean, we are still sick with nerves and just waiting for an answer so we can either sign paperwork or GO HOME. We finally reached her and she said good news—they would rent to us with an extra $50/month due to the pets. That sucked, but we had to say yes. So, cool, we have a place…but GET THIS—she then told us that the owners WANTED TO MEET WITH US TO GET TO KNOW US.
WHAT? You have REALLY got to be kidding me. I expressed my basic thoughts, but she was serious. Apparently this happens A LOT in Michigan. In NC, owners stay far away from their renters. In most cases, we try to keep them VERY separated. But these owners wanted to meet us? Good god. She assured us that it was just a formality, that we had already been accepted and nothing that happened at the meeting could disqualify us. Not that I didn’t trust that statement, but…I didn’t trust that statement.
In the meantime, she called to let us know she had the lease and we agreed to meet at her office to go over it. We discussed schedules, because she had clients later in the day, so agreed when to meet. Except when we got to her office she wasn’t there. We called her and she said “Oh, I emailed the paperwork to you to look over.” So apparently our discussion of “meeting at her office to discuss the lease” was…ignored? Forgotten? We were able, however, to use her computer to print the lease. Then it was off for lunch at BD’s Mongolian BBQ (mmmmmmmmm) where we were finally able to take a look at the lease.
And I didn’t like what I saw.
I was used to our NC lease which is like 8 pages and very detailed and really benefits the renter. This lease was like four pages, quite basic, and pretty much put the screws to the renter if anything went wrong. For example, there was a clause about the tenants paying $100 for every service call regardless of whose fault the problem was.
I tried to clarify with our agent, saying “So, if the A/C unit breaks, and we had nothing to do with it, we still have to pay $100 for the service call?”
“If the toilet stops working and it’s discovered that the internal plumbing is messed up, we still have to pay $100 for the service call?”
We explained that we understood we’d have to pay for anything that was OUR fault (i.e. the toilet gets backed up and the plumber discovers a Barbie doll in there, or we break a window) and our agent just said “No, sorry, that’s how it’s done in Michigan.”
This is completely, 100% different than how things are handled in North Carolina. Apparently NC is a VERY renter-friendly state and pretty much everything benefits the renter. In Michigan, when renting a house, apparently IT’S AS IF WE OWN THE HOUSE and we must maintain everything as if we owned it. Which makes NO sense whatsoever—that’s why we’re renting! We ended the conversation with us asking if maybe we could add an addendum or something to counter that clause, and HER asking US what type of wording we wanted.
I wanted to scream “YOU’RE THE AGENT, THIS IS YOUR JOB. YOU FIGURE IT OUT!” So we just assumed our agent was not understanding us, and we decided to talk to the other agent at the meeting that night (when we met with the landlords).
We also had a problem with the late fees—NC law (which is obviously what I am used to dealing with) says you have a five-day grace period before late fees can be charged, and the late fees cannot be outrageous (i.e. they can be approximately what the bank charges). The MI lease was charging a $50 late fee if not received by the 1st, and another $50 late fee if not received by the 10th. Of course we never plan to be late, but that seemed ludicrous, so we wanted to double-check that. So I called our property manager and asked if she could quick google and see if she could find MI law on the issue so we could be prepared when we talked with the agent again. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find much of anything, so it appears we are screwed on that issue.
In the meantime, however, we stopped by a Kinkos to look up the “service call” verbiage in the NC lease (we have a sample lease on our work website). I copied the related sections and emailed it to our agent, along with a copy of the entire lease so they could see why I was having such issues with some of the clauses—I wasn’t just being an annoying renter, I was just used to something completely different. And, of course, we didn’t want to rock the boat, as we were sure we could still lose the house if we really annoyed the agents or the owners (even though they told us otherwise).
We ended up stopping at Kinkos for something else as well, paying a whopping 20c a minute to use the internet—but it was either that or drive the 30 minutes back to Lori and Steven’s to use their computer.
We ended up at the house a bit early, and met the husband and had a nice chat with him before his agent and his wife arrived. They were a very nice couple—she is a doctor and he is a priest (or some variation thereof) and they live in, I think, Auburn Hills. This is their second investment property, they just bought the house in April 2008 and updated it all, and we are the first people to live there. They were thrilled we loved the house, there was still some work to be done, and they were fine with us making some small changes. Most importantly, they were okay with us putting up a fence—and upon talking with their agent after they left, he assured us they would probably be okay with chipping in for the cost of the fence (we just have to email them to ask, and get everything in writing).
We also went over the service call/fee issue with him, and he told us the same thing—pretty much that everything is OUR responsibility. He said he had started to read the lease we sent, but he hadn’t made it through it since it was so long and detailed. But the owners HAD agreed to lower the fee from $100 to $75…which I admit is a concession on their part, but still, sucks for us. They also added an addendum which they THINK is doing us a favor, but really isn’t, because it basically says “If the a/c unit or heater has to be replaced, the tenants don’t have to pay for it” and says nothing about other “internal” issues or major house issues that SHOULD BE the owner’s responsibilities should anything go wrong. Of course, we are hoping (assuming) nothing major will happen in the two years we are there, but you…just…never…know.
We also asked about the slew of other renters the owners turned down, and the agent told us it was mainly people who had foreclosures in their past, or worked for their cousin for cash and couldn’t prove income. So that’s why the owners LOVED us—we were stable people.
So, it was interesting. The house is nice, it’s in a great location in the city, and the neighborhood is nice—but it’s more expensive than we hoped. And the owners are nice, but the lease sucks, but we can put up a fence. So all in all, I think it will be okay. But it certainly was a hell of an experience that we do not wish to repeat again anytime soon.