Venus Fly Trapdoor
July 27, 2012 9:12 PM   Subscribe

My friends and I are looking to move into this new place, and I can't help but feel there's something odd about the couple we're renting from...

The house is located in Hayward, CA if any real estate buffs can use that information.

The house is being worked on/renovated at the moment, but should be complete in a couple weeks for us to move in.

We found the house through a realtor that helped previous friends out, and it's not even on the market yet.

Sounds good so far?

We sit down to do paperwork with the home owners, and finding out we have 5 friends moving into the four rooms, they tell us they'll be charging $2800/mo instead of $2500/mo for a 12-month lease. Is this common?

Then the deposit for the entire renovated large house is only $1000. We're all still students, and they're only asking for deposit plus 1st and last month rent, and they don't require cosigners (none of us make more than comfortable living). We did fill out background check paperwork, however.

These are all novel things in my lifetime of house renting, and I'm wondering if my spidey sense is tingling for good reason, or if I'm over thinking a pretty welcoming opportunity.

They are foreign, and while that made for some minor difficulties in understanding one another, I felt there was a rush on their end to get the paperwork signed sealed and delivered.

What other questions should I be sure to address, and what other little details about the house/location/renters that should I consider?
posted by Mach3avelli to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Extra rent for extra people isn't strange to me but maybe that's a regional thing; most of my renting has occured in the Midwest. Related, there's probably something in your rental agreement saying you can't just bring in additional tenants besides the people who're on the lease (You'll probably all have to sign.) without going through the renters. You don't say who the "we" is here, so I'll guess just you and one other, but presumably you didn't tell the renters up front exactly how many people were involved, or you'd probably have had that conversation then.

The deposit seems maybe a bit low, but that plus first and last seems standard to me? I'm not at all seeing what you think is odd here.
posted by Su at 9:25 PM on July 27, 2012

First and last month is a deposit. That's their protection that you won't vacate with less than 30 days' notice. Seems standard even without the extra $1,000.
posted by Pomo at 9:39 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Charging more for more renters isn't uncommon (more people, more wear) though, it'd be more professional to say that up front.

The deposit is reasonable, considering that they are asking for two months' rent up front, which is a ton of money.

The rush to get the paperwork done is not abnormal. They've probably got a mortgage to pay, and without renters, they could be facing a tough situation. The sooner they can get someone locked up to pay the rent, the better.

I think you're probably fine, but always check the lease for anything weird. If it's a standard city model lease or something from a real estate association, all the better.

Renting an apartment always some risk, and there could in fact be something wrong with the house or situation. However, nothing you've written about in your post would indicate a greater chance of that.
posted by ignignokt at 9:42 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would make sure there's some provision for what happens if the renovation takes longer than expected. Because that happens sometimes even if everyone is acting in good faith.
posted by aubilenon at 9:46 PM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

$300 increase seems a bit expensive to me. One person doesn't cause $300/mo wear and tear.
posted by cogat at 10:01 PM on July 27, 2012

Yeah, I was thinking it would make more sense to perhaps charge a little more for the deposit with extra roommates. They confirmed with us that it was our responsibility to fill out/sublease extra rooms if someone moves out, and by that same logic, would it not be unreasonable to expect to pay less rent if fewer people live there? Or are we expected to pay more per month if one of the girls is pregnant and has a child?
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:13 PM on July 27, 2012

In my neck of the woods, to move into an apartment, you would need first, last, and security deposit, which is usually another month of rent. I could see that they may lower the SD for students to make it more affordable/attractive? Are you on a campus? Is it a thing at your school that apartments get trashed?
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:23 PM on July 27, 2012

And charging more on the deposit for one extra person makes them no money. Charging extra rent for extra people makes them a whole lot more money. This is basic business here.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:24 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Eh, I'm on the other side - $300 extra seems like a modest increase to me, particularly given that you're college students moving into something that will be treated as a group home. I lived in several such homes in college and they took a lot more abuse from 5 teenagers than, say the amount of abuse that 2 adults with children might inflict.

I'm not saying you guys aren't respectful and good tenants- I'm just saying that $300 extra to have a fifth person living with you doesn't seem like much.

Having lived in Berkeley for 6 years, this sounds like an ordinary lease to me.
posted by arnicae at 10:25 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree with arnicae--I think the extra $300/month is reasonable. Look at it this way: Going from 4 people in 4 rooms to 5 people in 4 rooms is a 0% increase in the space rented but a potential 25% increase (give or take) in other forms of resource consumption. It makes sense that the price bump for the fifth person would be somewhere in between, and as it turns out it's 12%.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 10:44 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds like they are cutting you a break by allowing you not to pay a deposit that is equal to one month's rent.

I think the additional $300/month may be reasonable if you're trying to fit more people into a house than they expected, but rent is always negotiable, and if I were you, and as long as you're all responsible, mature people with jobs, you're probably in a good position to negotiate a bit...
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:15 PM on July 27, 2012

First and last month is a deposit.

Not anyplace I've lived— the deposit is something that you either get back, or which pays for repairing damage you've done. Last month's rent is exactly that, pre-paying an extra month's rent.
posted by hattifattener at 11:59 PM on July 27, 2012

aubilenon: I would make sure there's some provision for what happens if the renovation takes longer than expected. Because that happens sometimes even if everyone is acting in good faith.

I'd say this is the biggest warning sign. Do you have a firm moving-in date? There's no way I'd sign a lease (let alone pay thousands of dollars) without one. I'd also suggest tracking down a local tenants' association or legal services organisation (if there is one) to find out what happens if you have a lease but the place isn't ready for you to move in.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:53 AM on July 28, 2012

I think the rental increase is totally bogus for a long term residential. The quoted price is for the HOUSE not for a per person rate. There is no real extra wear and tear on a house by 5 instead of 4 people. I would totally contest the rate increase. That sort of increase would imply that 1 person is going to make thousands of dollars worth of damage over the period o the lease. Which is rubbish - houses do not wear like that.

Are they also saying then, that the rent would decrease back to the normal rate if one person wants to move out. If you do accept their terms I would make sure to include this stipulation.
posted by mary8nne at 3:46 AM on July 28, 2012

Your question was asking if there is something "odd about the people".

The answer is "no", these folks haven't said or done anything odd.

The extra $$$'s for an extra person is not unreasonable, it would be unreasonable to believe that he/she would have NO impact in the wear and tear. (you didn't mention if the rent includes any utilities, in which case this additional person DOES make a difference).

You have few options: ask nice for a reduction in rent, accept the terms as they are, or be jerks and assume they are weird/unethical and treat them as such.
posted by HuronBob at 4:02 AM on July 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

First and last month PLUS $1000 sounds overboard to me --- every lease I've seen has been for first months' rent plus a security deposit equal to one months' rent.
$300 more for the 5th tenant --- does the rent include all utilities, gas/water/electric? (Phone lines and cable are NOT utilities, and are normally the tenants' business.) This makes sense if this higher rent DOES include utilities, but not otherwise.

Bonus note: Before you sign the lease, only do it AFTER a walkthrough to make sure all those renovations are COMPLETED --- do NOT hand over money for a place that is not finished and completely liveable! If you give them the money now, or move in before renovations are complete, you risk not only having lots pf people troop through your home without notice (the builders, the code inspectors, the owners themselves), but you also risk being legally stuck in a lease for a place with whatever they're renovating just abandoned and unfinished.
posted by easily confused at 4:04 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, last, and security equal to one month's rent is incredibly common where I live and there is absolutely nothing odd sounding about the money aspects of this to me.

I'd definitely ask them what they'll do if the renovations are not done on time and codify that in the lease somehow. Renting while the house is still being renovated is the only odd bit to me, but depending on the renovations could be perfectly reasonable.
posted by zizzle at 5:01 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cool, thanks guys. I'll remember to get certainty about the renovations.

It also pretty much worked out; we asked a lot of questions and asked if there was anything they could do to lower the price, and they brought it back down to $2500/mo. earlier tonight.

It's very accommodating of them. I feel in good hands.
posted by Mach3avelli at 7:18 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll go against the grain. If you have a bad feeling about something, it's often coming from somewhere. Everything looks good on paper, I agree. You might want to listen to the bad feeling some more. I also have had bad feelings about people who turned out to be looney old lady landlords who would come over 4/7 days a week and cry in my living room, let homeless people crash in the vacant unit in the duplex above, felt like it was OK to leave the key to said unit under the welcome matt and advertise said unit on craigslist with the address, etc. When I announced we needed to move out and no longer felt safe there, she told us that she would make it so we could never rent again. This was years ago. I still get rambling emails from her that sneak around my gmail filters as if I am her present tenant.

I just read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. It's big on trusting your gut -- or at least listening to what your gut is telling you rather than quickly rationalizing it away. My crazy landlord had me fill out background check paperwork, too, but had us sign a lease on the spot. Red flag. (If the background check had indicated we were felons, we had a legally binding right to be there for a year. We could assume that about our upstairs neighbors too.) I walked away from the situation saying that I'd had a bad feeling but it was such a perfect place that I tried to suppress it. The bad feeling was right. No cosigners or pre-lease background check sounds sketch to me.
posted by sweltering at 9:04 AM on July 28, 2012

As a lifetime Bay Arean, I can confirm that first + last + security deposit is absolutely ordinary and not in itself any kind of warning sign.

I also agree with sweltering that you should listen to your gut feeling and not rent this place if things feel off.
posted by Lexica at 11:20 AM on July 28, 2012

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