May 25, 2015 1:52 PM   Subscribe

I've found a very nice condo rental unit, with lots of the features on my "wish list." The big drawback is a "long-distance" landlord who is leaving me unsure about who's responsible for maintenance.

There are a few minor things that are already broken in the apartment, which he won't fix. I can have them fixed myself, but he's vacillating about who pays for repairs, now and in the future. He's made it extremely clear he wouldn't want me contacting him very often; only for emergencies.

It makes me nervous that when I try to pin him down, he becomes defensive, talks over me, and says no other potential tenant has asked all these questions. If it's this difficult to communicate before I've even paid any money, I'm concerned what would it be like once I've signed a lease?

I'm not a DIYer (that's why I prefer to rent), and would have to rely on friends or pay professionals, but it's really the uncertainty and his "you're getting a bargain, so don't bother me" mentality that concerns me.

Am I being overly cautious and passing up a wonderful apartment? Or is this a situation it would be better to walk away from?
posted by elphaba to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Run, don't walk. He's in sales mode and not being solicitous about your every issue? He'll be far, far worse once you're committed.
posted by Etrigan at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2015 [34 favorites]

Are you going to be getting a bargain? Then set aside some of what you would otherwise be paying and earmark it for repairs.

The landlord's position is a perfectly viable one and he will probably be able to find another tenant who will happily accept that deal if you decide to pass on the condo.

Your decision should hinge on whether or nor you want to be responsible for arranging repairs, and whether the other attractions of this rental are enough to offset the hassle of accepting that responsibility. Think of it as an additional, non-monetary cost associated with the apartment and decide whether it's something you're willing to pay.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:00 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd walk away. I have a long-distance landlord, but he is a responsible, communicative, and thus excellent landlord: I can text/call him at any time, he always gets back to me in 24 hours, and we agree that I call the local handyman first for repairs, and the handyman will invoice the landlord for anything beyond a minor issue. For example, I've paid the handyman out of pocket to do the basic things which I consider my responsibility: unclog the shower drain, change the batteries in the smoke detectors, etc. The landlord has paid for: A/C repair, two faucet repairs, a toilet replacement, a venting problem in the laundry room, and new air filters.

If there are bigger problems that the handyman can't handle (the A/C and venting problems, a new water heater in the near future), the landlord calls a different company, who then calls me for scheduling and bills him directly.

At no point has my landlord ever become dissmissive, defensive, or interruptive. He has only refused one request (I wanted a new washer, but the old one does still work to get my clothes clean, so I can't really complain just because I want a quieter/more efficient model).

I would never rent from a landlord who did not meet this level of responsiveness about repair issues or any other business we have to discuss.
posted by TwoStride at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'd walk away right now even without a clear answer. I've been in a few situations with landlords that were kind of a bully, and things never get better. You can hope nothing ever goes wrong but if it does you will probably be screwed. These are the same kinds of landlords who never return your deposit and you have to sue them to get it back.

If you were the kind of person who would just fix things themselves it can be a good setup, for sure. But it doesn't sound like you are. You have to be prepared to do stuff like, replace the refrigerator yourself because he won't return your calls. Some people are fine with that, some people aren't (I'm not).
posted by fanta_orange at 2:05 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

he's vacillating about who pays for repairs, now and in the future

Bet you he won't be vacillating about who's on the hook for repair payments once he's got you locked into a commitment. If this is the best this guy can do while he's blasted WOOING you (or other potential renters), there is no way in hell I'd want to do business with him as a tenant. He's not suddenly going to become more cooperative, I promise.

Life is way too short for shitty landlords. Keep looking.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:29 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by jbenben at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

While I don't specifically disagree with those telling you to run away, if you want to give this "wonderful" apartment one more chance, you could point-blank ask if there is a local superintendent or management company to whom you should be directing these concerns instead. If so, great; if not, then run away. If he is remote, doesn't like to get phone calls, and has no local presence, forget it.

Also, he pays for all repairs and maintenance. That's just... yeah. Tenant doesn't have to pay for any of that stuff. As you say, that's the point of renting.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:42 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a long-distance landlord (although I have a local friend who's the first point of contact) and I can't even imagine trying to make a tenant pay for repairs on things they didn't break. Even repairs on things they *did* break would come out of their deposit first - there's no way I'd let the place deteriorate around a tenant, because in the end it's my equity and the unit's continued rentability that I'm on the hook for. If this guy isn't willing to deal with totally normal landlord stuff, you don't want him as a landlord.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:44 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yeah, don't do this. They're already not wanting to fix things nor even be in contact.

I had a HORRIBLE experience with a long distance landlord. I ended up having to sue to get my deposit back. Suing a landlord that lives in a different state is also a HUGE pain!

I'd not rent this place.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:08 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

To avoid a derail, the court procedures depend on state laws. It overall was very messy and complicated. I sued her. She eventually sent a check, so we didn't have to go to court. It literally took MONTHS to get that though, and she was very shifty about her addresses. I don't think she really live where she said she did, and their court paper server couldn't even FIND her or get in contact for weeks.

I'm sure it would have been much easier with someone local, and there's not as much of a mess with dealing with different court rules across states. With someone out of town it's really hard to know that what they're telling you is even true as far as where they live, etc, which is all needed for a court case. Go through a local person or a management company. If you do go through a single person, be sure to double check that their contact information is legitimate. This rental you're looking at has far too many red flags.

Edit: I suppose the comment I responded to was removed. If this a derail, flag and move on! Sorry!
posted by Crystalinne at 4:44 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a long-distance landlord who uses a local real estate management company to handle all business with me (I pay rent and ask for repairs entirely through them). This is the sensible way for landlords to do that kind of thing. Don't rent from someone who can't be bothered to do it right.
posted by asperity at 4:45 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I moved i to a place like this. The fridge broke and the landlord refused to pay more than half and tried to blame me(...for the fan burning out, and other you know, it wore out and broke issues). Two repair guys said what she was accusing me of was impossible and didn't make any sense.

She violated the law, and i didn't have a fridge for like a month while i tried to force her to deal with. Eventually i had to buy a fridge.

This was the tip of the iceberg, and she would always ignore me, be annoyed that i contacted her, or feign not understanding what i had said/mishearing me or forgetting or whatever to not pay for or deal with stuff. The place slowly fell apart, and i ended up having to spend money over and over to make it livable.

It was REALLY cheap for what it was and the location, but i'd never do it again. It cost me a meh amount of money that was in theory still a good deal, but was just a lot of stress and anguish(and fighting with roommates over how to deal with it, which may not apply to you) and some of the failures to deal with things actually damaged my clothing and property over time.

Also, both with my landlord and several friends who had similar landlords, expect to be blamed for damage to stuff that was there/fell apart due to their negligence. Expect for some friend of theirs to go by and say the gutter fell off or whatever and then them to call you out of the blue blaming you.

These are also the types of landlords to come to town and just let themselves in to the house to "inspect for things that need repair" or whatever with no notice and other illegal fuckery like that.

What they're telling you here is valuable information, mainly that they wont even do the legal bare minimum potentially. In a lot of places there's both basic things that have to be dealt with, and "normal wear and tear" items like carpet that they have to maintain and replace every X years. If they're saying they wont even do that, they're literally saying "i am a slumlord".

posted by emptythought at 6:10 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, that was my comment, Crystalinne. I really appreciate your follow-up, and have no idea if my comment was eaten, or if it was removed. Much obliged!
posted by jpolchlopek at 7:11 PM on May 25, 2015

My son was very nearly the victim of the same scam that's discussed in this AskMe. The details were a little bit different because he was in a different country but the flavour was the same. Your situation sounds distressingly similar. Any landlord who doesn't want to communicate with you will be a nightmare. Please run as far as possible from this.
posted by angiep at 7:14 PM on May 25, 2015

He sounds like an idiot. A landlord should want a tenant who reports issues *before* they become emergencies! Like, a water leak is a minor fix until it isn't and your now your "asset" is uninhabitable and requiring significant repairs.

I rented for 7 years in a place that hadn't been decorated since dinosaurs were around, but they always fixed things really promptly. The cosmetic stuff doesn't bother me, my place was cheaper than the norm for the location because of the ancient decor, but when the hot water system busted I sure appreciated that they fixed it in a matter of hours, and they were very appreciative that I'd called at the first sign of

If he has a local manager, it doesn't matter how far he is (I've never had personal dealings with a landlord, always through a real estate agent which is the norm here). But if he is going to manage it himself and is acting like this now? Eeek, run for sure.
posted by kitten magic at 9:35 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

For someone not comfortable doing their own repairs, you should say no to this place. As an example of a good rental situation: I have a long distance landlord. He offered me a (kinda big) break in the rent in exchange for me taking care of repairs. I negotiated with him to cover repairs costing less than $X in exchange for a little bit less break in the rent. The landlord has an agreement with a local contractor whom I call in case of problems, who comes over and assesses the situation and arranges for the repairs to be done. It works rather well; I can fix my own toilet and doorbell and unclog my own drains, but the contractor fixed a major plumbing issue and a radiator problem. I only email/text the landlord for emergencies (like the plumbing problem which was expensive to fix and needed to be taken care of ASAP to avoid further damage). Otherwise, I just call the contractor.
posted by bluefly at 6:08 AM on May 26, 2015

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