Advice about Being a Renter
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Advice about Being a Renter
Landlord not returning deposit
Our landlord delays returning the deposit, and also starts to find reasons long
after we moved out why less than planned should be returned. We are wondering
which point to move this over to a lawyer and what we could hope for down the
road. The landlord may be stubborn or may have a hard time gathering founds to
pay us back. In the scenario we were to win the case in court/with a judge's
rule, if the landlord still doesn't pay for one of those reasons, is there any
way he can be forced or any pressure? Can he be prevented from renting out the
property in the future? Or is there any other incentive for him to arrange his
priorities to find the money? To phrase it very bluntly, I'm wondering what's
the point of taking the landlord to court if he would not be able to gather the
More details about the situation: The landlord inspected the property briefly
before we left, didn't find any damages and didn't voice any other concerns. We
suggested the landlord arranges a cleaning service (1 to 2 days) after we leave
and deducts the amount from the deposit. A month later, we reminded him of the
deposit, but got a grumpy response blaming us for having caused more work than
expected, in vague terms. This came as a surprise a our relationship had always
been friendly and we accepted occasional problems with no complaints (such as
delayed repairs, on one occasion causing a flood in the bathroom, one day the
water was shut off because landlord didn't pay that bill in time etc).
Thanks for any thoughts on this matter.
As a new-ish landlord the books I've read state that he is (was) required to
give back all the deposit 21 days after the end of the tenancy or part with an
itemized list of expenses for the balance. I think small claims court is the way
CA law requires a landlord to provide a written description of deductions from
security deposit within 21 days after a tenant moves out. If the landlord does
not do this within 21 days, s/he lose the right to deduct anything and must
return the entire deposit.
Here's the link to the CA Dept of Consumer Affairs which outlines your rights
and obligations. It also has resources for who you can turn to for help in
getting your back.
Your landlord is required to return your deposit within 2-3 weeks. When the
deadline is missed, there is plenty you can do about it. Contact the Oakland or
Berkeley Rent Board (wasn't sure where the rental is located) and file a formal
complaint. From your post, it sound like there weren't any problems with the
apartment when you left. Pursue this aggressively with your city agency before
hiring an attorney. Landlord
My experience was 20 years ago, but here it is. Our landlord did not return our
deposit and wouldn't even talk to us or return our messages. We got a Nolo Press
book about rental law and decided to sue him. He didn't show up to court, so we
won our deposit plus punitive damages. However, he never paid it. We were told
that we would have to pay more money to hire a collection agency or to try to
put a lien on the house, and neither of those seemed like they would yield any
money. A few years later, another landlord tried the same thing. I wrote him a
letter quoting the law and the possibility of penalties, and he gave me a check
immediately. Basically, your landlord has a certain period of time after you
move out to send you an itemized list of damages. If he hasn't given you that,
he forfeits his rights to keep any of the deposit at all. The first step I would
recommend is to get a copy of the Nolo Press book and send him a demand letter
for the deposit, citing the exact laws that he is breaking and the penalties.
Some Landlords Suck
Is it legal/ethical for a landlord to request that you pay for
ALL repairs or insurance deductible for a house you are
renting? I am considering renting a newly remodeled house that
has a one year ''home warranty'' and some sort of insurance. The
owner has stated I would probably be responsible for the $40
insurance copay whether a repair was warranted by anything I
have caused or not. Is this legal? If not, how should I broach
the subject with her?
I would not mind if I caused something to break but with new
copper pipes/water heater etc. isn't there always the possiblity
of things that were not completed correctly even if they did
I have been a renter for 18 years, in several different
apartments and at least one house. I have NEVER had a landlord
ask me to pay the deductible on their insurance! All of the
rental contracts that I've ever signed have said that the owner
would be responsible for repairs due to ''normal wear and tear'',
not the tenant. There are also minimum standards which rental
property must meet (operable windows, functioning heaters, no
vermin, etc.) -- a rental property must meet these minimum
standards before a landlord can legally collect rent at all.
I'm not a lawyer so I can't say for sure if what your potential
landlord is asking for is actually illegal, but it most
certainly is not reasonable. No matter how much you like this
particular house, if I were you I would pass and look for
something where the landlord is more reasonable.
With a rental, the tenant is responsible for anything that they
break, damage, etc. The tenant is not responsible for ''normal''
wear and tear. Also, the landlord is responsible for providing
you with a ''habitable'' living space.
So if you broke something, then yes, the landlord should charge
you for the repair. If something just quit working (like the
stove or hot water heater) or the new copper pipes start
leaking, then no, the landlord could not charge you for it.
So no, it is not legal/ethical for a landlord to request that
you pay for ALL repairs or insurance deductible for a house you
are renting (unless you caused all the damage).
If this is the type of landlord you would have, frankly I
recommend you don't rent the property. Sounds like she will be
more trouble than she is worth. If you still want to rent the
house, tactfully educate the landlord on the law before you
move in. If she still wants to rent to you, then at least
you're both on the same page.
I don't know what city you're in, but single family homes are
exempt from rent control. If something breaks and she tries to
charge you for it and you don't pay and it pisses her off, she
can force you to move at the end of your lease, or in 30 days
if you're on a month to month rental.
Like I said, it might not be worth the hassle.
We are just concluding a relationship with a landlord who has
been very reticent to make necessary repairs. We have really
had to push her to hire adequate work people and prioritize our
health and well-being over her pocketbook. That said, the best
places we have found to start for resources on this subject are:
and for issues regarding lead abatement Alameda county has the
following web site (not applicable to you if this is new
housing but of interest to others):
Good luck, and do think twice about the headaches that may
arise while renting from a landlord who is showing early signs
of shirking their duties to maintain THEIR property for which
they get all the tax benefits and income but which is YOUR
HOME, something they easily overlook. And yes, as my husband
the builder will tell you, there can be problems with new
construction and the owner should be taking this up with the
tradespeople who should be guaranteeing their work for some
period of time. Since you are not the owner and do not know
who to quesion in matters of quality and these tradespeople
have no legal obligation to you it makes no sense to put you in
this position. My two cents.
another renter looking for home
Absolutely not. Here is the breakdown in general:
- Breakage due to mis-use: Tenant pays
- Wear and tear, home maintenance: Landlord pays (100%, not part)
This landlord is nuts. I don't know what the specific law is, but
if they ask you to sign an agreement that is not aligned with the
law, the law will supercede the agreement. However.... why sign
any agreement when you are sure to see things needing repair over
time? That's just asking for a difficult relationship.
We are a four-person family living in a rented house with a small
backyard. We would love to take advantage of the outdoor space,
but the ''grass'' covering most of the lot is little more than
prickly weeds, and there are many patches where even weeds don't
grow. This year I've sworn that I'm going to make the space
usable for kid games, outdoor dining, maybe even a slide...but
I'm not sure how to begin. Would it make more sense to plant
grass (what kind?) or to cover the area with some sort of mulch
or wood chips (what kind?) Has anyone ever managed to talk their
landlord into sodding a yard? If so, what sort of argument did
you use? Thanks for all suggestions.
I can give you advise from a landlord's perspective. We are interested in long-term,
happy tenants and increasing/keeping up the value of the property. If you want the
landlord to pay for the yard to be sodded, I would get a bid (or list of costs if
doing it yourself) and a plan of how it will be maintained. Someone needs to mow
the lawn and water it. Here are some ways to approach the landlord: the house
would be easier to rent with the improvements; you could offer to pay for half or do
the labor; you could offer to sign a one-year lease (as opposed to being month-to-
month); you could also offer to pay for everything to be done and then have them
discount the rent for a period of time instead of them paying the costs all up front.
Lawns take maintenence and so aren't my version of family-
friendly. You can have good results from weed-eating the weeds
down to the ground, covering the whole area with layers of wet
newspaper or cardboard, and then wood-chip mulching over the top
(I think the ''dump'' will even deliver a truckload of chips, but
I haven't researched this yet)... after a couple of years, it
all breaks down and is a plantable area, so you haven't done
anything permanent, and you've kept the weeds from taking over,
so someone can plant a lovely garden there...
EBMUD has put out a book with inspiring pictures of cool
backyards ''Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates.'' good
So I am throwing this out to the lovely people on this list--I
need some help reconciling myself to living as a renter for a
long long time (so long as we live in The Bay Area, I guess...)
We are a four-member one-income family, and got ''stuck'' here
post-grad school. We are lucky in that one of us has a job with
benefits, and that we have a place we can pretty much afford to
rent in a good neighborhood (schools, services, etc). We are
applying for jobs elsewhere, but in the meantime are living our
lives here. Pretty well. One can stay at home with our little
kids, and we get to do fun stuff on weekend
But I am so sad we can't buy a house, not even a condo. Even if
we could swing the mortgage, the taxes and other fees would kill
us. So I want to make peace with this. The American Dream
oppresses me, and I'm jealous of anyone who could get it together
to buy something earlier, before the market was nuts, and really
jealous of those who can do it now...I don't want to feel bad
about this anymore. And sometimes I don't...but lots of times I do.
Help me out, guys. Are there other long-term-renters-because-we-
have to/want to out there? Anyone wishing they did not own a
house? There are lots of things we can do because we live in The
Bay Area, and I know we are lucky in many ways. I'm just having
a hard time with this, and could use some help.
The American Dream Gives me Nightmares
You are not alone. I am in my mid 20s, born and raised in the
Bay Area and feel no matter what, I will be renting for the rest
of my life and my future children will never know the joys of
growing up in a house with a yard I as I. Moving out the area
currently is simply not an option. Besides, I have no clue about
living in other areas. I too am highly envious of anyone who can
afford these expensive homes. More sickened the prices people are
willing and ABLE to pay. Unfortunately, I am in a dead-end
career that will never advance in rank or salary. Remember a LOT
of these people have parents/family that are able to assist them
in purchasing their first home. They are not doing it alone, at
least a lot of them are not. Some have, some have not. Just be
glad we are able to even afford to rent!
A disgruntled renter
I'm not sure what your financial situation is like but, there
are affordable housing programs out there to help out. I know
several people who have gone through them. Just check out the
city website of your choice and see what they have to offer.
You could also look into a Lease to Own Program the one that I
know of is California Home Source. I believe that Homeownership
is a great reality for you here in the Bay Area. You just have
to know where to look.
Good Luck! I know you guys will get a piece of the American
Happy Homeowner who never that I would be too!
I don't think you are living a bad life and should feel
deprived by not having a house. The fact that one of you can
stay home with your child is so great. We bought a house a few
years ago and we have to rely on two incomes for the time being
to make it.
That said, buying a house or condo is tough, but not as tough
as I thought it would be. The thing that got things rolling for
us is we first went to a financial planner who was able to get
us set up to start putting money aside in IRAs and other
invesments. Then, we got pre qualified to see what we could
afford and ended up qualifying for way more than we can imagine
(nor did we want to strap ourselves that high). We set our
limit on what we would pay and did not compromise on that. We
did, however, have to compromise on location and the type of
house we wanted. But, it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time
(we wanted a more urban location and ended up in the hills
where there aren't even any sidewalks). And, we ended up with a
two bedroom house when we wanted 3. But, in the end, we love
our house and it's worked out for us. We had to give up some of
our lifestyle, but we've made a nice nest egg for ourselves.
I think you need to decide what works for you, what your needs
are, and work toward that. Owning a house in this cost
prohibitive environment is not nescessarily a good way to
invest your money. I do think, tho, that you should be putting
money away for retirement or investing some part of what you'd
pay on a house into a nest egg that could somehow replace
We also got some very sound advice from friends of my in-laws.
She was a public school teacher and he was a house painter.
They did not make a lot of money, but bought their first
apartment building in San Francisco years ago. They told us
that it is never a good time to get into the market and always
a great time to get into the market. They said they always
bought at the peak of the market and they always made money.
And, their most sound piece of advice to us was: don't fall in
love with anything...buy something you can stand.
I see friends holding out for the perfect house. Stop being so
picky and buy what makes sense. Make sure you're getting good
value for what's being offered.
Don't let this market rule you. If you want to buy, figure out
what you can afford and what you're willing to sacrifice. In
the end, you may decide you are better off renting or you may
buy but at least you'll have made a decision rather than
letting this market intimidate you.
I don't know if this helps, but we just had to sell our house
in the east bay because we couldn't swing it. We bought it
about 2 years ago. We thought the mortgage was high but that we
would be able to do it. And everything you said about the
property taxes, etc killing us, happened. We are a two income
family and stil couldn't do it. Its sad. I don't know how other
people do it. But part of it is that we just don't feel like
being house poor for the rest of our lives. We want to be able
to go on vacation again, and save for retirement and save for
our kids college. We were living month to month, on two pretty
sturdy salaries! We don't have fancy cars, we don't buy exp
clothes. But we still couldn't afford to get repairs done on
the house without getting...yes... a home equity loan (I think
that is how a lot of people do it). And i just didn't feel
comfortable with all that debt. So we are still deciding what
to do. There are still some affordable homes I think in places
like Martinez...Anyway, I cannot tell you the relief of selling
that place. At first it seemed like the American dream and then
the mortgage and taxes and repairs started weighing us down and
it turned into a nightmare. Financial security is MY new
dream...hey, maybe the market will crash soon and we can feel
like we were really smart for selling/waiting until that
non owner relief
I also have nightmares about not owning a house. It plagues me
often. I don't have any suggestions on how to stop the angst but
what I keep telling myself that the funds I have now are very
well spent on my kids. I don't have to say ''Sorry, we own a
house and it needs a roof before you can have XYZ.'' Enjoy the
years with your kids.&! nbsp; They'll be out of the nest faster than
you'd ever expect. Give them life experiences to learn from and
remember, it's the caring and love of a close family that
counts, not the physical place. I've seen too many 'houses' that
aren't 'homes.' I praise myself for building a home where my
kids feel safe and loved. This thinking works most of the time
for me, except for those 3 am worry sessions!
Renter for Life
Never say never. I was a renter in Berkeley almost all
the time my kids were growing up (they are college aged now).
We didn't own a house
till one kid was in middle school and the other was
in high school. Not only that, but we lived most
of that time in the same 1.5 bedroom apartment we were
in when they were born! Their shared bedroom was a sunporch! It
was a nice neighborhood in the Elmwood and they had a great
public school, but nearly all their friends lived in very nice houses
and we sure felt like oddball poverty cases. The reason why:
we didn't want to leave Berkeley, we had English-major jobs,
and after the 2nd one was born, I wanted to quit my crappy
government job and stay home with the kids, while my husband paid
the expenses with his crappy government job. So we didn't have the
money to buy, or even to move to a bigger place. Even though
I loved being able to stay home with my kids, we really felt
that we'd never be able to afford a house and we never pursued it.
Maybe we should have. But ... during the time I
was at home raising the kids, I decided to go back to school so I
could make more money one day and live in a house in Berkeley! I
went into a field that pays better than crappy government work,
and eventually, after years of graduate school, part-time jobs,
student loans, little kids during the day and homework at night,
was eventually able to buy a house in Berkeley with practically
no down payment. I was terrified to buy a house, was
terrified of the debt and the unbelievably high monthly payments,
especially after accumulating years and years of student loans
and substantial Visa balances just to meet monthly expenses. But
we did it, and now, 6 years later, wow am I glad we did.
Buying a house is a lot like having kids - there is never
a right time if you have a modest income and sometimes you just
have to shut your eyes, take the leap, and hope for the best.
But definitely there is no shame in renting, and there is always
the hope that things will happen later when the kids are older.
You signed your message ''The American Dream Gives Me
Nightmares'' -- well, it gives me nightmares too, but the
nightmare is owning, not not-owning. I was a long-term renter
who ended up buying the house I had rented for 9 years. I owned
the house for a short period of time then sold it & am now a
renter again, and what a relief! I'm a single parent with two
kids and only my modest income to rely on. I found it extremely
stressful to be the owner of our house. Here are some things
you don't have to worry about: repairs & maintenance of the
house (e.g. expensive plumbing or electrical problems), damage
or destruction of the house (e.g. earthquake), a crash of the
real estate market & therefore loss of home value, also you
don't need to be stuck with an insoluble neighborhood nuisance
(because you can move), and you can't be sued for negligence
(someone slips on your front walk), etc. OK, some of these are a
little far-fetched, but you can still sign me
Happy to be a renter again.
My friend, you are not alone.
When I came here from Southern California, I thought I'd be a
homeowner by now. It isn't going to happen anytime soon, if at
all, on our salaries. My boyfriend and I have a daughter, and
we are not married though we are considering it. I've chosen to
pay higher rent so that our preschooler can attend public school
when she hits kindergarten. My plan is to save the money I paid
the preschool so that we can make some investments for college
and a home. If we do get married, it won't be a big, fancy
I know we could own a home if we moved to Las Vegas or Arizona,
but I love the politics here, and we are a bi-racial couple who
can enjoy each other with a minimum of racism. I've read The
Millionaire Next Door, and I'm trying to apply the principles of
frugality, but I know we may need to leave to be financially
secure sooner. So far, we've chosen cultural diversity and the
natural beauty of the Bay Area over immediate financial
security. I haven't given up, though.
Here's my two cents worth: Every time my husband and I talk about
what's next for us, as San Francisco renters, we always come to a
couple of conclusions:
We love living here because of the lifestyle of the city; we
simply wouldn't live in a lot of other places even if it meant we
could buy. We've concluded that this is the cost of having
access to all the wonderful things in the area we live. I'm sure
you've heard all that before--but as you already said in your
email, think about what you _can_ afford because you're renting.
You have a greater choice of where you live, access to the great
resources there, and, I assume, more liquidity to buy things
you'd like for you and your family, to travel, to eat good food,
Many people may subscribe to the tyranny of the American Dream,
but don't kid yourself that things are any better or easier for
them, not least of all financially. Yes, we could scrape enough
together for a meager down-payment on a house. But we'd have a
colossal mortgage and we simply aren't prepared to take on such
enormous debt. Most of our friends who own houses are up to
their eyeballs in hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage
debt, have risky ARMs, and have put down little down payment on
their homes. In reality, they don't own their houses--the bank
does. And with the high levels of debt many of them carry, any
change in their income (or with those on ARMs, any significant
increase in interest rates) is going to have a big effect on
their ability to afford their mortgage payments and sustain their
current pace of day-to-day living.
There's a great societal pressure to ignore all this risk as the
inevitable cost of owning a home, especially for those of us in
our late 20s and 30s who are perhaps also starting to have
children. I lived in rented homes with my parents all through my
late teens and am no worse off for it. I do wonder what it would
have been like to grow up in the same house all my life, but I
think the relative mobility of our family lifestyle only enriched
my experience of life in the long run. This is not to say that
renting makes you a permanent nomad moving from one area (and
school) to the next; it needn't at all.
Yes, like you, I am sorry that we didn't buy a house several
years back. Now we could never buy a $650K home in the Castro or
Bernal Heights as some of our friends have. But don't let
yourself get too down about ''missing out'' on some pre-boom glory
days either. We don't have to deal with nasty neighbors who we
know will live alongside us for the rest of our lives (or theirs,
I suppose). When something in the house gets broken we can just
call our landlords (and because we're lucky and they're great,
they will fix it right away). We don't have to pay exhorbitant
property taxes because of the dreadful Prop 13. And because we
live in a rent-controlled unit, we can predict how much our rent
will increase--which does away with one of the arguments against
renting, that you can never know how much you'll be paying.
Steel yourself against the American Housing Dream--sure, it would
be nice to have our own place, but there really is so much more
to living than owning a home!
Please don't beat yourself up for not owning. I own, but
I can assure you, it is through no cleverness or foresight on my
part. I would be a renter today if not for an agressive landlady
who, 7 years ago, threatened me with legal action to get me out
(she wanted to sell, even though I had a lease with 9 more months
on it). It was my fear of having another litigious/unreasonable
landlord that drove me to buy. At the time, I was furious with
her (she even cheated me $250 out of my deposit!) It wasn't
until much later that I realized she had done me a favor.
know I got lucky
! Well, I can totally relate. So often I want to get out of this
area for it, but where else can you get the beauty, weather,
attitude, fresh variety of food and salaries??? My husband is a
carpenter and wouldn't get paid his salary any where else. We
are a two-income household raising one child at this point and
as much as we want another, we are concerned about the cost of
it. We rent, have rented forever and don't see an end to it.
The housing market went up 17% last quarter!!!! It's crazy...
We don't even go out much-- one movie in two years!! We spend
most of our money on food because we care about what we put in
We have even moved to Pleasant Hill b/c we could no longer
afford Berkeley/Oakland. We rent a 2 bed/1 bath house with no
insulation, a wall unit heater, old windows. The electricity is
so bad that often blow a fuse when we make toast!! We don't
have a dishwasher or a microwave b/c we don't have the
electricity to handle it!! We have a huge yard and are in a
good school district, but like I said, it's not ours and they
can give us notice anytime!
The fixer-uppers go for so much that by the time you get in
them, you can't afford to fix them up, even with a carpenter
for a husband! We will never be able to afford a house and it
is so discouraging. I remember looking at houses 6 years ago
and thinking the costs were ridiculous-- back then we thought
the bubble must burst and it is still growing!! I can not
believe people will pay over a half a million dollars for a non-
updated 2 bed/1 bath where you can't even tell which bedroom is
the master, the kitchen is too small to eat in and the garage
won't fit a car! The people have driven the market up this
high, if people refused to pay those prices, then it never
would have gotten so out of hand....
In the 60's, my parents bought their house for less than we
bought our used car two years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!
Prices of things have increased but salaries have not followed
similarly, yet both my husband and I get paid more than we
could in other places.....
Bush isn't helping as he works for the rich and there is an
increasing separation between the rich and everyone else-- the
middle class is disappearing...
I'm with you.... I envy those that have it, I wish we could but
I could not see strapping ourselves so tight either!!!
Perplexed in Pleasant Hill
are you me???? or do you have my rented house bugged? your post is almost
verbatim the conversation my husband and i have on a weekly non-stop basis.
i used to think i was the president of the ''i-really-hate-that-i-can't-afford-to-
buy-a-shack-club'' but i guess you can be my co-president!. does it make you
feel ANY better that you are soooooooooooooo not alone? i sense you will
receive MANY replies which say the same thing.
just when i think i've made
peace with the fact i'm throwing so many thousands of dollars away on rent,
i'm all to often reminded (usually an in-law or other well-meaning family
member) throws the old ''when are you two going to buy a house?'' right back
at me! ugh!
we even went so far as to take a family vacation to portland back
in september and actually met with a realtor there. spent days with this
woman and saw so many lovely homes. all somewhat affordable,
unbelievably! we did the research on the school
districts, visited all the neighborhoods, asked for advice from this network and
had to come to the conclusion that....we love the bay area even though we
can't afford it. it would be a lovely life up there in the rain, but for some
reason i still stay here.
i see my friends paying mortgages that are twice my rent for dinky little
houses and condos in ''okay'' neighborhoods. just makes me crazy!
i love ''my'' house! i wish i could afford to buy it though! so i have my good
days and i have my bad days and i continue to pay my rent on time and scour
all the real estate web sites. and it's not just here. oh no....i've looked! central
valley, sacramento, north, south...can't afford anything in the entire state! boy
did we miss the boat! if only i had known the market would go all screwy, i
would have begged, borrowed or stolen to buy SOMETHING while we were back
in college...what, 9 years ago?
it's funny though, because on one hand, it sucks. but on the other hand, we're
living in a nice house, in a great neighborhood. i just can't bring myself to go
into $500,000+ debt to live in a mediocre house.
I just wanted to throw another perspective out there on 'the
American dream' of home-ownership. As a homeowner, I think this
is a bit overrated! For us, having a home has meant constant
fixing, repairing, remodeling all at a vast expense. It's hard
to find quality tradespeople and when you do, they often cost a
small fortune. As you mentioned, the property tax is sky high
and I literally dread every time we get those bills - it's such
a chunk of money! If mortgage rates go up, I think a lot of
homeowners will have a really hard time maintaining their
mortgages - possibly us included and that's something I rea! lly
worry about. While a lot of people might be living the American
dream of homeownership and loving it, from my perspective it has
actually brought a LOT of expense, headache and hassle. I often
think about returning to renting and how liberating that would
be. As far as buying another home, if we ever wanted to or
needed to move in the Bay Area, we would find it equally
difficult as we've been priced out of pretty much everywhere.
American Dream is not what it's cracked up to be
I feel exactly the same way that you do! Your entire situation
fits us to a 't'! The trick is... to be content with what you
have. There is a reason that you have not been able to purchase
your own home yet. Try to accept that and enjoy the wonderful
life you have. If you ever want to talk about it, feel free to
We've been renters in the Bay Area for 12 years! I've felt the
same way as you many times, but my father in law was the one
that told us ''There is nothing wrong with renting!'' And you
know what? He's right! Like when our toilet breaks, or the
washer floods - we call a plumber and it comes out of our rent,
it's our landlord's responsibility! We have also gotten to
rent houses that we would have NEVER been able to afford to
buy, and now live in a beautiful big home, and negotiated the
rent down over the years! We will be moving sometime (yet
we're still here), but I can easily say that our homes here in
the Bay Area have been nice - and I'm glad we were able to live
in these great neighborhoods even for a time. Enjoy what
blessings you have...
I totally understand where you are coming from. We only recently
bought a house in a just okay neighborhood in Oakland. I really wanted
to own a house, to do what everyone else seemed to be doing, be have
the American Dream. Because of this desire, we financed almost 100%
of our home and now are even more broke than before. When we get
the morgage statement, the amount we owe is actually increasing. We
have no time or money for the needed home improvement, either. For
example, the other day after the fierce rain storm, I noticed that our roof
was leaking. We'll have to figure it out ourselves as there is no landlord
to call. What I am getting at is that I wish we had waited until the time
was right. I let myself get caught up in the race and now I feel as if we
are struggling just to keep our tenuous hold. &nbs! p; My advice is to try and not
let what everyone else is doing effect how you feel about renting/not
owing. You are doing what is best for your family and if you live in a
nice neighborhood with great schools you are lucky! I find myself
fantasizing about renting again, precisely because then I could be in a
neighborhood that would be safe to walk in at night with decent schools!
The grass is always greener
Hi. well, here's our deal: we rented for 6 years in Kensington
a house that had a mold problem though was very cheap in a
really nice area, private large front and back yards where we
saw deer birthing in the spring, etc. so last year we managed
to buy a nice fixer upper house in a not so nice area of
Richmond with abyssmal public schools, very few trees in the
neighborhood but feels safe enough. I love my daughter's
private school but we honestly can't afford! it and the
mortagage, etc. (Meaning we are charging groceries, no
vacations, no new clothes, few if any concerts, etc. which
doesn't suit me well. ) And we are commuting 15-35 minutes each
way to my child's school on the highway depending on traffic,
which really stresses me out. So it is nice to own the house
and the values are continuing to rise but I wonder if it's
still a better time to rent, you can stay in a much better area
and use public schools if you are so inclined or forced to do
so. plus I've heard there are bound to be many forclosures in
possibly 5 years if the economy continues and people who have
taken out humongous loans with 5 year ARM where rates might go
up, etc. so maybe prices will go way down then? If you can stay
home with your little one, do fun stuff on weekends, and live
in the Bay Area I think you've got LOTS of good reasons to keep
on renting happily.
We are in the same boat- would love to buy a house here, but
can't afford to, and I have also, at times, felt rather depressed
about the whole situation. However, recently I've realized one
very big advantage to renting: flexibility. We moved into a new
rental a few months ago. It seemed like a great place, but only
after we moved I realized that the neighborhood wasn't actually
all that great. Well, fortunately, since we are renting, we can
move again once our lease is up. Obviouly, this would be much
more difficult had we bought a house. Also, once our child
reaches school age, it will be much easier to move to a preferred
neighborhood - but we don't have to worry about that yet!
Learning to appreciate renting
Just had to add my 2 cents -have you really done the math on
what buying a house would cost/save you? It might be a whole
lot better or worse than you think, for instance, renting might
allow you to send your child to a good public school, saving
you tuition on private school whereas the property tax on a
house in the same neighborhood might cost a fortune. On the
other hand, the interest you would pay on your mortgage is a
deduction on your taxes - instead of the 9,700 standard
deduction, we got to take a 14,000 dollar deduction for the
interest alone this year. If you really sit down and look at
all the numbers, you can figure out what makes sense
financially for you. If owning makes sense for you in the long
run, there is no reason you can't do it - get an FHA loan, 100%
fin! ancing, buy something with an in-law unit that you can rent
out for extra income, or whatever, there is always a way if it
is important to you. If on the other hand, you realize that it
just doesn't make sense for you, then be at peace with that and
enjoy the life you have - many people don't even have the
option to live the life you do in the Bay Area.
In any case, good luck to you
Fellow renter, I know EXACTLY how you feel. I often get angst-ridden measuring
myself against other parents or friends who own their own homes. For me, the
desire to own never really surfaced until we became parents a few years ago. Since
then, I have felt an intense pressure to buy a house, like so many ''other'' families
seem to have done. I too, stay home with our child, and we are hoping to expand
our family in the next year or two. So, with that one income, it is literally
to swing a mortgage with all those lovely taxes each month. My husband dreams of
owning a home before we conceive our second child. If that criterion were really to
hold weight, there will be a tremendous age gap between our first and second born.
I am trying to not feel ''lesser than'' just because we rent. I mean, our value as
people, as parents, mates, friends, and community members shouldn't be
determined by whether we own our own home. Intellectually, I know that the most
important thing is be loving, compassionate parents (who happen to rent). Showing
our children affection, respect, consideration and loving guidance are the best
things we can give them. Having a house is truly secondary to that. Hopefully for
your family, as well as mine and all other dreamers of home owning, we will be able
to buy in the bay area, in a matter of time. I just have to keep reminding myself and
my husband that it will happen, someday, and the long! er we wait, the more our
investments will grow, helping us with our down payment. Take heart, fellow renter.
And hey, if you ever want to get together and commiserate, or start a casual
''support'' group for renting parents, I'd be thrilled to get together.
want that house
My son and I just moved to Oakland to be closer to his school.
We rented a 3 bedroom house for a very large amount, and had
plans to eventually rent the third bedroom out to either a
student or au-pair to help with child care when I travel for
business. An hour before I signed the lease, I discovered that
the house had an in-law unit, which was never mentioned by the
landlord. When I asked about it, he said that this unit was
empty, and that he had not decided whether to rent it out
eventually, or if he would keep it for his own occasional use
when in town (he lives elsewhere). I asked him about the level
of noise, since I like to listen to my stereo and my son and I
like to dance. He said that I could do whatever, and that no one
would hear a thing. I asked him about the utilities and he said
that he would pay me back for the days he would stay there. I
felt comfortable so I signed a year lease.
The weekend I moved in, my landlord and his ''girlfriend''
moving stuff into the lower unit and stayed there for at least 4
days. (they now stay there 99% of the time) They stayed up very
late and their voices (very loud) carried through the vents
upstairs. I could literally hear every word they said. On Sunday
night, they had a dinner party on their deck below my bedroom,
and I was unable to sleep until close to midnight. Since I have
to get up at 5 to get ready for work, I was almost in tears and
extremely exhausted. I even called-in sick one day. I tried to
handle it very diplomatically but the landlord has turned it
around by saying that he and his girlfriend wake up every
at 5 because they can hear me get up (rooms all have hardwood
floors) because the floor acts like a drum and they had no idea
I get up that early. He said he would investigate getting the
ceiling below insulated to dampen the noise but in the mean time
I needed to try to be quit. Now, I am not a noisy person
especially since my son is still sleeping at that time, as well
as my nanny, who has since moved in with us.
A week later, some of my son's friends came over for a sleep
over at my house and the landlord was very mad and told me to
keep the kids quit in the morning and not let them walk in my
bedroom. In addition, he was badgering my ''nanny'' when I am at
work because she is not on the lease.
After numerous e-mails from my end to work this out amicably, I
received an amendment to the lease with extremely ridiculous
demands, such as not being able to do laundry before 10:00 am
and 8:00pm, having to ask permission to have more than 8 people
over, written permission to have anyone stay at the house for
more than 3 days, no grease down the sink and the list goes on
(3 pages). I refused to sign this amendment stating that I
signed a lease already. I told him that I would have never moved
in if I had known all of this up front, and that he was
dishonest about the lower unit and he moving in with his
girlfriend more than ''occasionally''. My landlord was very
about this and even hostile.
Every time I now set foot in the garage to do laundry or go
outside, he wants to talk about my nanny (which I said I have no
problem putting her on the lease) and when she is leaving, about
the noise I make and that I should put a rug on floor (I have
one but it is not thick and big enough), and everything else he
feels like badgering me about (did you water the plants in the
front?). Last night he even sent his girlfriend up to complaning
about us making noise at 8 in the morning on Saturday (it was
actually more like 8:30 ) and playing our music and that we
should be quit until at least 10:00am. ''this is not normal''
Well, I could go on forever. I regret ever having given up our
previous home in which we lived for more than 5 years. We have
always been very good tenants and never have a problem with our
landlord or surrounding neighbors. I am nervous in my own house
because I feel that he watches us all the time, am afraid to
talk too loud and dread going to bed at 9:00pm since the
landlord often stays up until 2:30 at night talking (and
fighting). I feel hesitant about putting in ear plugs for fear
that I cannot hear my son when he wakes up in the night, so he
has been sleeping in my bed every night on those nights that
there is even more noise.
I talked to the Oakland housing board about the amendment of the
lease, which they said I do not have to sign, but what about the
rest? I feel that the landlord totally misrepresented the case
moving in the unit below and now we are stuck for a year. It is
already bad enough as it is, but now we have to look for another
house next year. Moving is hard on all, but especially on kids
so we wanted a stable place.
Does anyone have words of advise for us? Both legal and
otherwise as I am at my wits end.
a very tired single mom
You need to move. There's nothing else to do with an irrational
person like that, and the more you stay the worse it will get.
Even if you can get something done legally, it isn't worth the
emotional capital you'll need to put into it.
Nolo press in Berkeley has a great legal book for renters
rights. It's written in layman's terms. I highly recommed it. It
sounds like you can get out of this just based on breach of
contract. Verbal agreements do carry weight.
Previous Renter, Current Landlady
Oh my! This sounds like a mess. I highly suggest you go over to
Sentinel for Fair Housing pronto! Their phone number is 836-2687.
They are on 17th street between San Pablo and Telegraph. If you
call them, they have the exact address on their voicemail.
I highly suggest that you go over there rather than leaving a
message. They take walk ins M-Th. and it's normal business hours.
They must get a ton of phone calls so they aren't that good about
returning calls or emails for that matter!
However, I've been working with them with my landlord for the
last 2 years and I've found them to be quite helpful.
After this last bout of dealing with my landlord (and my
neighbors), I decided to start looking for a new place. Life is
too short and the rental market is good if you are looking.
I now have 4 years of living to pack up in the next 30 days! I
love my new landlords and can't wait to live in a place that is
loved and respected by it's owners.
It seems to me that your landlord has not kept all agreements.
Are you certain the lease you signed is valid? I'd check with
If the world is a giant school (as I believe) and each
experience an opportunity to learn, what learning is your
landlord offering you? My suggestion is that it has something
to do with how much ''garbage'' you need to put up with (swallow)
in your life. The two things children (us, when we were
younger) cannot do are ''speak up'' and ''leave.'' I suggest that
you have been trying (somewhat) to speak up, and it hasn't been
working. Try the alternative, following obtaining a
legal ''read'' on your situation!
Hello, we have just been notified that the house we have been renting
for many years in the Bay Area is to be put on the market and that we will
have to move. This comes as something of a shock (the day before
Thanksgiving!), my wife is pregnant and we have a toddler and so we
are interested in protecting our rights as much as possible. We have a
good relationship with our landlord and have been good tenants and wish to
remain on good terms with him so we can retain him as a reference.
We urgently need advice from anyone who has been in this kind of
situation as far as:
- granting access to prospective homebuyers/realtors. what advance
notification needs to be provided? how much time do people spend in
your home looking at it? what is commonly done?
- how soon may our landlord push us out?
- what is a good source of information on our rights as tenants in the
May I suggest you check out Nolo Press Bookstore in Berkeley for some
up-to-date advice. I am now a landlord in Albany, but a renter for many, many
years, and really appreciated the straight-forward writing offered in their
books. Plus, check with the Berkeley Rent Board. They will often provide a
printed guide for such events as you are facing, a copy of which could be
handed to your landlord with a comment, "Let see how we can best implement
this change." If you get stuck, and the Rent Board cannot mediate (although
they have in the past for me and it was wonderfully done), there are mediation
this page was last updated: Oct 10, 2013
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