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The truth about apartment rentals: Owners and others please join me and post your stories here!

The truth about apartment rentals: Owners and others please join me and post your stories here!

Aug 3rd, 2005, 03:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,229
We've rented both apartments and houses and I prefer it is the owners are somewhere around in case anything goes wrong. A big issue for me is doing a down payment. We're from the US and it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT and expensive for me to do a money transfer in euros. That's why credit cards are so nice, but I do understand why that is expensive for the owners. Another issue along that line for us is that we are frequently last minute planners rather than people who plan months ahead of time. A short time frame alone causes difficulties when dealing with a deposit.

This summer we decided not to rent (and it was only a 3 or 4 day rental that we were looking for at the last minute) from a guy who wanted a large money transfer, a E200 deposit, and a signed contract that looked like a long term lease with all its clauses for a place in rural France that he was renting at about $60 a night. He must have had good reason to be so picky, but we thought forget it.

In May we rented an apartment in Barcelona and I thought it was under supplied. Yes there were bath towels, but there were no dish towels, dish detergent, hot pads, or dish cloths. We clean up places while we are there and when we leave, and I would think owners would encourage guests to keep thing tidy by having such minimal cleaning things available. If you rent out a place with a kitchen, then I think it should at least be minimally equipped. Every other place we've rented also had at least salt and pepper. I don't expect luxury or top of the line by any means, but I do expect clean and equipped.
julies is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 04:02 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,498
Lutece, thanks for posting this. It is fascinating to see the rental process from the owner's perspective, and I can only admire your patience and courage.

In a couple of weeks my wife and daughter are to spend a week in an apartment in Paris. It will be the 13th rental my wife and I have arranged over the past six years. All but two have been in France, and of those, all have been houses in Provence, Languedoc, and Auvergne.

I can add a bit from the renter's point of view. First of all, photographs. I hadn't realized that some of those hosting sites charged you more if you increased the number of pictures you display. They are essential, in our view; we look very closely at kitchen pictures (we're cooks, and preparing meals with local products is a bit of a passion), living room pictures (we like to read in the evening, so comfy chairs, a sofa, and lighting is important), and, finally, the bedroom. We have passed over sites that didn't have enough photos, even though the location and the description sounded ideal.

Except for one rental on Malta, we have always sought out places that are rented by the owner. We like to exchange a few e-mails or phone calls, which gives us a sense, perhaps imprecisely, of what they are like. As I think back over the years, most of our rentals were with owners who themselves lived in another country--England, the United States, and Canada. They all had local contacts and they all ensured we had clear instructions on keys, contact information, etc.

Oddly, the most complicated part of renting is getting the money to the landlord. I have used bank drafts and electronic bank transfers over the years; neither seems simple and the costs are appalling. (In fact, when an owner asks for the rent in two amounts, typically half on booking and the remainder a month before arrival, I send the entire amount in one go; it saves a bit of money and a lot of agro. The Visa idea sounds more attractive, and I would happily use that in preference to bank transfers.

Damage deposits: about half of the owners have asked for damage deposits. In order to avoid the bank draft torture we have always offered a cheque in Canadian funds for the equivalent amount, to be held against our departure. This has always been accepted, and the owners have returned our cheque after we returned to Canada.

Interestingly, it's all about trust ... the owner is trusting us to be decent tenants and we are trusting that the place actually exists and that it looks like its photographs. We have encountered some owners who were pretty structured (one sent us what amounted to a rule book, but it also told us where to find spare light bulbs); others are amazingly relaxed ... "There's a phone for you to use. Only calls within France, please; if you need to call abroad and I get an expensive bill, I'll get in touch with you after you get home." My kind of owner!

Breakage ... we seem to go through wine glasses. Thank goodness for Carrefour. Oh, we did have an owner once who wrote us an e-mail before we left, "I have just returned from Ikea in Marseilles, so you can smash all the crockery you want!" I think we made it through that one without breaking anything.

AnselmAdorne is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 04:24 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,385
I'm a bit behind in my packing for France (leaving Friday), so this won't be as detailed as it could be, but a few notes:

TOWELS/LINENS: We brought them all over from the States originally. We could get better quality for the price there, and a couple of trips with a couple of suitcases and we were stocked forever. So far (13 years), the linens have held up well (we've replaced them a few times), as have the towels (ditto). We did NOT get while towels, but rather colors to coordinate with the bedroom colors. Then we bought a bunch of beach towels to be used at our pool. In our extensive "House Book'" we specifically ask people to use only the beach towels by the pool - that's way too hard for a lot of renters, apparently. The regular towels in summertime always take a terrible beating and start shredding because they've been dragged around the pool terrace. The pool towels remain pristine in the armoire.

FURNITURE/APPLIANCES: Our place is an old stone house that doesn't have central heat or a whole lot of fancy amenities (we do have a brand new dishwasher, but no one seems to be able to figure out how to use it, despite instructions in English - oh well). We furnished it with a combination of IKEA and brocante. I didn't put a thing in the house that I'd be very upset to lose or see get broken. We've lost one bed - renters literally broke it in half, and left it that way - never mentioned a thing to us, and we spoke with them before their departure. Did they think we wouldn't notice a bed frame split in two on both sides? Other than that, we've had a ton of wine glasses broken, but the counters and the floor in the kitchen are tile - ditto the living room, so it's easy to see how that would happen. Someone once stole my expensive Oxford-Duden Pictorial Dictionary, but I figure havng to lug that around for the rest of their tavels was penance enough.

MANAGEMENT: I have an agency that oversees the property, stops by once a week (or more as necssary), takes care of gardening (such as it is), the pool, and sends in a cleaning crew before and after renters are there. I also have a nearby neighbor who checks on the house every day, does the laundry, sets out welcoming stuff for renters, etc., and generally keeps a watchful eye on the place when no one's there (and keeps a watch on the agency, too!). It works, especially as I haven't actively been promoting renting the place for the past three years or so and don't have a lot of traffic in and out.

POOL: I don't what gets into some renters when they've had a few glasses of Pécharmant and decide to frolick by the pool. We go through dozens of pool floats every year, and not even a pretty good-quality resin dining or side table or deck chair ever lasted more than two seasons. And lounge chair cusions - would it be asking too much to put them back under the veranda instead of lying around the pool terrace where the next group of renters (or me) will find them soaked and spider-egg infested?

Anyway, all in all it's been a good experience, but since I don't have to rent the place much anymore and in fact am about to begin some pretty big renovations on it, I think I'm through with renting. I won't miss those 2 am phone calls saying "Oh, I forgot about the time difference, but we were just wondering if you had any suggestions for what we should do on a rainy Thursday here, and by the way, do you know you have lizards?"
StCirq is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:18 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 222
St. Cirq - Loved your post. Particulary how no one reads the directions about the towels and manages to destroy the most unusual things!! Love the lizard comments, too. The hubby and I are dying laughing over here. Congrats on not having to rent anymore!!

JulieS - Point well taken about the $$ transfer versus Euro. We have kept our prices in dollars even though everyone tells us to change to Euro specifically because we think it is more comfortable for people (most of our renters are American.) Then they can just send a check. However, next time our property manager tells us to charge in Euro, I'm going to tell her to read this thread! Also, everytime we have to move money from our US bank account to our French bank account, our bank charges $40 plus you get whatever nasty exchange rate the French bank wants to charge. Nice. Maybe we do need to add the credit card as an option. It's hard to know how much that's hurting us, as we seem to be rented most of the time, although certainly not everyday or anything.

Lyb - I look forward to more stories about the ocean being too loud! That's a new one on me! The hubby was in stitches reading about that.

AnselmAdorne - Good info/advice from you! Nothing like hearing from a long-time vacation apartment renter, and it sounds like you've had mostly good experiences. We have done the holding the deposit check in the past, which works out fine too. All it really takes is people to ask for a different arrangement and I can't think of a time we didn't accomodate the people. Sometimes I think people think that what is on the website is set in stone, and that's never been my experience -- on either side of the transaction.

And I think you're right about talking to the owner making you feel better. Emailing a bit does it for me. I also checked on www.pagesjaunes.fr to look up the owners of the apartments we rented in Paris. I figured finding their home addresses made me feel better! I think I will be sure to tell our property manager that if anyone ever wants to talk to us, they can call anytime! (Except 2 a.m., based on what has happened to St. Cirq!)

I hope this post is helpful and interesting to more people than just me and hubby, but I must say we are thoroughly enjoying all your posts! Thank you and keep it coming!
Lutece is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:58 PM
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I'm not an owner but learned a bunch from this thread. Rented a house in England for a week, and will probably do more renting elsewhere when we bring the kids.

Thanks for all the informative comments!
Aug 3rd, 2005, 07:37 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 997
Thanks for all the insight into being a property owner - it gives me a new appreciation for what you do.

I agree with a previous poster - I choose a place based on GOOD pictures - not only of a number of views, so that I can figure out how it will work for us, but well-photographed ones. I would think it well worth the expense to have a professional light and photograph the rental; so many websites have dark, sort of gloomy-looking rooms, and I click right on past them.

What I really like the websites that show a floor plan, or at least describe in words the layout. We were renting in Hawaii once and, seeing a floorplan, realized that the master bedroom was a loft. I would not have been a happy camper after a week there with my husband and 3 kids...
Iwan2go is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 07:48 PM
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Lutece, it's interesting how different people view things differently. I think it is much easier and more likely to be able to get hold of someone in case of emergency if you are dealing with a real agency than just an individual owner--unless the owner was right in the building or something. That's one reason why I like agencies (although it's mainly that I think it's more reliable).

PSR has a 24-hour emergency hotline, for example, as well as their office on the Champs-Elysees. Locaflat has an office near La Motte-Picquet you could call anytime and you knew someone was going to be there. Now, I think they didn't have a 24-hour hotline, I can't recall, so I think they were only open their office hours or you left a message. They gave very detailed instructions in writing as to all contingencies and whom to call, however. Because I'm a homeowner, maybe the idea that I need to call some owner in the middle of night wasn't that important to me. I can speak French and know how to call the police, ambulance or fire dept., so there wouldn't be much need to call someone at 3 am that I can think of.

There was some plumbing leak in the building where I rented once when Locaflat was the agency, and they went out of their way to contact me by phone and even coming to the apartment to see if I were okay or had any problems when I wasn't home when they phoned. I never even noticed anything in the apartment I was in, so wasn't even aware there was a leak. The building manager must have called Locaflat because they knew they managed an apt in there or the owner had told them to in case of problems, I guess.

I would think it would be harder to get hold of an individual owner, myself -- if I recall, the ahparis complaint was that the owner wanted to leave quickly to go back to Germany or somewhere, on arrival day. And I know you like your manager very much, but if you do a search on this forum under her name, you will find some posts by someone for whom I helped track down her relatives in Paris in the phonebook because she wasn't answering her phone calls or emails over several days at least, if not longer, and the renter had no idea how to get in the apartment or if she really had a confirmed rental. Maybe that isn't your apartment (probably not), but just having a private owner doesn't guarantee you will be able to reach them whenever you want.

It sounds like you take your responsibilities very seriously and like to keep a nice place, and that's always good for renters when they find something like that. Too many vacation rental apartments don't have very nice furniture or very comfortable things, that's my big complaint. The owners just outfit them very cheaply because they don't live there. A lot of them aren't that comfortable for actually living, even in ways that wouldn't be expensive to arrange (ie, nice fans available for summer, decent reading lights, etc.).
Christina is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 07:55 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,505
Upon thinking about it, I'm wondering if I got the name wrong of your manager -- I thought I remembered you saying you used a woman who also manages some apartments on ave Rene Coty where her relatives live. I might be thinking of some other post, if so, say so, if it isn't her . I won't mention her name in case you want to keep it private (although the situation I'm referring to was posted on here).
Christina is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:12 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 2,875
We have both been renters and rentees. (?) I will always treat everything in someones elses house the same way I would treat my own things. We have a holiday house by a lake and decided to rent it out for financial reasons. The first people had a short term rental which was the worst type of rental, not short enough for a quick turnover and not long enough for a "bond" deposit for damage. They just about destroyed the house. We had a interior decorator come in and use all "Greek Island" colour and decor so it did look good, all new furniture etc, The list is too long to tell you what happened, but certainly the highlight was that they caught several salt water crabs from the lake, ate them and then left all the remains on the table while they went away for 4 days. You can just imagine the smell in a hot Sydney summer. The broke into our locked linen cupboard and used all the available linens, didn't wash them and then replaced them into the cupboard. Spread chocolate all over the new sofa, sharpened eye makeup pencils etc directly onto the carpet and left it all there. Oh, the list was endless, climbed onto wooden chairs in order to lift themselves up to a beam to do chin ups, breaking both arms on two chairs in the process. Then to top everything off they started a "sweat shop" gift basket business in our small garage, employing about 7, we presumed illegal immigrants to do the work. Had all the shrink wrap equipment et al. I don't think I have ever been so upset over property, as a consquence we have never rented it out again. We foot the bills, we stay there! (They were only there for a long 5 weeks)
schnauzer is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 09:35 PM
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pjsparlor is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 12:30 AM
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Very interesting post to put things in perspective after dreamweaver's hysteria. There are millions of French people renting vacation houses/apts every year, and most of them go through established local real estate agencies, applying the protocole that Julies refers to: you sign a rental agreement, and, on the day of arrival, you go round the apartment with the agency's representative to tick all the boxes opposite the items supposed to be available in the place (the French call it "état des lieux"): 12 tea spoons, 3 garden chairs, 2 large pans, etc. I know it sounds tedious (and it is!), but it is the only way to avoid bad surprises. And of course, at the end of the stay, same process again, along with a check on cleanliness (in case you have decided to do it yourself, and not pay an extra fee to have the agency do it for you). So, basically, if renters are very demanding about how their rental should look like, going through an registered agency (most of them are on the net anyway) is the best way to tie everything up legally.
Art_Vandelay is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 01:31 AM
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schnauzer all my sympathy (that is why I prefer very short stays)
as for the pictures on a website, I reckon the quality and light are very important. That is why I added videos to even give a better idea of it. A friend of mine who went to the flat said the videos were not essential because I had put pictures already but someone here said she loved them and had a more accurate view. And I'm glad to hear my guests saying it looks exactly the same... all the agencies should put videos on their websites (and private owners when they have a video recorder)
Lutece, thanks again for the websites.
and for all the owners here, you frightened me with all the things lost, damaged or broken you noted in your flat! I'm lucky for now, I even had 3 English books added to the library!
cocofromdijon is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 04:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,279
We've rented about a dozen times - a mix of villas and apartments. All have been successful, but following is my list of pet peeves:

(some repetition with previous posts - sorry)

- the whole bank transfer hassle - my frustration here is mainly with the banks. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean some bank tacks on another 25-50 Euro fee - happens every time. I've taken to refusing to pay all the fees myself - I've offered to get a bank draft (easy to do) and send via Fedex instead (which is still cheaper) but some owners just want the wire transfer - so I split the cost.

I do all my banking online, but for some reason transfering funds electronically costs almost a hundred bucks!!! Why? Because they can. There - I feel better!

- lack of instructions - this is more common than you would imagine. European dishwashers and washing machines are much different from North American ones and we're often surprised at the dearth of instructions (in English or any other language other than the country we're in). It seems to me to be in the owner's interest to provide very explicit instructions to avoid damage

- lack of information regarding a power outage - we've experienced that 3 times and in each case it was a hassle. Once again it was mainly a lack of information - most recently the apartment we rented in Italy did not clearly state where the main breaker was - we were in the dark for hours until a helpful tenant opened a concealed door in the lobby and voila - lights.

- ice cube trays - OK, we use a lot of ice - I have bequeathed more ice cube trays to our rentals than I can remember!

- dirty dishes - in even the cleanest of rentals the dishes are often unclean. If I had a rental I would never rely on the previous tenants having washed the dishes to my specifications. I would at least check all the dishes and rewash those that are a little dodgy

Not a bad list when you consider how many rentals we've enjoyed!
Elizabeth_S is online now  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:10 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Linda - regarding your beach rental...I have been renting similar properties for 40+ years & have always provided my own towels, sheets, etc. While I know this is not acceptable for rentals in Paris...at the beach, I would think it is..
SAnParis is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:14 AM
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Thanks for the interesting post! Definitely puts a new perspective on things. I always had dreams of purchasing some wonderful apartment or home in Italy and renting it out when I'm not using it. I think I just found out that it's definitely not as easy as it sounds!

My husband and I rented our first apartment, in Bavaria, this past May and it was truly a delightful experience. The apartment was in a typical Bavarian house in a small town outside of Berchtesgaden. The owner was an older German lady (who didn't speak a word of English) that lived with her family in the first floor apartment and rented the two upstairs apartments out. She was incredibly nice and sweet (reminded me of my grandmother!) and she brought us homemade rolls each morning. However, she was so relaxed with her rules (or lack thereof) that I'm sure she is bound to run into problems such as these! She did not require a deposit for the booking (although I did inquire about it) and only took cash upon our departure. In fact, I don't recall a rule book or instructions of any kind in the apartment. However, the place was in immaculate condition and she put the perfect cozy and homey touch to the apartment. Maybe the renters have better manners when they know that the owner is downstairs! All in all it was a wonderful experience, just what we were hoping for.

It's terrible that so many renters can have such a lack of respect for anothers property. We would never even consider doing anything in a rental that we wouldn't do in our own home.

tcreath is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:14 AM
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that is why I ask if my guests will use the washing machine, so I can show them how it works. (the notice is in French and they can call me home as well)
As for dirty dishes (and glasses) it is true that I have to check it after each stay and clean at least a glass or cuttlery almost every time... I hate to eat with a dirty folk and knife.
there are 2 ice cubes trays in the freezerrenewed if not used (along with drinks and food).
cocofromdijon is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:18 AM
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First, there was no "hysteria" in dreamweaver's report. She was disappointed and not happy with the apartment but FAR from hysterical; to call her that is snide and boorish.

Elizabeth, good points. I would add that if you rent an apartment that takes a deposit or payment by credit card, make sure they ALSO can do a refund the same way. We had rented a villa in Provence, paying with our Visa. A family emergency came up so we had to cancel; the owner promptly re-rented the apartment. We didn't mind that she deducted an amount from our payment for the cancellation (fair enough) but we did mind that she would not credit our CC back for the remainder (she said she couldn't). Instead, she mailed a check that took two weeks to arrive and another seven weeks to clear, plus a not tiny charge from our U.S. bank for processing a foreign check.

Regardless of how low the rent is, the apartment should be clean and ready for occupancy if you arrive at the time agreed upon with the owner/agency. Agree that the owner/rep should not rely on previous tenants for the cleaning, esp. for dishes and bedlinens. Services that are promised should be available (high speed Internet connection, for example; if all that's available is dial up, then say so, don't bait and switch).

If there is major, noisy construction going on nearby, landlords should say so. People who plan to rise early and sightsee all day probably won't care, but if someone is planning to relax and sleep in, then they would be happier elsewhere. Better to tell prospective renters up front than deal with a stream of complaints during and after the stay.

We rented a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in Paris for 5 weeks, in an upscale neighborhood, for the budget price of $2000 for the entire time. It was a deal the owner gave us because it was off season and she'd had no inquiries for that time. In turn, we gave up the normal weekly maid service and some other bits. The washing machine was dodgy (you got a pretty strong shock whenever you pulled wet laundry out) and the dryer was on its last legs--if we'd paid top dollar, we would have complained, but for that rate, we let it go (although we did tell the owner about the shocks and she replaced the washer and dryer after we left).

If we're paying more than $100 a day (for a one-bed or studio or $200 a day for two-bed), we don't want Ikea furniture, esp. Ikea beds. Some Ikea stuff is ok, but I don't want to feel like I've walked into an Ikea showroom.

This is just a personal preference, but we don't like a lot of white furniture. It makes us nervous the entire time we're in the apartment, afraid to spill even a drop of coffee or wine. Esp. for apartments that accommodate children.

We've learned to avoid ground floor rentals in big cities.

Fortunately, most of our rentals have been pleasant and we've tried very hard to leave the apartment in the same state we found it.
BTilke is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:25 AM
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This post is so long I was tempted to not add, but it is so much fun, I have to do it. As a many time renter, it is interesting to read the owners' side. We have mostly rented in Paris, but have also rented in London and Nice. Every experience has been good, just a bit different. We have rented through agencies and individuals. Agencies felt safer to begin with. The first was Chezvous.com, which was fine, but the most expensive. It felt safe to start with them because they were listed in Fodors. We then rented from franceforrent.com, and now use bienvenueaparis.com because we love a specific apartment. In all cases, the apartments were as pictured. I agree that I won't rent without pictures. I also like floorplans, and require square footage. One thing I have learned - always look carefully at the pcitures of the bedroom, to make sure there is room to get up on both sides of the bed. Quite crucial if you get up at all during the night. The apartments have always been clean enough. In fact, I have found more hotels to be less clean than I would like (we do not go to budget hotels) than apartments. Our most recent rental was in Nice, from an owner who I think moved out for the week to earn some extra money. It was beautiful, but I have added a new question: do you have to walk up a steep hill to get to the apartment?
The comments from landlords amaze me. We are much more careful in rental apartments than in our own house. It is hard to imagine people behaving that way!
I do have a question for landlords. I sometimes start a book I find in the apartment and haven't finished it when I leave. How would you feel about a trade of one of my paperbacks that I have read for one of yours? Are these books that matter to you, or just random paperbacks?
epi is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:32 AM
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I've never been a landlord or tenant in a vacation rental, but I do work in New York City housing where are tenants are primarily health care professionals. (which by the way, seems to make no difference in the average standard of tenant cleanliness.)

I'll offer these observations:
We can show one apartment to five people and get five different reactions:
"Oh, what a nice- sized livingroom."
"Do you have something larger for less money?"
"Gee, no window in the kitchen?"
"What a great view!"
"I don't like facing east."

I use those examples only to say that it's not possible to predict what tenants or landlords will focus on, in an apartment. I don't generally have furnished apartments, but I can tell you that one person won't mind the mis-matched towels as long as they're clean; another person will notice the dirty-ish dishes, while the next one will never open the kitchen cupboards at all.

It would be thoughtful for the owner to, for example, run all the dishes and cutlery through the dishwasher between tenants to ensure that all is clean, but even if you do that, the next tenant may complain about a bit of chippped paint on the radiator. Or, cause it.

Since I'm personally a bit of a clean freak, I worry that rental apartments, would present to much of a challenge to my own anal tendencies. I know hotel rooms aren't exactly sterile, but they do generally have a standard that I'm comfortable with, or can work around.

I'm with Christina, unless I had a personal refferal directly to a particular owner, I'd rather work through a praised agency that has an office with staff, that is used to preparing apartments between tenants, that I could contact at any reasonable time, and that makes payments, key exchanges, etc, quite easy. I think too many individual apartment owners could be amateurs, present company excepted of course.
elaine is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:35 AM
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oops, "our" tenants
elaine is offline  

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