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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 4th, 2005, 05:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,172
I rented my Apt out in Dublin last summer to some American Doctors over for research. It turned out well but...some of the difficult I did have was the cash exchange. Remember to exchange back to eurio there will be a fee and somehow they calculated it at about €100 euro less which I could not accept. They were trying to wire USD to me and I told them that they needed to wire euro and the bank can do this etc. It took a while to sort out but eventually it arrived and a deal was struck.

What I was unhappy with - Prior to them I had a short term renter- Male and never cleaned (No maid service included) so I had to do a mad rush and scrub for the incoming people...have to say some peoples personal habits are gross! I rent my place fully furnished which is standard in Dublin and leave all linens, crockery etc.

It's hard to let go of a place as I still its my home but I just have to remind myself I won't be living there in 10 years so don't get too personal about problems. I have the most expensive soda I have ever bought sitting in the living room and it makes me weep but Hey thats life. Tenenants have asked if they could take up a new carpet due to allergies...said NO as there was concrete below and a few odd requests. I take all my treasures and leave functional nice stuff thay I don't care if it breaks during the rental.

My friend who rents her place periodically says something will ALWAYS break just don't get worked up over it...she bought 3 electric kettles in 9 months!
SiobhanP is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,617
yes, indeed, some people's personal habits are indeed gross, according to any reasonable standard. I won't bore you with conditions we have found in vacated apartments, but it's amazing to me that these people have any friends, not to mention their pitiable children.

AND, I recently read an article about a spa owner, who mentioned that we would be appalled with what some clients will do in showers and hot tubs, including materials they deposit and leave.
elaine is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 06:58 AM
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Posts: 222
Christina: Wrong Lauren. Our Lauren is Lauren Greenwald of www.letsparis.com. I have posted her name her before when someone asked about letsparis, so no harm done there.

Schnauzer: That is just terrible! I am so sorry this happened. That makes any of our horror stories seem petty. I did feel a little better about our chocolate pudding situation when I heard about your chocolate sofa situation - people are crazy! I am glad that now at least you can enjoy your place when you want and not have any unwanted surprises.

Also, someone mentioned written rental agreements. We do this with all our renters, as do several other property managers we know. I agree this is an excellent way to make sure everyone knows the ground rules.

Cocofromdijon: I hope everything continues to go well with your rental! We too have inherited a few books - some good ones, including a menu translator which I'm sure people enjoy having. We have several nice travel books in the apartment, and although I sort of expect they will walk away, they haven't yet - so that's a good thing! I purchased Diane Johnson's latest in May and never got to read it, so I'm hoping it's still there when we go in August so I can finally read it!

As for instructions on appliances, yes these are SOOOO important. I am still figuring out all the cycles on our washing machine! One apartment we rented from VRBO - the owner is Philippe Gordon, very nice, has a place in the 8th - anyway, he has these fantastic instructions that are photographs of each appliance, step by step, with red arrows pointing to the different buttons to push. He also has this locator map of the neighborhood around the apartment that was unbelievably detailed, down to the days and hours each bakery was open, etc. I think he works as a designer of some sort -- his fancy computer skills definitely top mine!
Lutece is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 07:04 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 673
"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, I encourage it. Right now I have on my "to do list" to print up a notice that says something like "Leave one take one".

One other hint for owners that someone with many rental properties gave me I'll share with you. He said that while renters don't like a lot of the owner's personal things lying around (makes them feel like they're intruding on your space), it's a good idea to have a family photograph framed and prominately displayed. If it's a beach property, then have the family on the beach or fishing boat , mountain property might have a hiking or picnic setting. It acts as a gentle reminder that this is someone's home, not a hotel.

This only works on Fodorite-types.....some people can't take a hint if it's hand delivered or maybe they just don't care.

Linda431 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 07:55 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 173
I love this thread - as a vacation rental owner (3 homes in Northeast US), this kind of feedback from people who rent apartments or houses is invaluable. So far we've been incredibly lucky and all of our guests have been a delight.

TOWELS: When we outfitted our first vacation home, I bought all sort of lovely colored towels to coordinate with each bedroom but it gets harder and harder to keep matching sets, as towels get replaced and I can't find exactly the same style. So we are moving to all white or ivory, at least I don't have to throw away the whole set if one washcloth gets destroyed.

APPLIANCES: We have a guest info book with all sort of instuctions as well as directions to nearby beaches, restaurant reviews, sample itineraries, etc. So far everyone was able to figure out most of the things. Since we had 9 weeks booked by guests from UK this year, I went ahead and bought electrical tea kettles For some reason they are not that common in US.

LINENS: Our homes are mostly middle of the road, not exactly luxury, and not cheap cabins, but I refuse to economise on bedding. We have memory foam pads or featherbeds on most beds and I only keep 300+ thread bed linens in the house (I find Italian bed linens often in HomeGoods stores). So far these have survived pretty well, with the exception of one gorgeous duvet cover which somehow began to smell of ammonia in one spot. I don't want to even think what may have happened to it - still trying to get the smell out. Needless to say it was replaced right away.

EMERGENCIES: So far we've been lucky. All homes are well maintained so for the most part things run pretty smoothly. We had one leaky pipe on Christmas Day last year (try getting a plumber in on a Christams day) and even though it was very minor and easily contained I refunded one night stay (out of 3) right away. An A/C unit died during our guests' stay a couple of weeks ago and we drove down with a new one and installed it the same day. The guests got a bottle of a very nice California cab for the hassle Then DSL went out in a different home (Verizon was doing something to the lines) and the guest staying there needed to do work. This emergency is a harder to deal with because we can't just get a private phone guy to come in and fix whatever's wrong. We could not get Verizon to come in for more than 24 hours, so I ordered cable service to be installed literally the next day so our guest could continue to work and explained how to use the wireless DSL from our other house next door. And also sent her a gift certificate to a local restaurant - she left happy.

CONSTRUCTION: This is a hard call. After having accepted booking for pretty much all summer (our season is June to September), the hospital nearby began an expansion project with the corresponding construction. Our street is a dead end, next to conservation area, so it normally very quiet. Imagine my horror when I discovered that while I've been promising people peace and quiet, there is still ugly construction site literally next to our street. They're not very noisy actually but it's such an eye sore, I wanted to cry every time I pass the site. But amazingly enough (I did mention construction in my e-mails but I did not offer refunds based on that), not a single guest have even mentioned it. I ask for feedback during their stay and after departure and not one said it was something that interfered with their enjoyment. I am not sure what to do for 2006 - the constructions is schdeuled to be over in April 2007, so it's going to be there for the next season, albeit in a better state.

We get quite a few overseas guests and as everyone else's mentioned, accepting payments is the most difficult part of the transaction. So far I was able to accept credit card payments via PayPal or bank drafts successfully. Accepting credit cards directly is quite expensive - there are applications fees, monthly fees (even when there are no transactions) and of course, transaction fees. We don't make our guests pay any fees associated with transactions, so of course checks are my favorite means of payment as it does not cost anything to process.
kasperdoggie is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 08:02 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1
we have a new apartment in Altinkum, Turkey,we purchased this year and only rented it out 3 times so far , we furnished to a high standard (better then our home in the u.k) and we was quite upset when we found, a single irish lady had trashed the place, my cleaner was really upset and telephoned me in tears, she sent me photos of the state it was left in, all i can say is that some people must of been 'dragged up from birth with no respect' , i wouldnt dare treat other peoples places any different to my own.
rentalinturkey is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 08:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,381

We're big readers, so our French house is full of books. Not only do we have every guidebook known to mankind for renters to use, we have about 100 maps and atlases and always have the latest flyers from the tourist office so renters can know what's going on in the area during their stay. Add to that 3-4 bookshelves worth of hardback and paperback books that we've accumulated and that renters have left. So, to the poster who wanted to know if it was acceptable to take a paperback, no, that wouldn't bother me. A hardback, or one of the up-to-date guidebooks I have there, yes, that would upset me.

About instructions for appliances, etc.: I agree these should be in English if you're renting to English speakers, as I usually am. I have a huge notebook, the "House Book," that has a floor plan of the house, a plan of the entire property showing where, e.g., the main water connection is, a plan of the fuse box in case there are electrical problems, detailed instructions on how to use every appliance (convection oven, stove, dishwasher, pool alarm, etc.), instructions for cleaning the pool or turning off the water supply (an agency takes care of that, but I have instructions anyway), emergency numbers for police and fire stations, plus detailed information about local restaurants, stores, beauty salons, tourist offices, etc. And it contains reminders about the "rules" of the house - like don't leave food around the pool area unless you want to encourage wild animals to come visit, watch your kids because there are no screens in the windows, don't make a fire in the fireplace and then leave the house for the day, etc.

As for the fees French banks charge for taking my own money every time I send a wire transfer - I'll vent along with the others. It's just extortion!
StCirq is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 08:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 8,962
Lutece, what a wonderful thread, thank you.

I am sympathetic to owners and try hard to take care. I understand and even encourage the use of 'sign-out' sheets for things like number of cutlery pieces, etc. Perhaps landlords could extend this and have renters of apts do as renters of cars need to do - i.e. inspect the place in advance and report any pre-existing damage. That alone sends a strong message that damage will be taken seriously! It also protects renters, too: I once rented an apt where I ended up cleaning an oven that had been sprayed with oven cleaner that had never been wiped off!

That said, while I would remember to put away patio cushions, etc. in the event of rain, I'm afraid I can see myself leaving patio furniture out by the pool unless specifically directed. At home I have no choice but to leave patio/deck furniture outside, so the habit of putting it away isn't ingrained. (It's also why all my outdoor furniture has to be sturdy enough to withstand winter!)

As for rule books, the KISS principle applies. Try to keep directives as few as possible, and try to keep them short and meaningful. My local library has a wonderful line: "Feed the chocolate to yourself, not the book." This makes the point but keeps the tone light. All that chocolate wasted on poor Schnauzer's sofa is truly heartbreaking.

Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 09:02 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 7,142
Wow! I must be blessed. I've rented apt's many times and had nothing but great experiences.

I guess the worst experience was the week we spent in a 1500's building on Via Giulia in Rome (many of the building on our block were designed by Michaelangelo) - the clothes dryer didn't work the first time we tried it and they didn't fix it until the following day!
bardo1 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 09:16 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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thanks again Lutece, cross my fingers!as for the books, the ones to be read on the premises are in a cupboard on shelves, most of them are France and Burgundy books. As I thought I would have mostly French guests, I don't have many English books (hard to find in Dijon anyway) except 'Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong' ;-)
all the brochures and maps from the tourist office are put elsewhere under a long map of the golden slope. it is my little touristic corner.I also made a book with all the shops around (post office next door, grocery, chemist's etc with their opening times)and further on, big stores (galeries Lafayette, Fnac etc...)and restaurants and bars of course! I always show on the local map where my guests are (even if it is quite easy to find near the ducal palace ;-) )and even show them the immediate surroundings before we go the flat.
I sometimes buy a special book for a special guest (last one about Dijon in italian). I'm glad because all my guests are well educated and leave the flat in a perfect state.
I'm still waiting for French guests...
cocofromdijon is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 01:39 PM
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Cocofromdijon - Hey! I've got that "Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong" book too, but I have it at home. Maybe I should put in the apartment...
And what a sweet idea to buy a book for a special guest. I think the most exotic guests we've had were from Canada! ;-)

Linda431: I loved the idea of keeping a family photo in the place. I love the thought that it sends some subliminal message to our renters! I wonder if it will work??

I think you guys have all convinced me I need to do the Paypal thing so people can pay with credit cards. I really have to look into figuring out how to upgrade my account to be able to do this.

Overall, I've got to say, most people who stay in our apartment are really nice and respectful and have a great time as far as I can tell. Our guestbook in the apartment is filled with good comments and tips for other travelers, too. And in the end, it's Paris, for goodness sakes - how can they not have a good time!
Lutece is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 793
French Apartment Owners... This is a little off the main track of this thread, but brought up on another ie. Insurance. I have signed a rent agreement for an apartment in the 16th.

I'm good with the deposit, cash on delivery and the rental agreement. The agreement calls for the renter to have purchased travel insurance. Do you all require this? It says, French Law Requires.
Danna is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 06:51 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,324
I have a question for the owners of the properties: With all the appalling and distructive behavior of renters, do you keep the deposit, which I can assume doen't cover the half of it? What do you do if someone trashes the property and you have back to back rentals?

This is a great informitive thread, thanks for starting it. I have rented a half dozen places, I am in the "treat it like home" group, I do tons of research, won't rent without seeing lots of pictures, have always been happy with my choices and the locations. I actually feel more comfortable now renting straight from the owner, thanks.
susanna is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 07:35 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,400

Great thread! I have to put in my vote for accepting Paypal. Transfering money costs too much, and then with the exchange rate, it's a double whammy. It's much easier to use a credit card. Somehow, when the fees are included like they are with PayPal it's easier to swallow than when the bank says they will chage $35 for each wire transfer (deposit, remainder, security deposit, it all adds up!).
Oh! And the more photos, the better. I would never rent a place without seeing pictures first.
As for towels and decor, as a renter, I really appreciate when some thought has gone into the place. We rented a condo in Hawaii and while the lanai and the view were incredible (ocean was 25 feet away), the entire time I was there I was thinking how I would redecorate if it were mine. Small things like nice towels and sheets, good faucets and showerheads, and no lamps shaped like dolphins go a long way!
Also, I wanted to give a great vote of confidence to Lauren from Letsparis. We rented from her in March, and my best friend rented the same apartment in June. You're lucky to have somone like her.
Kristina is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 09:40 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 4,822
Not to try to top your horror stories, but:

At one time I was an absentee landlord of a vacation property. What got me out of that was arriving to clean the place; only to find I could hardly get into the basement laundry room for the smell.

Evidently the top-loading dryer had stopped working. My charming tenants, knowing they were going to do a bunk, had never mentioned it to me. They just disappeard.

The walk out basement rooms were uninhabitable, as the renters had used the dryer as an incinerator. That's right; they burned their garbage in it. They must have even kept the outside door closed, because the neighbors didn't notice a thing.

I am no longer, and will never again be, the owner of a rental vacation property.

nukesafe is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 01:34 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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poor Dick, I'm glad now I don't rent out a house. 45mē are enough for 2...
I was wondering about taking Paypal as well but I read a few things about it( like renters didn't trust ..)so I will keep on asking for a personal check (even in $ ) for 25% that I keep till the arrival. If we can avoid charges on both parts. As for the security deposit I take both pounds, dollars or whatever since I'm supposed to give them back on departure.(I always hope nothing important happened so I would have to keep the money..)
Lutece do you have a website I could see or how can I find your flat on the websites you mentioned?
I know we can't advertise here so you can wrote me here if you wish. [email protected]
I would be glad to see all the owners' flat website who wrote here, so we could exchange ideas to improve them if needed... tedgale helped me with the translation and a few fodorites gave me suggestions as well (thread censored since then )
Kristina, yes tenants are supposed to take an insurance, it is usually written in all French holiday contracts. It is not compulsory but if guests have to cancel, they should be able to get their money back from the insurance company.(valid for flights as well, when you book it is asked before you pay for your ticket)

talking about exotic guests, the most exotic request came recently from Tasmania, but we already have very friendly Australians. Thank you Internet!!
cocofromdijon is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 07:35 AM
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Nukesafe, I definitely think you win the award for most disturbing and creative way to ruin a rental apartment. Schnauser's chocolate sofa deserves an honorable mention, too, no doubt.

DEPOSITS: Well, we take a personal check for $200. Sometimes people just ask us to hold it and send it back, sometimes they add it into their weekly rate and just send a check for $800, which we cash and then send back the $200 after we get an email from Lauren saying nothing is broken. We have really only kept the deposit when important things have been broken (two chairs that had to be repaired), and then the one time the person just left the place a dirty, disgusting wreck that caused us to have to pay extra for cleaning services. We usually pay 30E for cleaning between guests. I think it cost an extra 50E in that case. That person also left us with a gigantic phone bill (of extra calls above our phone plan) that they were supposed to pay -- and didn't. And this was written into the contract, too. In the end, we kept that person's entire $200 -- and it didn't even cover all the things they took and left dirty. But this is our fault for not taking a bigger deposit on a long-term renter. In the end, we just wanted this person out of the place. This person broke their lease, too -- forgot to mention that. And we're not taking long-term people again.

PHONE: Here's one area I don't think we've covered yet. France Telecom does our phone service and it seems fairly expensive in our experience. We finally got the most "unlimited" plan we could, but it still doesn't include calls from your home phone to cell phones -- which MAKES ME CRAZY!! Particularly considering most folks have cell phones in France. All of our friends have cell phones as their only phones. So there was basically no way for us to make the phone bill come out the same every month, unless we set it up so that guests would have to use a phone card to use the phone, which would basically make our home phone like a phone both of sorts, and that just didn't seem friendly, so we're biting the bullet on the situation and hope people don't make long calls to cell phones.

Long-distance calls require a calling card, but I don't think that's too much to ask of a guest. (The phone cards in France are actually quite a bargain and seem to be an excellent value for calling the states. We have to use them when we're in our apartment, too.)

A phone shouldn't be a luxury, in my opinion, although we have stayed in apartments without them just fine.

Dana - We've never required that insurance. But I do think I may have seen it on other folks' rental agreements. Shoot, maybe I better read ours more carefully! I wonder if it's just a CYA sort of situation -- something that should be put in the rental agreement, but no one actually does it. Good question, though -- sorry I'm useless. I'll email Lauren and see if she knows about this.

Kristina - I'm so glad you enjoyed your stay in one of Lauren's (Let's Paris) apartments! I am glad I am not the only one who thinks she is great. You cracked me up with the dolphin lamp comment. I honestly can't say I've stayed in any apartment in Paris that I didn't think was at least cute! Most of them are so much bigger than ours, we just ooze envy about all the space!
Lutece is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 07:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,381
Regarding insurance: my rental agreement requires tenants to state whether or not they have purchased trip insuramce, and clearly states our policy with regard to cancellations if they do NOT have trip isurance (we'll refund their money, minus a $40 fee, up to $60 days before their rental was to have begun; if they cancel 45 days or less, no money back). It's never been an issue,though; we've had only one cancellation and that was several months in advance of the rental.

We take a $500 security deposit, and several times I have withheld some or all of it. Once, when two NYC stockbrokers used the place for a week and racked up $800 worth of phone calls I kept the whole thing (and did not succeed in getting the balance from them), and a few other times I've deducted for fairly large phone bills (if it's $25 or less in phone calls I usually just refund the entire security deposit). And I did deduct a couple of hundred dollars from the folks who broke the bed!
StCirq is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 08:51 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 173
I have the same cancellation policy as StCirq. We take $300 to $400 deposit (depending if any pets are involved) in check or a credit card payment (via PayPal) and I always cash the check - I'd be afraid to hold an uncashed check - what if there's significant damage and it turns out that the security deposit check bounces if I go to deposit it after the guests leave? So far I haven't had to withhold any money buy we've only been doing the rentals for a couple of years. There were some minor issues but I won't bother with witholding any deposit money for small things, I just consider it the cost of doing business.

Serious Damage - as I said we've been lucky so far, but let me tell you, this is what keeps me awake at night There's no way $300 will cover anything really serious like thrashed carpets (we have pristine light colored berber), broken furniture, destroyed appliances, etc. This is where the trust business comes in - the person sending me a large check trusts me to provide them with an actual house to spend a vacation in and all of the promised amenities, and I trust them in return to behave appropriately with regards to our property. One thing that seems to come up in discussions with other owners is that people who try to bargain and ask for deep discounts tend to treat the rentals worse than those who are perfectly willing to pay the stated rate. Although I don't have any personal data to back up that statement as I don't do discounts unless I offer them myself.

I try to have back ups for possible minor issues like wine spilled on the couch (extra slipcovers in each house), some extra furniture in the basement if somebody breaks a chair or similar, 4-5 sets of bedding per bed in case one gets destroyed, extra duvet covers, etc. In some cases we can replace the broken item right away, provided our guests let us know that something is broken. However, there really is no mitigation if someone takes an axe to the furniture or spreads chocolate pudding all over the carpeting...

We do not have to worry about collecting or witholding money for large phone bills - there's only local service available, so guests can call for reservations and similar free, or receive phone calls at the house, for anything else there's a calling card or a cell phone. This way I can send the security deposit back right away instead of waiting for the phone bill to arrive.
kasperdoggie is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 01:27 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
Enjoying this thread. We're mostly rentees, though we do rent our Sanibel timeshare for a week each year. We use the resort office despite the hefty commission, just to avoid the problems listed here!

The last couple of years we have rented cottages in England from dorsetcoastalcottages.com -- terrific people and a great website with LOTS of pictures. I won't rent somewhere that doesn't provide pictures, because I wonder why -- are they next to the dump? Is there a gas station next door? Is the house dilapidated?

The DCC folks are very helpful with questions, and are anxious to help me connect with the right place for whichever family group I'm traveling with. At our last cottage, the owner even provided some classic video tapes that we all really enjoyed (Audrey Hepburn collection), along with a nice assortment of books. The cottage was beautifully decorated, by owners who evidently have travelled widely (Morocco, Thailand, Africa) judging from the art and colors they chose. Certainly not a traditional cottage, but it was great and we loved it.

Next up: renting condos in Kauai for the first time. Again, it was the pictures that sold me on the places we chose. Can't wait to see them.

But I'm thinking there's a rental in France or Italy on the horizon -- maybe next year?
SB_Travlr is offline  

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