MAHAL AND I have spent the past three weeks applying for, being selected and moving into a new flat. Hope you don’t mind if I share with you what we’ve been through. (It’s also my way of telling you why I haven’t been yap-yap-yapping as much recently. 🙂 )
Please DON’T be offended if, first of all, the prospective or potential landlord/landlady categorizes or profiles aspiring tenants like us, especially migrant Pinoys, according to number of children, number of pets (if any), and whether or not we smoke (I quit six years ago) or drink (very moderately naman). I’m not sure how it goes in Auckland, but those are some of the very first things asked by landlords/landladies when you apply to rent a flat in windy Wellington.
Frankly, he (or she; for brevity i’ll just use the masculine noun and pronoun if you don’t mind) could do a lot worse.
I wish I photocopied the questionnaire, but one landlord actually asked if both Mahal and I were gainfully employed, how much we earned, how many credit cards we had and whether or not we had criminal records.
The fellow, who turned out to be a friendly sort and shortlisted us to be his tenants, said he had previous problems with tenants and now went to the extent of checking the premises periodically for traces of methamphetamine, cannabis and other dangerous drugs not just for consumption but for production. Turned out that removing all traces of the dratted substances from one of his co-landlord’s properties after the latter had been used as a P-lab (or shabu lab, for us in the Philippines) cost many more thousands of dollars than if they had just screened tenants more judiciously. Such that being a bit anal in his tenant applications didn’t seem so outrageous anymore.
And I wish I could be as outraged about landlords‘ overkill re kids, pets and smoke, but it’s just a generous helping of commonsense when selecting who will be stewards of your rental investment, which is a favorite source of retirement income for many prudent New Zealanders. Each additional child means additional pressure on the facilities in terms of wear and tear, risk of damage and maintenance cost to the flat. Having pets often means lots of hair, scratches and tolerated additional use to just about every corner of the house. This doesn’t bode well for picture perfectness and pristine-ness of the apartment, but a lot of Kiwis and Maoris are petlovers, what can you do? And I don’t have to tell you about how nicotine and tobacco smoke leave ugly stains on the walls, especially over time.
There is a finite number of desirable flats near workplaces in our city, and the skilled workforce is constantly growing. This means it’s a lessor’s market, and because queues for flats form immediately as soon as they are offered, landlords have the luxury of picking from the very best of the bunch.
Mahal and I have no kids, no pets, and neither of us smoke. But that didn’t mean we were automatically going to be ideal and prime candidates for the choice flats we applied for. In fact, I don’t think we even made it as a finalist for any of the first few flats we expressed interest in, and the guy I told you about above was just being polite. To be fair, his flat had central heating, used a sophisticated energy-conscious sunlight absorbing heat-and-light system, had new wallpaper, tiling and carpeting installed wall-to-wall. I’m sure more than a dozen candidates submitted applications and he would’ve had a hard time just whittling down the list to superperfect, handsome and beautiful shortlisters. Deep sigh. 😦
Eventually our persistence paid off though. We found someone who appreciated our (as yet) childless, pet-less and tobaccoless status, liked that we ticked all the boxes on his checklist, and approved our flat application after a cursory interview.
They’re almost self-evident, but I have to give you a very brief summary of what I’ve picked up: (1) Keep an ideal flat in mind, but don’t be too choosy. You won’t get the first flat you apply for, almost surely. (2) It’s probably better to deal with a rental agency than a landlord direct, as it helps both sides. (3) When you’ve been approved as tenant and before starting to move, sell or give away as much stuff as you can before actually moving, it saves a lot of grief and stress.
And finally, amass as many cardboard boxes (preferably the corrugated ones) as you can, be prepared to throw away stuff you won’t need anymore in your new home, hire a skip bin just before moving, and get as much help as you can. Congrats on your new flat!