We have evolved into a nation of renters. For example, in 2014, more than 70 percent of Millennials leased.
As for us over-60, after we sell the family home, the odds are that we will choose to rent. No longer do I want the uncertain expenses and Mr. Fixit problems associated with home ownership. Since I operate a business, I can't be distracted by trying to find a plumber at 3:00 A.M. or fret about the property's fluctuating market value.
That has made America Landlord Nation. The new activism has to focus on a fair deal for renters.
Perceiving the landlord as unfair or up to something illegal is nothing new, of course. As lawyers know, in small claims courts, there had always been plenty of landlord-tenant disputes.
What is new is the growing fear not to rock the boat with any property manager. The screening process for leasing another apartment is comprehensive, not just a check of one's credit rating. Often, former landlords are contacted.
In Landlord Nation, one particular trouble spot is Arizona. There, at least in Tucson, where I lived in Vista Montana, owned by Weidner, for 27 months, property managers don't have to renew your lease. And don't have to give an explanation. Mine had been renewed several times. That is not my personal beef.
What concerned me was this: I was conscious of how arbitrary it could be not to provide tenants with a new lease. For instance, a cabal of other leasers could have gone to the property manager in an organized manner, complaining about alleged misdeeds. That renter could then be toast. Moving is expensive.
What directly affected me was the move-out protocol. Because of emerging professional opportunities back East, I broke my 10-month lease with Vista Montana. It was a pleasant surprise that the process only entailed a 30-day notice and a $222.00 penalty. I made a lot more than that my first week when I returned East.
What was not pleasant were the move-out requirements. They included having to have the carpet professionally cleaned at our own expense. That was not considered normal wear-and-tear. Also, the instructions indicated that the walls had to washed down. Small areas in the apartment should be cleaned with a tooth brush.
There's more. It wasn't until I got billed for eight-hours of cleaning post-move that the standard of "clean," it seemed, was move-in.
The funny thing? The square footage was way under 500. How could cleaning require eight hours? When I left and moved into houses I had purchased that standard wasn't required. Was I really being billed to get the apartment up to move-in condition? Move-out and move-in standards of "clean" are certainly different. Or should be.
That eight hours of cleaning represented a charge deducted from my damage deposit. In Landlord Nation, I had to just eat that expense.
My advice to renters in AZ: Read the move-out instructions before you sign the lease to move in.
Better yet, since property in the Tucson area tends to be affordable, you might consider buying. Had I to do it over again, I never would have leased in AZ. I would have purchased a condo or small house. That was even though I swore that the house I sold in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 2004, for a big profit would be my last. Things change, don't they.
Maybe, the best decision: Don't move to AZ. Vista Montana left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the rights of and protections for those of us who have to have a roof over our heads and just don't want the burden of ownership.