Renting with rugrats

DONNELLE BELANGER-TAYLOR
Last updated 09:20 19/07/2011

Ah, school holidays, here we are again.  A time of joyful chaos, where I concentrate on spending time with my kids, getting out and about, enjoying the lack of routine, and feeling no guilt about letting things slide a bit. Or not.

You see (and here I expect disapproving tongue clicks and murmurs about how you shouldn't have children unless you're financially stable), we live in a rented house. If life had gone as planned, we'd have lived the cliché of coupledom, careers, kids. But, whoops, six weeks after the wedding I was knocked up. Sometimes life does that to you, especially when your doctor then says, "Huh, at your weight you should have been on two pills a day."

Anyway.

We rent, via a property agent. This is the first time we've gone through an agent, and frankly it's been a nasty shock. We completely understand that their role is to protect the landlord's investment, but UGH.  We've been here for two years now, so we're on our eighth house inspection. Yes, every three months they come for a quick check that we're not punching holes in the wall or running a P lab in the basement.

At least, that was the impression we were given when we signed the lease (while sick with swine flu and pregnant with twins, good times!). The reality is quite different, and much pickier. They check that we've cleaned the oven, every 12 weeks. We've been warned that the lawn was too long, when it had been mowed 10 days before (do you mow your lawn every weekend?). The next time, we made sure to mow it the day before the inspection, and they then complained about a small pile of fresh grass clippings in the corner of the garden. The garden bin was full, due to us having mowed three times in a month. We've failed for not having mopped the floor; I'd vacuumed and spot-cleaned the night before, but then breakfast with two toddlers happened, on a school- and Playcentre-morning where I had to rush out the door. Egads!  Crumbs!

I freely admit I'm not the world's best housewife, but the inspections demand a level of synchronicity with tidiness and cleanliness and shiny ovens and freshly weeded gardens and mowed lawns that is hard to achieve with three young kids, school, Playcentre, band, BoT, blogging and two jobs. Everything does usually get done, eventually ... but getting it all done to their standard of perfection at the same point in time is stressful and exhausting.

Still, school mornings haven't been an issue for the last three inspections, because they keep scheduling it for the school holidays. Yeuch. Each time, we've asked them to please not do them in the holidays. We're out of routine; all the kids are home, all the time, and I spend the entire time trying to clean while trying to make sure that they're not making more mess in a day than I can catch up with in the evening, rather than enjoying being with them.

I know, I know; it's our own fault for spawning when we weren't financially established.

I see other drawbacks to renting when you have kids; we're so paranoid about the twins getting hold of a pen and drawing on the walls that all art supplies are kept in a high cupboard, much to my philosophical displeasure. We're not allowed pets, not even birds or fish. When we asked about getting gates at either side of the house, we got approval so long as we a) paid for them and did the work and b) miraculously achieved a child-proof gate without digging into the ground or attaching it to the house or fence (any ideas?).

There are some good things about renting, though. Our rent is less than a mortgage would be, and we can live in a better house than we could afford if we did try to buy.

Do you rent? What do you find hardest about renting when you have a family?

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72 comments
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John Simpson   #1   09:41 am Jul 19 2011

Would love to know who these thorough Property Managers are. From my experience Property Managers are the opposite.

Sheri   #2   09:42 am Jul 19 2011

Sounds like a nightmare and that your landlord/property managers are completely unreasonable. We also fall into the category of having kids before we owned our own house but we are lucky enough to be renting off my husbands parents. We did rent through a property manager for awhile before our first son was born and unfortunately our landlords were diabolical we only lasted there 6 months. When we moved out we ended up in a massive dispute with our landlord over damage to a stove which we were positive we didn't make but had no proof it was there when we moved in (the landlord said it looked like we had been boiling some kind of acid that had spilled over!?!?) When we moved our son was 6 weeks old, come on! The property managers were no help to us what so ever and the tenancy tribunal weren't much better. We ended up having to pay half the bill. I wonder how many other people suffer in silence as buying a house is unreachable for many Kiwi's? I can understand wanting to protect someone's investment and doing your job properly but there has to be a middle ground between good tenants and landlords. Who know what they might get next if you move out?

ziet   #3   09:46 am Jul 19 2011

i have had the same experience. my complaint is that instead of picking up the phone if they have a problem, why do they feel the need to issue me with a "14 days notice to rectify" letter?

*Kylie*   #4   09:47 am Jul 19 2011

I'm guessing you went through Quinovic. While I don't rent anymore - after one experience of renting a property through them - NEVER AGAIN. They are nit picky and unreasonable. I am very particular about my surroundings and standards. Upon moving out they will do what they can to dupe you out of your bond for things that are reasonable wear and tear. Stuff like relaying bark in the garden....HELLO...what did they think we did with it. That's just normal upkeep. When I moved out somehow I managed to pack the laundry sink plug, they amazingly noticed (such a small thing to notice), luckily I found it and returned it - but they were going to deduct bond over it. Argh. When we buy our second house we won't be using them as property managers - based on principle for how they treated me as a lowly tenant. Oh so much to say about them - but I'll stop now.

JeM   #5   09:48 am Jul 19 2011

No disapproving clicks (lol) but we did make sure we owned a house before trying to conceive. Not all it's cracked up to be though - sometimes the price of renting (and having someone else pay when the hot water cylinder bursts) seems like life would be so much easier. I'm a terrible housekeeper so for my birthday next week I am taking the day off work, still sending the kid to daycare and then treating myself to a hired cleaner for a spring clean and carpet wash. I may even sip cocktails while he/she cleans just to make myself feel fancy ha ha.

Jess   #6   09:58 am Jul 19 2011

Urgh I hate renting. We have owned our own home for 2 years now and I love it. However we are wanting to move to chch for job reasons and we don't want to buy there at the moment for obvious reasons. So having to look at renting for the time being, which is not filling me with joy at all.

J   #7   10:01 am Jul 19 2011

Sorry if I'm asking the obvious, but have you looked at your lease contract to see whether the landlord (or the agent) is actually entitled to demand that standard of cleanliness and tidiness from you? Unless the lease explicitly sets such a high standard, the default provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act are far less stringent.

Selina   #8   10:07 am Jul 19 2011

I rented for many, many years and always made a point of doing it through private landlords rather than agencies because I haven't yet heard a good story about tenants' experiences with agencies. Yours however sounds particularly nit-picky. In fact I think you'd find if you were to talk to the Tenancy Tribunal (or whatever they're called) that the agency have no grounds for their high expectations. A landlord (or their agent) can require you to keep the house in a safe, healthy, undamaged state but they cannot take it to the degree your agency has.

Another Anne   #9   10:15 am Jul 19 2011

We rent, and although we could afford to buy, we also get a nicer house renting. We invest the money that would otherwise have gone on a house deposit. It just works out better for us at the moment. I actually get a bit annoyed when people feel sorry for us for 'only' renting. I'd rather save for longer and buy something nicer. We have inspections too, but they are as you said at the beginning, just to make sure we're not doing anything awful. Is it in your tenancy agreement that you have to keep the lawns a certain height? Our inspections are low key and they understand that we have small children. When we were looking for a house we were very clear that it needed to be kid-friendly, as I'm sure you did, and they understand that. Grrrrr property managers!!

Jim   #10   10:31 am Jul 19 2011

I am SOOOOO with you on that. The property agent we have would have done the Gestapo proud. Two tenancy tribunal hearings, and one court date before they'd accept we were up to date on the rent.


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