This is the first edition of a new quarterly column that will address housing issues from the renter’s point of view: How do you find a place to live, and how do you keep it? We will also address the topic of how renters can make a positive impact on the overall quality and quantity of long term rentals in our community.
It’s no surprise that the Tahoe/Truckee region has a critical shortage of affordable long term rentals. The causes are complicated, and the solutions even more so. The good news is there are a lot of folks in both the private and public sectors making a concerted effort to chip away at solving the problem.
Housing advocates are studying solutions used in resort communities across the West. In Summit County, Colo., for instance, the county has initiated a pilot program called the Housing Work Initiative. The goals is to keep homes in the long term rental pool, to help tenants find homes, and to reduce the size of security deposits required before new renters move in. To provide equal advantages for landlords, the housing authority educates renters on how to be good tenants, and inspects the property monthly to make sure it is being well cared for and even guarantees to pay for repairs if damages exceed the deposit.
A “Ready to Rent” class offered by Family and Intercultural Resource Center Director Tamara Drangstveit is a Do’s and Don’ts lesson: “Don’t lie about a dog. Don’t say you have two people and then have four. Do find out what your rights are.” Apparently the education has worked. “The homes were kept in good condition,” said Drangstveit, so much so that the organization has reduced its monthly inspections to just four times a year.
Placer County is taking an initiative by working on expanding its inventory of rental housing. It recently sent a postcard to 14,500 second homeowners in eastern Placer County that asked, “Would you be interested in leasing your home on a seasonal or year-round basis, and if so, are there incentives that would make it work?” More than 500 homeowners responded before the May 15 deadline. The county is now analyzing the responses.
“We hope to gauge second homeowner interest in renting their homes on a seasonal or permanent basis, in order to possibly incentivize that use, rather than regulate other uses (as South Lake Tahoe has recently done),” said Jennifer Merchant, Placer County deputy executive officer.
In the meantime, folks need a place to live, and employers need employees who live close to their jobs. Being a prospective tenant is like being a job applicant; but then again, getting a job in Tahoe is much easier finding a nice, affordable place to live. Almost every long term rental will have a slew of folks looking at it. So how do you beat the competition?
Begin by thinking like a landlord who has made a huge investment in a piece of Lake Tahoe, and now is considering letting you invade that pricy domicile. They have most likely heard horror stories of homes
that have been thrashed by tenants, and also heard that it’s difficult to evict a tenant in California who doesn’t pay rent, as well as hard to collect if the damage is more than the security deposit. So they are leery and hypervigilant to make sure they get as good a tenant as they can find.
As a potential renter it comes back to asking yourself, what is important to a landlord: How’s my credit? Do I have a network of references that would tell a homeowner they would be happy to have me live in his or her house? Is my job secure and do I have enough money in the bank to cover the deposit? Do I have three dogs and yet am looking at a place with new white carpet? Once you’ve honestly answered those questions, the next step is doing what you need to do to become the tenant every homeowner desires.
~ Tim Hauserman worked as a realtor for 20 years, beginning his career as a rental agent and then moving into sales. He discovered that almost every potential buyer considers the topic of renting their home during the process of deciding to buy. He has also owned a long-term rental house for 30 years.