Tips for New Renters in the VI
I've done property management stateside and here in the VI. I thought I would put together a few tips. To some these may be things you already know, but I run across these issues again and again so I thought I might help out the new comers. I've been doing so long I usually know when someone's not asking the right questions and I help them out, because the LAST thing I want to deal with is a unhappy renter. I'd always rather get the right renter and hopefully I'm there right landlord.
These are some of the issues I've come across and learned as both a landlord and renter:
1. Prices are almost always going to be higher then what you are used to paying for and you will usually get a less fancy place then you would stateside.
2. Call first and ask the questions that would be a deal breaker for you. If you only want a 6 month lease, ask that before you go and save everyone’s time. Or if you have pets.
3. Always look at the place in person. Pay attention to the neighborhood when you go as well.
4. If you book a appointment, go. Or at least call and say you can’t make it. Otherwise someone is waiting for you for a hour to show up. They would much rather get a phone saying you are not coming then wait a hour.
5. If the place you are going to go see is out of your price range and you want to try to bargain, remember to be nice and pleasant. Don’t trash the unit when you are trying to get a better deal. You get more with honey.
6. If you are new to the VI, always take the phone number of the place you are going to go see. The chances are good that you will get lost.
7. Ask the person showing the place if they are the owner or the property manager. Ask them how long they’ve been running the property.
8. Check things like stove, the fridge, the water pressure, temp, etc. So you’re not surprised later. If you’re new to the VI, chances are appliances and water pressure will not be like you have stateside. Also pay attention to things that may be important to just you, like the breeze or the noise level, etc…
9. Ask what is included and what isn’t. Remember as a renter you COULD be on the hook for: electric, gas, water (cistern and/or city water), pest control, yard service, cable, internet, etc. Do not assume anything! You will see things like yard, pest and cable included but not always, for the most part the renter pays the bulk of the utilities.
10. It is really, really rare to see electric included in the rent. If they say it is included make sure the unit has a/c, if that’s important to you. Ask if there is some cap and then you have to pay the overage, etc.
11. Ask what appliances are included and what aren’t, same with furniture.
12. I don’t have this in my lease but I’ve seen it in just a few realtor’s leases where they won’t repair something if its over said dollar amount. The ones I saw were $100 to $150. Which I find nuts, so be aware. Obviously you have to buy your own light bulbs and stuff like that but if there is a leak or a broken appliance I do want to know, because I value my property. I think this is mainly used to keep landlords from having to replace A/Cs.
13. If you are looking at multiple places take notes, so you can figure out what’s the best deal for you later on. Take into account what’s included and what’s not for the best deal.
14. Ask if the landlord has any intention of selling during the term of your lease. Obviously they don’t have a crystal ball, but it is something to definitely be aware of and it is usually in most leases.
15. If you are interested in the place get a copy of an application but also ask for a blank copy of the lease so there are no surprises, ESPECIALLY if you haven’t rented in a long time. The lease is to protect the landlord property.
16. Almost NO place comes with a mailbox of any kind. You'll have to get your own mailbox. Can't believe I forgot that one. That is completely different then stateside, at least to me.
Those are some very realistic tips here - Thank You for taking the time.
If the electric is included in the rent and you don't have A/C - make sure you ask about adding a A/C unit if you plan to buy one - also many of the WAPA included units are really not legal Apts. - this is something that is not really enforced here but has sometimes caused a problem with renters Insurance or Company paid housing expenses.
Also if you are new to the VI learn about cisterns and water pumps.
The following may also be helpful for potential tenants:
1) Ask about parking. Sometimes parking is not immediately in front of the unit, or if it is, it's not a dedicated spot. Ask how many spots if, for example, you need space for two cars and/or plan to have frequent guests.
2) Be up front about how many people will occupy the unit, and who they are. This is especially true if utilities are included, as there is a cost associated with the presence of each person. It is therefore not cool to represent yourself(ves) as the only tenant(s) then bring in other people. BTW, kids are people too, as they used to say on Wonderama (did anyone used to watch that back in the late 70's?). This means that they use resources too and so have to be counted.
3) If you don't think you really want to stay for a 6 month or 12 month term, but that is what is being advertised, don't just sign up for it and plan to get out of it later. I think that some landlords have flexibility and/or are willing to work with a current tenant to find a replacement, but it is better to make such arrangements up front.
4) One palatable way to negotiate for a rent reduction is to agree to a higher price at the beginning of the lease and then ask to pay a lower rate later on. This is especially true for stays that begin in high season--while it isn't everyone, some tenants will manage to disappear just as high season ends, leaving a landlord with a vacancy at the worst time.
5) which brings me to the need for having first, last and security in many cases; it can be a lot of money to give up front, especially if the rental is on the more expensive side. But consider that while it may be possible to pursue court action for a skipped tenant, it may not be worth the time and expense. Because of the often transient nature of the islands, there WILL be skippers. Having first, last and security is one way to reduce the possible loss, so be prepared to pay FLS as many landlords will require it.
6) Be honest on rental applications. Some landlords actually do check references and backgrounds, and it can get you off on a bad foot (or you may lose the rental all together) if something comes out that you didn't mention.
7) I love Hiya's tip about the water pressure. I know we keep our pressures relatively low and use low flow devices to save water. I had one tenant without authorization replace the existing shower head with one of those megaflow shower heads that uses many gallons of water per minute, then wonder why he/she was charged for overage on water usage (we include water in some cases, but with a cap.)
8) This is the tropics--be prepared for some insects and geckos indoors now and then and all kinds of other critters outdoors. Even with professional pest control, it is neither possible nor desirable to kill every critter moving.
I could go on, but I'll stop.
Great tips Islandloa! It's hard to remember all of them. I figured this might give newbies an easy thread to read through all the stuff to expect and hoped people would post to it. 🙂 Loved all your points.
"2) Be up front about how many people will occupy the unit, and who they are. This is especially true if utilities are included, as there is a cost associated with the presence of each person. It is therefore not cool to represent yourself(ves) as the only tenant(s) then bring in other people. BTW, kids are people too, as they used to say on Wonderama (did anyone used to watch that back in the late 70's?). This means that they use resources too and so have to be counted."
On your number 2 point that can definitely be grounds for eviction in just about every lease because the tenant can not sublet, so heed her words. 😉
"3) If you don't think you really want to stay for a 6 month or 12 month term, but that is what is being advertised, don't just sign up for it and plan to get out of it later. I think that some landlords have flexibility and/or are willing to work with a current tenant to find a replacement, but it is better to make such arrangements up front."
Also on your number 3 be prepared as a renter to lose your deposit, most landlords aren't that understanding. One of your best bets if you have to leave early is to try and find a replacement and see if your landlord is agreeable.
Does the deposit (First, Last and Security) get registered with any organisation?
Or does it just go to the landlord? Is there any protection for the tenant?
I have only rented in the UK and Australia where it gets lodged with a government bond agency.
First, Last and Deposit goes to the Landlord. This is the way it works in the US. Since this is your first time renting in the US, read your lease very carefully. Something I always tell young people is you must give 30 days WRITTEN notice, even if your lease is ending. That is how it is spelled out in just about every lease and can cost you your deposit or at least another month of living in said apt. There are other things like that. Also in the US all real estate deals, including, rentals must be in writing. There are no verbal agreements about anything that will stand up in court, so protect yourself whether you're a landlord or a tenant. 🙂
Great tips! I need to brush up on cisterns and water pumps :-). I was given a tip about mail and told that connections was a good service.
Hiya-are you still in the landlord business?
Now..on a more social note..is there a good link for what is going on entertainment wise on island. Movies? Live music besides beach bars? Fitness centers to get my Zumba on? I know there will be plenty of beautiful places to hike/snorkel, etc. and I'm guessing there isn't an 02 fitness on island, so where does one go to keep bikini ready?
rdugirl, which island are you going to be on? You mentioned Connections, which is only on STJ. If you're looking for movies, live music besides beach bars, or fitness centers, you will not find any of those things on St. John. St. Thomas or St. Croix will be more your speed if you are looking for those things. We keep "bikini ready" by hiking, swimming, and working our asses off. 😉
I will most likely be on STT. The only feasible way for me to work and live on STJ would be if I worked at the community clinic. I did get the connections tip from someone who l ives on STJ, but wasn't aware it was exclusive to that island..bummer!
I have no doubt the hiking is tough but amazing as well with the beautiful surroundings! Looks like running is also big, so I will have to get 5-10 k ready 🙂 Snorkeling also something that would be new to me, but looking forward to it.
I will be working (3) 12 hr shifts if I end up at Schneider...nurses always working our asses off 🙂
rdugirl, only on stx and I only do my own rental now.
Thanks anyway Hiya!
rdu: There is a newish mail center behind the hospital. There is a young lady who teaches Zumba at Yacht Haven Grande, Antilles and UVI. There are several runners at the hospital and around the island. There are fitness centers near the hospital- Extreme Gym near Cost-U-Less (work out and go shopping in one trip!) and Paradise Gym in Havensight. If you are looking, you will find like minded people.;)
East Ender..Shopping and working out in one trip, what more could a girl ask for 😉 Seriously though, I will check out the fitness centers. I can walk for miles, and am slowly trying to build up my running endurance. Maybe my first 5K will be run on STT..:-)
Thanks for the info!
Zumba at Yacht Haven. I'm gonna have to look into that. Zumba looks like loads of fun (I actually interviewed with them, too, but they wanted a CMS guy, not just a really good programmer).
<-- Like minded guy. I'll be in STT in a week! (April 8th is my flight in).
Jealous....let me know how the zumba class works out..it is fun!!