Monday, January 21, 2008

Renter's Fatigue

posted by Free Press Houston @ 11:02 AM


As quite a few people know I have lived in the Elder Street Artist Lofts for over 2 years. This means that I get asked at least once a week what it’s like. I thought I’d write and post this so people will understand.

First and foremost for those who want a big, cheap place where they can make their art without being hassled by a landlord or neighbors my advice is: look somewhere else.

The application process for residency alone is upwards of 30 pages and requires at least 3 years of tax returns for the self employed. For those who work for someone else the process requires no less than three separate paycheck stubs.

After completing the application and gaining approval you’ll find out that very few of the apartments are actually designated as low income housing. The majority of them are 'market value.' Market value is defined as anything over $900 a month.

Then you’ll find out that there is at least a nine month waiting list for consideration for a low income vacancy, and the current residents of the low income apartments have priority when their lease expires. You won’t find out that the waiting list is being run as an exercise in nepotism, in the last year and a half only the manager’s friends have been allowed to move in.

If by some miracle you are allowed to move in you’ll quickly realize that it’s one big pain in the ass. The management at Elder Street is intrusive to say the least and doesn’t mind you making art, as long as you keep the building clean.

And by management I mean the seven to ten different governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations that can, and will, stop by to inspect. These agencies and NGOs give only 24 hours notice and will pressure the landlord to evict you if you are not in compliance with every rule.

And by compliance with every rule I mean keeping the apartment spotless. Simply put if you make a mess you will get an eviction notice.

I’m not kidding when I say that I have gotten eviction notices for having a dirty toilet, too much paint on the floor and a dirty sink. I’ve also gotten notice for not turning in one of the many addendums to the lease on time.

In the two years I’ve lived there I think I’ve been presented with six or seven different pieces of paper that I have had to sign. Apparently each and every piece of paper was something required by some different government agency or non-governmental organization.

If you manage to make it through the term of your lease without getting on the landlord’s bad side, a feat in and of itself, you will have to go through the whole application process again and this time the landlord will be paying even more attention to your income. If you are accepted again chances are you won’t be accepted at the same income level.

Case in point my rent almost doubled this past October going from $324 a month to $580 a month because the landlord thinks I make more money than I do. And if you feel, like I do, that the landlord made an error in calculating your income for rent, tough shit. There is no appeals process, in other words the landlord’s decisions are final.

Perhaps the best example of what Elder Street Artist Lofts is all about is one simple statement in the latest addendum to my lease. The statement is this: duplicate key cost, $25.

Now for those of you looking for a cheap place to live don’t worry. I was looking in the greehsheet yesterday and saw an ad that’s perfect for a lot of you. It was for a cheap place at 2307 Tuam and the rent was $127 a month per $500 of income with a maximum income of $1500. The phone number is 713-528-3037.

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