Brendan Quealy: Fees out the wazoo | News
I know I’m not telling stories from school when I say the rental market in and around Traverse City is absolutely brutal. Only brutal – especially for young, single professionals who are trying to make a name for themselves in the industry they have chosen.
Count me among those professionals, although the gray whiskers in my beard and the silver hair on my temples could eliminate the “young” part. Don’t let my headshot fool you. That’s 4.5 years old and you could already see the gray on my chin.
I know the Traverse City phrase, “a view of the bay for half the pay” is tired and worn out. But it’s also out of date. I think “half the wages and you have to live off the bay because” – as Jimmy McMillan would say – “the rent is a hell of a lot” is more appropriate.
Yes, that doesn’t really roll off your tongue and it doesn’t rhyme, but it does make it clear how rental costs in the region characterize people who want to live and work here.
In my recent search for a bloodhound-looking place to stay, I almost had to leave Traverse City and move back in with my parents because I couldn’t find anything. That would have been a banner day for this 36-year-old.
The jacked up rent coupled with unreasonable fees is a discouraging and disappointing trend that probably picked up well long before I moved in 2016. At the time, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with ceilings so low I could raise my arm and touch the $ 775 a month ceiling. Just for context, I’m 5 feet, 10 inches by the wingspan of a sparrow.
Little did I know then that I was getting a bargain at $ 775. I would only have stayed there if I had known a year later that I was going to Kingsley to see a “house” smaller than some $ 815 a month walk-in closets. This place was a little bigger than my body – and to steal a joke from my favorite comedian Mike Birbiglia – I saw a mouse there, leaned over to it and said, “Where are you going to sleep?”
I’ve spent more than two months searching the internet for a place to live. Calling and sending emails for hours every day. Having a dog didn’t help me in my search.
All I saw was “no pets” or the more energetic “NO PETS!” or “no dogs allowed” or “dogs acceptable as long as they are under 25 pounds and have the intelligence of Mr. Peabody, the grace of Lassie, and the talent for basketball from Air Bud.”
My favorite interaction was a landlord who told me that they would like to rent to me if my “situation” with my dog changed. If my situation has changed? I don’t even know what that means.
Even if dogs were allowed, there’s the wonderful and non-refundable pet fee, which ranges from $ 200 to $ 500.
Tuck those Benjamin Franklins in on top of the cleaning fee – another $ 300- $ 350 non-refundable knife between the ribs – the security deposit, the first month’s rent, the cost of a moving truck, and other expenses. You see at least $ 2,000. That’s just unrealistic for people like me scratching from paycheck to paycheck.
Cleaning fees are the biggest joke. Landlords in the last two locations I rented charged $ 350 and $ 300, respectively. Both places had to be cleaned thoroughly when moving in.
After expressing disappointment with the condition of the house, I was told that I could have increased the cleaning fee and paid $ 500 if I wanted the place to be pristine. Flawless? I just didn’t want to find mouse poop or dead bugs in the kitchen cupboards.
But the tenants have no power in such situations. What leverage did I have to reclaim the cleaning fee? Zero. Even if I reclaimed it, what are the chances of getting it? Zero.
And when you move out, your best bet is to believe that the landlord will do everything in their power to avoid the security deposit being returned in full or at all.
Between the scammers and the gougers, the bait and changers and the slum lords, they want you to bleed dry with the least amount of effort.
Renting in Traverse City is death by 1,000 cuts. And landlords use your money as a blade.