Landlords: Rental Building or Homeowner?

A chat with the building drywall guy in my bathroom last week got me thinking.

Yup, you heard that right, we haven’t even lived here a month and we already have people coming in to repair our place. I guess that’s life sometimes… A few weeks before we moved in, I came by to check out the unit again and snap a few (meaning a ton) of pics. Here’s what our bathroom looked like:

Bathroom before

Other than the less-than-ideal tile and tub colour, looks fine. Little did I know, the ceiling was already falling apart.

A few weeks later, it turned into this:

Bathroom Ceiling Hole Ceiling Hole


After a few weeks of waiting for the problem to be resolved, repairs were started a little over a week ago. I then found myself discussing how much of the ceiling should be replaced with this guy. (Umm… all of it, because it’s coated in a thin sheet of mold?)

Every rental, older units especially, are going to have problems. Who will handle it better? The building manager hired by the company who owns dozens of similar properties? The homeowner who lives upstairs? Someone closer to the middle of the spectrum? Is there a difference?


I’ve lived in quite a few different rentals and witnessed friends’ states of affairs…  I’ve also worked for the university housing department as an administrative assistant to five different building managers. (Not the most glam job, but at least I learned a thing or two.) I’m certainly no expert, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject.

If you’ve been to college, you know that arts students get quite a bit of heat for being in the “easy” (and “no future”) faculty. (In case you’re wondering, I started out in commerce, but made the switch to arts in year two. Totally worth it.) That rep is partially valid since it’s relatively easy to pass an arts class, but it is CHALLENGING to get a high mark. Fields like science and engineering are the opposite. The range is much more varied. Many will fail, but, if you know the material well, you can earn yourself a stellar mark.

This analogy applies to landlords. Individual homeowners are the science faculties. Some will be abysmal: only interested in the money and trying to have them keep up with maintenance on their home will be like pulling teeth. Others will be lovely. For example, a friend of mine is a quiet, single and clean tenant, also an elementary teacher. Her landlords love her and take good care of their house, so they will go out of their way to keep her. When she had a leak in her bathroom like mine, they replaced the whole thing*. They took her choices into consideration, and fixed it within a weekend.

Building managers are the arts faculties. Of course they’ll pass: there are way too many systems in place (at least in Vancouver), like the rental board, the company’s reputation and so forth, not to. Problems, at least major ones, will be tended to… in good time. They have the maintenance people available already; they’ve fixed countless units before yours.

The catch?

Being on the other end of this, I’ve seen how busy these people can be. There can be countless work orders just like yours waiting to be tended to. Small leaks in the faucet, carpets that need to be repaired, little holes in the wall… Those ones can take a while for the maintenance staff to get to.

What’s more, a building manager generally doesn’t have a vested interest in the building like an actual owner would. Will they get more cash from potential tenants from a classier upgrade? Probably not. Does it matter to them if the paint splashes onto the tile? Doubtful.

Not only have that, but upgrades in buildings that are owned by one person or company tend to happen all at once. That means if you’d like your tiles to be replaced like my friend’s place, the building would (generally) need to have that scheduled, for all units. If it isn’t (like my bathroom, by the looks of it) they’ll just do whatever it takes to get the job done.

(What did that look like in our building? Yet another shade of beige of tile to add to our collection. This makes four. Nice.)

So which type do you choose? The arts faculty building manager, whom you know will do the minimum but won’t go out of their way to please you, or the couple who live upstairs, who, more like an engineering faculty, could do really well, or really really poorly?

There’s no real “right” answer of course. It depends on your needs, and of course the individual landlord in question. Hopefully this will give you a basic guideline to help you in your search.

What happened with our bathroom you ask? Well… needless to say, nearly a month after told our landlord about it (we moved in March 29th), it’s still a work in progress. The plumber has fixed the leak, but the drywall guy is supposed to come by tomorrow to redo the ceiling. (No more mold!) Fingers crossed… I’ll keep you posted.