Frequently Asked Questions
How do you choose your tenants? We don't have an ideal tenant. The criteria is short: proven confidence that the tenant will pay the rent on time, be a terrific neighbor, adhere to the lease and take great care of the house. In contrast our typical prospective tenant has a VERY long ideal list. We certainly understand that we're not the lid for every pot! ;-)
We rent historic single family houses, not apartments, on streets where the neighbors know each other and us. It's not anonymous living. By Philadelphia Code tenants in single family rentals are responsible for snow removal. On some blocks that means shoveling out the entire block with the neighbors because they are not plowed. The houses require care, upkeep, regular maintenance and the tenant's careful eyes on them. It's an entirely difference experience than renting an apartment.
I'm interested in renting a particular house, but it's shown as rented until May 31 or July 31. When will you know if it will be available? No later than February 1 for June 1 availability and March before St. Patrick's Day for August 1 availability. (The majority of our tenants look about four months in advance.) Send an email to email@example.com telling us which house interests you, and we'd be happy to email you notice of availability.
I'd like to schedule an appointment a few weeks away. A day or two in advance is best. A week if the house is only being shown on Saturdays. Anything more than that we don't schedule.
Do I pay a holding deposit with my application? No. You'll Venmo a one-month security deposit when you esign the lease. You Venmo the first month rent when you check in, and Venmo the last month is paid on or before the first of your last month living in the house.
Do you charge pet rent, fees or require a pet deposit? No.
What is the public school catchments of a particular house? Use the School District's tool https://webapps1.philasd.org/school_finder/ and call the school if you have questions. On the borders both sides of the street are not included. Meredith, for example, is now by lottery, in catchment students only, for kindergarten. The SDP does not have to guarantee a kindergarten spot for all in-catchment children. The lottery method is new to Meredith for 2017.
A house is advertised online, I filled out the appointment form, but I haven't heard back from you. If your appointment form is incomplete or your lease date, budget or desired area doesn't match an available house or a serious application is in process, we don't schedule appointments. We don't accept holding deposits and won't rent sight-unseen (too much fraud). A house remains on the market until the lease is signed and the security deposit is paid. We do not want to disturb our tenants unnecessarily.
Do you offer an electronic way to pay the rent? Venmo! It's the only payment method we accept. There's no charge unless you use their credit card option.
I've emailed you a few times and haven't heard back from you. There are known problems with email through Zillow, Trulia, RentApplication and MySmartMove being routed as spam. Check your Spam folder. You can always email us directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I sent you a text to schedule an appointment, and I haven't heard back. The only way to schedule an appointment is the form on this site.
How do I schedule an appointment? Using the form on this website only. Please be mindful of the disruption any appointment is to the lives of our current tenants. At the very least preview the neighborhood and block for suitability for your needs prior to filling out the appointment form.
What should I bring to my appointment?
It's a two-way interview. Bring:
1. Your questions not answered by this site and your research of the neighborhood, services, businesses, etc. #1 question: "what do utilities cost?" (You'll find that information on the utility page here.)
2. If there will be an animal (at any time which includes just visiting), bring all of the documentation in the animal question below. Please do not bring your dog to our tenant's home without a specific invitation.
3. BRING THE MEASUREMENTS FOR ANY FURNITURE YOU ARE INTENDING TO MOVE INTO THE HOUSE. Pictures, too! Furniture that is scaled for a loft is unlikely to even fit through the front door of an historic house. Removing windows and doors isn't an option. If you haven't explored flex furniture, look at Burrow, Campaign, Simplicity Sofas, or Home Reserve, No longer does a couch have to be a painful move.
Who are your current and past tenants? Picture a busy urban Apple store.
Do your houses have current Philadelphia rental licenses? Absolutely! You can check the license for any Philadelphia rental by calling 311 (locally) or 215-686-1776.
How do I apply? See the application page for more details. You can do the basics on your phone. The attachments are the same everyone else requires: government ID, employment and income verification, landlord-verified rental history, a personal and a professional reference, etc. The attachments are emailed. The process is entirely electronic.
How much does it cost to apply? The applicant pays the app provider directly for the standard background reports (about $35). It's a soft check that way, not a hard check. Hard checks affect your credit score. Soft ones do not. (Although there are other services that might take less time, we wouldn't want to do anything that would negatively impact your credit score and this way you see exactly what we see. Should you see an error you can dispute it directly with the credit bureau because the service is the credit bureau, not a 3rd party provider.)
How long does it take for you to process an application? If your application is complete and includes all the usual verifications, beginning to end on our side is less than an hour. We don't look at an application until it is complete.
What are you looking for in a tenant? 1. verified ability to pay the rent 2. excellent credit 3. evident pride will be taken in the house, its history and the most especially the exterior front 4. obligation and responsibility
I'm not in Philadelphia, could I Skype or Facetime with you and set up an appointment for my friends/family to see the house for me? I trust their judgment. No. For legal and practical reasons and the proliferation in Philadelphia of real estate theft, fraud and theft by deception, any adult that will live in the house 14 or more days per year must be present at a showing. Trust is a two-way street. We're owners renting a house that is worth a great deal to us.
What tools do you use to choose your tenants? 1. appointment 2. application 3. background checks and verification of application information 4. follow-up appointment (if needed) 5. all communication
What is your process?
1. Read this site.
2. Check out the block and house exterior. You really don't need an excuse for brunch, right?
3. Schedule a showing.
4. Gather your paperwork. We don't require as much as this link, but if you're not prepared, you can lose out on a place that you love. www.mydomaine.com/what-to-bring-when-apartment-hunting
5. Walk through appointment
4. Send an email of interest.
6. A meeting (if requested) to discuss your application and house responsibilities.
7. E-sign the lease and Venmo one month security.
8. Check-in walk through (usually about 60 minutes depending on the size of the house to show you the water, gas and electric shutoffs, the hot water heater settings, HVAC systems, etc.). Venmo first month's rent. (Last month is paid the last month of the lease.)
9. Move in!
How do I schedule a showing? On the appointment page. Daylight hours only. Typically Saturdays only. No evenings. (We're Mom and Pop landlords with jobs that require evenings, and any night that we're not working, we're typically at community meetings.) We also try to stay out of our tenant's lives as much as possible. Although we would like to show you a house whenever it would be most convenient to you, disturbing our tenants and their animals is intrusive. Please be mindful of the intrusion of an appointment by previewing the neighborhood, block and house front and thoroughly reading this site to determine the suitability of the premises to your needs before emailing to schedule an appointment.
Why might you schedule an appointment to review my application? Unanswered questions.. Pet interview.
What do utilities cost? No utilities are included in the rent. You should budget on average $100-250/month. Energy usage is very personal. Hot Pads has a convenient estimator. Cost begins with your numbers for heating and cooling. Even a one-degree difference can substantially change the bills. More details are on the utility page on this site.
I'd like to rent a house with three friends. No can do. No more than three unrelated adults may live in one unit without rooming house zoning according to Phila Code. Rooming house zoning does not exist in our neighborhoods. We cannot change the laws. Violating the zoning invalidates our licenses and everyone's insurance.
Can I use the house for Airbnb, other STS or Couchsurfing? We live next door to one. Absolutely not.
Do you require insurance? Yikes! Insurance is a basic. For the cost of three lattes a month why would you go without and risk ruining your life? Oh you're on a budget and you like talking with the wonderful barista! (We understand. Truly. We're partial to the talented at La Colombe.) Be good to yourself, switch to a less expensive drink a few times a month and purchase insurance. Get three bids. Effectivecoverage.com, Statefarm.com and Amica.com are like the Warby Parker for renter's insurance---they make it easy. However you should also consider a personal relationship: Queen Village is just filled with walk-in storefront insurance agents.
Do your houses have security systems? No, but the Tenant can install a wireless one after providing us with a schematic for approval and obtaining the required city license. Nest is not an option because of failure rate. Look at PC Magazine for reviews. SimpliSafe is a good pick. (If you choose that one, google for the New York Times discount code.)
What do I use to clean the house? If there is a well-advertised cleaning product or tool that damages surfaces when it "cleans," we've used it. You cannot possibly imagine the damage and disasters. Think of cleaning products like this: would you wash your best wool sweater in the washer with bleach and hot water? No, of course, not. All of our houses are updated with eco coatings, which are not builder-grade finishes. Most commercial cleaning products (Comet, Scrubbing Bubbles, Lysol, TiDbowl, etc.) violate the coating warranties. The lease specifies the how and what to use, and the manufacturers are easy to contact for questions. If you can drink or eat it, it's probably okay unless it's vinegar, which is an acid that can remove most coatings especially on floors, tile grout, granite countertops and windows. Ever seen streaked granite, filmy glass or white blotches on marble? We have it, and we personally did it! Ugh!
Windex: spray it on, wipe it off. Right? In a few seconds, it destroyed the UV coating on our brand new doors. According to the manufacturer mild dish soap should have been used. Not Windex and definitely not vinegar. The manufacturer advised Oven Cleaner or Windex to remove the remaining expensive UV coating as a solution. Sigh.
Clean, very shiny and unmarred wood floors are the ultimate, aren't they, most especially if they are original or reclaimed wood? Our go-to product was Murphy's Oil Soap, but It destroyed the floor coating. It's like pouring oil on the wood that never dries. It leaves behind a residue that is a magnet for dirt. What could be worse? Well...we've done that, too: a rubber-backed sisal rug. It broke down with normal use and the backing is stuck to the floor! Every floor and floor coating manufacturer state not to use oil soaps, steamers or water or rugs with rubber backings. Agh! Proper care is really easy: biodegradable and safe Minwax floor cleaner $5.95. If we had only known. It's thousands to correct the mess.
Mr. Clean Magic Erasers: we used on everything! That is until the walls started looking blotchy and the woodwork scratchy. We called the paint manufacturer, Benjamin Moore. The news wasn't good---not at all. The "magic" is bleach and grit, which destroys high-quality paint products. Oil based primer (UGH!) and repainting is the only solution. So much for magic.
We went through three plumbers before we found one that explained to us that flushable really isn't unless you are talking about flushing cash. Quilted Northern and Charmin (among other brands) were what was causing our clogs and the stupid garbage disposal. Do you know that the US is the only country in the WORLD insane enough to use them? Now we use septic safe Marcel or Scotts only and a compost service and haven't had a clog in years. So many plumbers are just interested in the money...sigh.
Scrubbing Bubbles, Lysol, Clorox and, of course, Soft Scrub were our bathroom go to, but not any more. They erode the coating and the rubber gaskets resulting in leaks, typically on the ceiling below. Our plumber broke that news after replacing the third gasket.
We don't want our tenants to go through what we've learned the hard way or have the house damaged so the lease specifies cleaning products, and the list is pretty short: baking soda, mild dish soap, Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds, Minwax floor cleaner and Howard's butcher block cream pretty much covers it.
Many of our tenants and the manufacturers have been incredibly helpful in leading us down the path to clean, healthy and inexpensive products that work without damage. We're grateful for them.
Would I be able to move a few things into the house before the lease begins? If the prior tenant moves out early, possibly. You'll sublease from the current tenant for the extra days, reimbursing them. Your insurance inception changes. Please realize, however, that an early move in is entirely voluntary on the part of the outgoing tenant and sometimes things just go wrong. Very, very wrong.
Can I extend my lease on a month-to-month basis? No. Just like Campus Apartments, the lease absolutely ceases at the end of the term. If you want to renew and we agree, you'll esign a new 12-month lease.
Do you offer lease purchase? No. We're little Mom 'n Pop landlords that like our houses and our tenants and have poured SO MUCH WORK into them to remotely consider selling. Like probably most long-time owners in our neighborhoods, every single day we receive unsolicited mail to sell immediately for cash. HA! Nope. Nada. Not happening. We love our houses. If you are looking to buy, contact Greg Damis, who has been our real estate agent for 22 years. We wouldn't have what we do without his help.
I have a lot of art. Us, too! :-) Existing hooks or picture rail only. They remain from tenant to tenant. Drilling, hammering, sticking or screwing anything into a wall can cause a fire, create damage, and NO ONE likes blotched walls (most especially prospective tenants)! 711 South Marvine and 1106 South Bodine have picture rail molding throughout the house, which means that wherever that specific molding exists, you can hang your art. As our houses turn over, we'll be adding that molding to all of them. Picture rail molding is commonly seen in galleries and museums. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/picture-rails/
Do you accept animals? Yes with conditions. We only accept one animal per household. Sorry but this is not negotiable under any circumstances. We've owned pets all of our lives and have been renting to animals for decades---some of them (ahem) less (ahem) chill than others.
All dogs must have the basics handled and prove it by already having earned the Canine Good Citizen certificate before you schedule an appointment. If you want to take classes, you have a lot of options but we suggest you include Philly Unleashed on your list.
The Canine Good Citizen tests are:
1. Accepting a friendly stranger
2. Sitting politely for petting
3. Appearance and grooming
4. Out for a walk
5. Walking through a crowd
6. Sit and down on command/staying in place
7. Coming when called
8. Reaction to another dog
9. Reaction to distractions
10. Supervised separation
Existing animals only. We adhere to all animal laws, our insurance company's rules and use the Philadelphia Women's Humane Society (oldest shelter in the country) pet tenancy model. Even if just visiting, the animal must be in the lease, qualify, be an ADULT, house broken, spayed or neutered, trained and socialized standard domestic animal suited for urban living. We and our insurance company require the same paperwork as any quality day care---interview, immunization records, behavior/care plan, canine good citizen for dogs and references. If you have a dog bring all of the documentation detailed on the Women's Humane Society's website and a photo (but not your dog) to your appointment.
Do you have a lot of turnover? Most tenants stay three or four years. We're typically their last rental.
Who is responsible for the planters/pots/window boxes/gardens? Philadelphia is America's garden capital. We're not leasing "just the rental." Our tenants are responsible for them. Only two of our former tenants (and this is decades of renting) had experience. That's it. All of our tenants are extremely busy people, but they rise up or hire and in almost all cases have ended up loving doing it. Matt Rader, president of the PA Horticultural Society, describes the PHS mission as each house should have at least one beautiful planter. We're in total agreement with that. We've put a lot of time and money into our houses and expect plantings of our tenants that are Instagram worthy, block enhancing and are as interesting as those at Greensgrow, Urban Jungle or City Planter. That is neither expensive nor difficult. All of those places are independent, local and can be reached on a bike. Take a photo of what you need to plant and head over to the knowledgeable people working at those independent businesses. Have you met Milkshake the pig yet? If not head to Greensgrow! The curb appeal of our houses is very important to us, to our blocks and to our insurance companies. There's a Queen Village agent that personally visits each property that he is considering writing a policy for. If the property does not look attractive and well kept from the sidewalk, he doesn't write the policy. We know of a well-respected (great YELP reviews!) GHo agent that personally visits every property he writes a policy for and requires inside and outside inspections twice a year. He will cancel the policy if the property looks neglected.
Your dates, rent, policies don't meet my needs. Is anything negotiable? Sorry but no.
I have a piano. Okay? Sorry but no.
I'm in a band. That's nice, but why would we need to know? Oh, you're planning on using the house for band practice? Not happening. Sorry but any neighbor-unfriendly behavior such as sound that can be heard outside the house or through the walls including barking, music, surround sound, sub woofers and raised voices won't be happening. Many of our blocks have their own Facebooks, Google Groups, regular block parties and are located in strong communities with associations. The neighbors use NextDoor. It's amazing the number of block neighbors we run into regularly at the Head House Farmer's Market, Whole Foods and the post office. We've lived in Queen Village for almost two decades and Washington Square West for more than a decade before that. Having 2 am phone conversations or being approached in the grocery store by an unhappy neighbor long ago became old. Just sayin' once again, the neighbors use NextDoor and will not hesitate to get in touch with us, put the behavior on the internet, tell all the other neighbors about it, talk about it at yoga and the coffee shop, report it to the authorities, mention it at the community meetings and at the police advisory updates held at the libraries.
What is your lease like? It's the same as all the others that include rules and regs. It's a contract that spells out obligations. The houses being rented are handmade and historic. We don't want to ever interfere, bother or intrude on our tenants or ever return less than 100% of our tenants' security deposit.
Who takes care of the house? It's shared responsibility, just like every other lease. We do quarterly insurance and safety inspections, two of which coincide with the seasonal HVAC maintenance (roof, water, HVAC, electric, masonry, etc.), and every month the same email is sent to all of the tenants reminding them of monthly tasks (check the detectors, safety check on fire extinguisher, clean the drains with baking soda, run a sanitizing cycle in the dishwasher and washer, etc.)
I'd like to paint a few walls different colors. Not happening ever again. NO ONE ever has the time, energy or money to properly paint on the way out, and the incoming tenant suffers. No. No. No. No. NO! We've tried this. More than once. It was bad. We prefer to sleep rather than doing all nighters bailing out sick and stressed moving-out tenants in order for new tenants to move in on time into the house they expect. Never, ever again. Just to give you a little more information, our 1106 South Bodine was painted in the late summer of 2016. It cost $2600 and took EIGHT days for the painter to do it. Benjamin Moore's Aura ultra high-quality paint is the only finish that we now use. It's expensive but lasts for decades as long as it is cared for and not abused (NO Mr. Clean Magic Eraser use, for example).
Any unanswered questions? Just let us know.
A lot of details, right? Thanks for hanging in there and reading this through! To show you are serious about renting, just put the code ‘Pinball is fun’ in the FAQ box at the bottom of the appointment form. :-)
*see the application page on this site