“I Have a Jack Daniels Terrier.” I recently rented a big house here in Berkeley. I once got an application for this house from a woman that immediately aroused my suspicion, but as my sister Bonnie says, I have a suspicious nature. Why, I asked myself, would a single woman want to rent a 5 bedroom house by herself? Of course that’s legal, but it’s not normal. After reviewing her application form, I said: “I see you have a pet. You wrote down that your pet is a Jack Daniels Terrier. Don’t you mean a Jack Russell Terrier?” She seemed annoyed by my question. She said: “No. I meant what I said. I have a Jack Daniels Terrier.” I said: “Uh, you own a dog, right?” She said: “Yes, you know I do,” sounding increasingly annoyed. I said: “Well, I’ve never heard of a Jack Daniels Terrier before. Are you sure you don’t mean a Jack Russell Terrier?” Then she blew a gasket! She said angrily: “I’ve told you 3 times now that I own a Jack Daniels Terrier. You’re one of them, aren’t you?” I didn’t reply to that question. I didn’t know what she meant. Then she stood up and gathered up her stuff and said as she left: “I know you’re one of them.” She said that several times, but she never explained what she meant by that. When I went home, I looked up ‘Jack Daniels Terrier’ on Google, just to make sure that there really is no such breed, and as I suspected, there isn’t. I decided not to rent my house to that woman – or her Jack Daniels Terrier. I rented the house to a nice bunch of U.C. Berkeley chemistry grad students instead. Here is a photo of a Jack Russell Terrier. Notice the distinctive upturned tail, a characteristic of this breed. I wonder what a Jack Daniels Terrier might look like.

Worst Application Ever.

“I Have A Question.”  I rented a house on Milvia Street 3 years ago. At the bottom of my Craigslist listing, I put: “I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about this house. Send your questions to (my email address.)” Here are my 3 favorite questions and my answers.

Q. Your ad says that this house has 5 parking spaces, but there’s no garage. Is the parking outside?
A. Yes. I do not permit my tenants to park their cars inside the house.

Q. Your ad says ‘No dog.’ What about 2 dogs?
A. That was my mistake. I’m sorry. My ad should have said ‘No dog or dogs.’

Q. Do I have to tell you my name?
A. If you want to rent this house, Yes, you will have to tell me your name. I cannot check your credit if I do not know your name.

Worst Application Ever

My Dog Has Issues. At an apartment, where I advertised that I would allow a pet, an applicant told me that he had a dog. I asked him what kind of dog he had. He said that he didn’t know. I am always suspicious when an applicant for an apartment tells me that he has a dog but can’t describe it. That happens fairly often, and it always sets off alarm bells for me. I said to him: “I can see that your dog is in your car. Why not bring him inside so I can meet him?” The guy went silent. After thinking about it for a minute, he said:  “I don’t think that would be a good idea. My dog has anger management issues. That’s why I have to move.” I thought: “Uh oh! That dog must have done something really, really bad.” I said: “Well in that case, leave the dog in the car.” I didn’t call the guy’s landlord to get the gruesome details. I didn’t have to. I knew I didn’t want that dog in my building. I rented the place to somebody else.

Worst Application Ever.

“I’m Lucky.” I once got an application for an apartment in Berkeley from a young single woman. On her application form, she said that she was a self-employed ‘holistic therapist.’ That’s one of those job titles can mean anything. She claimed to have a good income, but her income was completely verifiable. She said that most of her customers paid her in cash and that she didn’t file tax returns. I told her that unverifiable income doesn’t carry a lot of weight with landlords when reviewing rental applications. She said that she knew that; however, she kept saying: “You really should to rent this apartment to me” and she said it in a sly way as though there was some special reason that I should know about, but didn’t. After a while, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked her: “Why do you keep saying that?” She said: “Because I’m lucky, and if you rent this apartment to me, you will be lucky too. I bring good luck to landlords.” I asked her what she meant by that. She said: “Just a few days after I moved into my last apartment, my landlord’s mother was run over by a delivery truck and killed. He inherited a fortune. His mother had a lot more money than he thought she did.” I concluded that the point of this woman’s story was that she is lucky for landlords – – but not their mothers. I decided to take my chances of getting an unlucky tenant and rented my apartment to somebody else. As it turned out, the tenant I rented my apartment to actually was unlucky! He was a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley. A short while after he moved in, he broke a leg on a ski trip. He had a lot of difficulty getting to campus for several months while his leg was in a cast, and it was during the rainy season too.

Worst Application Ever.

E-mail Applications. Last month, I rented an apartment to a group of graduate students. I received several good applications for the place. Most of the applications came from people living outside this area and who applied by email. It is always awkward for a landlord to rent an apartment to people who he has not met and who have not seen his apartment. In most places, landlords will not rent apartments that way; however, in college towns like Berkeley, this is quite common, especially at this time of year, just before the start of a new school year. Taking rental applications by email can be tricky, so I am always on the lookout for suspicious questions from applicants. Here are some questions I got from email applicants last month that raised red flags for me:

  • “Your ad says ‘4 bedrooms.’ Are they all inside the apartment?”
  • “It says on your web site that you require photo I.D. I don’t have a photo I.D. Would you accept a letter from my parole officer instead?”
  • “Where is Berkeley?”