The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman

Odd Parcels: Landlord Woes, Auto Loans, Parental Help

Everyone knows tenants gripe about their landlords. But landlords have their shares of complaints, too.

According to a recent poll by ManageGo, a property management software company, property owners’ and managers’ biggest bugaboo is tenants who complain about things they should or could do themselves: changing a lightbulb, for example, or repairing a running toilet.

Changing a lightbulb? Come on, people.

And about those cantankerous toilets: How about jiggling the handle a few times to see if that stops the thing from running? Or lift the lid off the tank and adjust the float. If none of that fixes it, then it becomes the landlord’s problem. By all means, give him or her a holler.

But just one call should suffice. Another pet peeve, say the 100 New York City-area landlords surveyed: Multiple repair requests from the same tenant, with repeated emails and/or phone calls about the same problem.

This response indicates landlords think there’s often too much communication, but tenants say there’s not enough to suit them. Half the tenants polled said their landlords fail to keep them up-to-date on progress related to their calls for help.

Obviously, says ManageGo’s Chaim Lowenstein, there’s a need for better communication between landlords and their tenants. And it goes both ways.

Surprisingly, only 10 percent of tenants polled wanted repairs made right away. That’s a good thing, because fixes often become an issue of contractor availability. Some places have a stable of repair techs on duty, but most mom-and-pop landlords don’t have electricians, plumbers and appliance people at their beck and call.

And the more complicated the fix, the longer the wait is likely to be. If an elevator needs replacing in your building, for example, service is going to be down until the old one can be removed and the new one is ordered, installed and tested. So be prepared to take the stairs for as long as that process takes. And if you rent from a part-time landlord, they’ll have to call around until they find someone who won’t break the bank.

“It’s tricky,” says Lowenstein. “Most landlords want to get (a repair) done. But sometimes, they have to revert to their second or third choices. And sometimes they have to make temporary fixes until their first choice can get there.”

Much has been said about how student debt is hurting the ability of many millennials to qualify for a mortgage. But lenders may be starting to take a harder look at the amount of money would-be borrowers are paying every month for their fancy BMWs, Mercedes and Ram trucks.

Why? Because while homeowners overall are getting better at paying their house loans without missing a beat, the overall performance of auto loans has been slowly worsening, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The deteriorating picture is masked somewhat by their strong payback records among borrowers with the highest credit scores. But among those with scores at 620 or below, the delinquency rate, as of last year’s fourth quarter, exceeded 8 percent -- “a development that is surprising,” said economists at the Fed, especially when considering the strength of the economy and labor market.

Although rising delinquency rates remain below the 2010 peak, the economists said, there are still more than 7 million people with auto loans who were 90 days or more late at the end of 2018. That’s a million more than at the end of 2010, when delinquency rates were at their worst.

Their advice to lenders: The situation warrants continued monitoring. Meanwhile, if you are in the market for a house, or just recently bought one, stay away from high-priced vehicles. The payments -- an average of $556 a month for a nearly six-year loan, according to Edmunds.com -- can be killers.

If families were considered mortgage companies, they’d be the seventh-largest lender in the country, according to Legal & General, a multinational financial services firm. The proverbial “Bank of Mom and Dad” is “a hugely influential force in the U.S. housing market,” says L&G’s Nigel Wilson.

Nationally, parents and grandparents supported the purchase of $317 billion worth of property -- some 1.2 million houses -- last year, L&G reports. One in 5 buyers received gifts or interest-free loans from family members so they could buy a house, according to the study. The average amount: $39,000.

Half of all wannabe homeowners under age 35 say they need help from family to make the deal work. And those young buyers who went before them said that without help from the old folks, they would have had to delay their purchases for at least three years.