The rental trap Just because the rental market is tight doesn't mean you have to put up with nonsense By Chris Woodall If you are new to Whistler you are quickly discovering the rude side of the No. 1 ski resort in North America. If you didn't find a place to live in Whistler by Sept. 1, you are most likely out of luck finding anything "decent" — reasonably inexpensive and/or reasonably liveable. Unless you are earning a "management" salary — and perhaps even then — you are probably sharing accommodation, even to the point of sharing a bedroom, with what were total strangers before the gang of you signed the lease. No matter if you have already got a place, or if you are currently trying to nail one down, here's a few pointers you should open your eyes to. 1) The damage deposit: You may have been told it's a full month's rent. It's not. Anything more than half a month is not on. Australians in particular have been told they must pay an "Aussie bond" on top of the damage deposit. This is illegal. Your damage deposit it due you within 30 days after you've left, plus interest. If you are leaving-leaving — that is, out of Whistler — work out deducting the damage deposit from the last month's rent. 2) Discrimination: It happens. As we alluded to already, Australians in Whistler have come up against some landlords who actively discriminate against Anzacs. This is illegal. The province's Human Rights Act says quite clearly that: "No person shall deny to a person or class of persons the right to occupy, as a tenant, space that is represented as being available for occupancy as a tenant, or discriminate against a person or class of persons with respect to a term or condition of the tenancy of the space, because of race, colour, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, or age of that person or class of persons, or any other person or class of persons." A feature article in Pique Newsmagazine last February quoted more than a dozen Aussies who had been denied accommodation, or who had to pay "Aussie bonds," because of their passport. In some cases, all the landlord has done is listen to the accent on the telephone and suddenly changed his story about the availability of the apartment. Some prospective tenants have found someone with a "Canadian" or other "non-Australian" accent to talk to the landlord over the phone for that initial contact. You can also call the Residential Tenancy Branch at 1-800-661-4886. 3) Being an idiot: Don't. Landlords have hassles, too. There are tenants who can't handle not having mommy and daddy pick up after them. They end up leaving the apartment looking like a bomb went off. The landlord won't be pleased — it is, after all, his or her place — and will probably take it out on the next tenant with higher rent, stricter controls and so on. If you're the offender, you probably don't care. If you know of an offender, straighten him or her out. Word gets out fast in this town. No one wants to foot the bill for one person's ignorant behaviour. Employers don't enjoy having staff who are known deadbeats. If you are the one among your group who has to collect rent, or cash for the cable, phone bill, or utilities, to give the landlord: Don't put up with excuses. Rent not paid may be additional cash out of your and other fellow tenants' pocket. Remember that there are a lot of people out there who'd love to have the deadbeat's space. 4) The shared telephone: Don't let it get that long-distance feeling. Sure, it'll be inconvenient, but if you have more than one fellow tenant, there can be a lot of stress trying to debate and collect on calls and services. Remember that the phone bill comes a month after the calls are made. If the phone's in your name, that last bill may be an unpleasant surprise. You might want to get B.C. Tel to block any long-distance calls on your line so you won't get stung. There will be a $10 service charge. One version of "Call Guardian" allows you accept long-distance calls (i.e., ones where the operator will ask if you'll accept the charges). This can be a trap. It's better to go with the version that prevents any long-distance calls coming or going, unless you use a prepaid phone card, or have a calling card with its personal code number.