Choosy owners exclude pets, foreigners, and people they fear won’t pay regularly

«No foreigners,» «No pets,» «Female students preferred,» «Public servants preferred,» «Perfect for couples,» «Only employed women.» Even small apartments have very choosy landlords who exclude a wide range of aspiring tenants. Bachelors, foreigners and animal lovers are just a few of those who have difficulty finding apartments, to say nothing of reasonable rents. In most cases, landlords are aimed at self-protection, since Greek legislation favors tenants. Haralambos Zepidis, vice president of the realtors’ association, explains, «If someone doesn’t pay the rent, at least three months must go by before the owner can evict them.» Some landlords claim that foreigners cause damage to rented accommodation and do not pay their rent consistently. Maria rents out a 74 sq.m. apartment in Aghios Nikolaos for 450 euros. She told Kathimerini, «These people don’t have steady employment and they can’t guarantee to pay the rent every month.» When Manolis advertised his 25 sq.m. studio apartment in Exarchia for rent, he didn’t specify «no foreigners,» but his asking price of 300 euros excludes many people just the same. «I set that price because there’s usually negotiation. It’s a way of excluding foreigners and unknown quantities in general. I want someone I can be fairly sure will meet their obligations. The last tenant left without paying the communal expenses.» For 32-year-old H.A. from Egypt, this apartment would be perfect. He has been living in Greece for eight years and speaks very good Greek. He works as a courier for a company in downtown Athens but when he had to look for somewhere to live a few months ago he ran into many difficulties. «At most places, as soon as they saw me they said it had already been rented or that they didn’t rent to foreigners. In Athens, the only apartments available to foreigners are basement or semi-basement apartments, which are very expensive.» Andrea, 28, employed by a private firm, needed three months of intensive house-hunting before finding a place. «Even on the telephone, landlords give you a thorough interrogation. If you are in a relationship, what work you do, how long you’ve been working, where your place of work is, etc.» Often the owners’ advertisements exaggerate. «I went to see a 55 sq.m. place in Melissia. The advertisement said there was a courtyard,» says Andrea, «but what they meant by a ‘courtyard’ was a garage for cars.» Eleni, 27, was so excited when she found a two-room penthouse in Neos Cosmos for a relatively good price (450 euros), that she didn’t ask for details before agreeing to take it. Luckily, she realized before signing the contract that it would cost a fortune to fix the plumbing which had been completely wrecked. But the basic obstacle facing hopeful tenants is steep rents. As Eleni says: «I was asked to pay 800 euros for an 80 sq.m. apartment on Ardittos, built in the 1950s. They said they’d drop the price to 750 euros ‘just for me’.»