The Joys and Tribulations of Landlords
Since we already covered ‘signs you need a new roommate‘, I figured I’d try my hand at the in’s and out’s of dealing with residential landlords. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done my share of apartment hopping and have noticed certain red flags you should you be on the lookout for when it comes to attaching yourself to an apartment. Now I’m not saying everyone is a slumlord, I’ve had good situations and bad. But as a friend of mine put it, “It’s like she was outside the subway panhandling and someone handed her a lease to an apartment building”, you can sometimes get some dirty dirty apples.
Don’t Live in the Same Building
While buildings run by management companies and absentee landlords can sometimes be frustrating when it comes getting things fixed, living above your landlord can be the worst. They’re all up your business and complain about everything. From you walk too heavy, to your broken door is too loud, you walk up the stairs to much, to having people of the opposite sex over, and everything else you could possibly think of. And when it comes to playing Mr. Fix It, they usually play dumb. When my landlord stopped turning on our heat in January, she casually suggested that perhaps we should close our windows to keep the heat in. Or when the apartment was overrun with pests, she refused to call an exterminator and bought as a can of raid.
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Avoid the Senile
I’m not trying to be ageist here, and when I use the word senile I mean it. Some apartments are great but not THAT great. And I can guarantee you’re setting yourself up for trouble. From calling the cops in the middle of the night insisting they heard “noises”, to not repairing anything because they couldn’t find the right person in the yellow pages, or my personal favorite, packing their suitcases and pretending to go on vacation. Just because someone inherited the ownership of a building in a will, does not make them good landlord material.
You can usually spot these people right away. They make up fees for all sorts of things and will tell you their whole life story to illicit sympathy. One landlord’s husband was constantly ‘having strokes’, she owed back taxes, suffered from chronic back pain and sorry your apartment flooded they’ll send someone out eventually. And for the record, no tenant is responsible for repairing their own apartment. If you’re a lowly broke-ass like myself, you’re not going have a huge cash flow to list on your application. One landlord sighed with disgust after she asked me what I majored in, in college. It was like having the overbearing and disappointed mother I never wanted.
Know Your Rights
Housing laws vary from state to state, but in most cities, they usually favor the tenant. After spending some time in housing court, I learned the valuable lesson of crossing all my t’s and dotting my i’s when it comes to signing leases and anything else. Most people don’t know their rights as tenants and landlord’s know this and take advantage of it. They’ll threaten eviction and all sorts of things, but the process of evicting someone is a lot more time consuming and expensive then most people want to actually go through with. Most housing laws are easy to find online and the next time you get googly-eyed over exposed brick and square footage, just remember to read the fine print.
Feel free to share your own experiences so you can restore or destroy my faith in the tenant-landlord relationship.