Help me smoke the smokers.
September 16, 2008 2:45 PM   Subscribe

NYC-Renters-filter. How do I make my management company make the ass-hat neighbors upstairs stop using our patio as an ash-tray.

We moved into a new first-floor apartment a few months back, and it comes complete with a private patio accessed from our back door, behind the building. Cleaned it up, threw up a patio table, umbrella, tiki torches, the whole deal.

And then the butts started to rain down. And it hasn't stopped. After the first month, we cleaned up a few dozen of them, and found that one of them had burned a hole in our umbrella. So we left a polite note with each of the rear-facing units on the 5 floors above us, asking them to please use an ashtray instead of the yard. We heard back from 3 of them letting us know they don't smoke, that left the top floor or the guy directly above us. The guy directly above us is regularly out on his fire escape with friends, smoking it up, but never drops them when we're out there. The other day, however, I heard them out there and then saw - through the window, a butt hit the patio.

We've called the management company multiple times about this. Today I did another cleanup and found 57 cigarette butts, 29 joint roaches, 19 used matches, and one broken lighter. That's over 100 chances to start a fire on our patio. And an hour after I cleaned up, I walked back out and found a fresh butt on the patio. The only open window above our place, all day, has been the neighbor upstairs.

I have it all in a bag and I want to march over to the management company, find the guy in charge, present him with the bag, documentation of our calls on the issue, documentation of the damage already caused, and insist that an end be put to it. But I'd also like to know what my rights are as a tenant.

Can I refuse to pay rent? Is there some department in the city that I can threaten to go to if the management company doesn't put a stop to this? Should I threaten to go to a lawyer? Should I go to a lawyer first? (I'd rather save my cash, hence this question prior to that) How do I make them get their shit together and threaten these kids with more serious consequences if they don't stop throwing their shit in our yard?

posted by allkindsoftime to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
tell your management company the guy upstairs is a fire hazard and doing drugs—either of the two should be enough to get them to do something. if not, just call the cops the next time a joint roaches lands on your patio and let them take care of it.

(i think marijuana should be legalized, but if your neighbor is going to be an asshole about throwing his garbage out his window onto your patio and stupid enough that he's throwing joint roaches, by all means throw the book at his inconsiderate law-breaking ass.)
posted by lia at 2:55 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm going to go the opposite direction on the above advice and say that you should invite the neighbors over for a beer. Get to know them, bring up the butt situation, show them your umbrella and then ask really nicely if they wouldn't mind putting an ashcan on the fire escape rather than throwing the butts down on your yard. It probably isn't even the neighbors, but their guests, and if your neighbors like you, they might try harder to keep the rain of fire to a minimum. I can pretty much guarantee that if you piss them off by trying to get them in trouble with the landlord, you will have far more than roaches and butts flying down on you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: Screw them. If they are douchebags enough to be this inconsiderate of their neighbors, how much longer before they up the douchebag level: loud parties, moving furniture at 3am, drunken urinating or puking over the side of the balcony, etc. If they can't be considerate enough to be polite neighbors, they deserve to be kicked out and forced to live somewhere else where their bullshit will be tolerated.

Call the landlord. Keep a daily log. Keep the evidence. Send letters to the leasing company or landlord documenting all of this. Do you have little children? If so, call the authorities with a claim o child endangerment from the fire hazard and proximity to illegal substances.

NYC has fairly strong renter's rights laws (although getting weaker with every Republican mayor we elect). You can look up your address in NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development to see if any code violations or complaints have been lodged in the past. You can also dig around and find out more about your landlord or leasing company. You could rightly claim a fire hazard and file a complaint, though I'd do it after having first failed to get the landlord to address the problem.

Perhaps you can get more flies with honey than vinegar, but my rental experience in NYC has jaded me. It continues to shock me at the deplorable conditions and outrageous rents in this city. You should be able to demand a certain level of quality of living and not have your inconsiderate douchebag neighbors ruin it.
posted by at 5:22 PM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: I'll take it a step further than The Light Fantastic and suggest you give your neighbor some sort of ash can or a place to put your butts like outside office buildings. Maybe give him a small jar and write "roaches" on it too.

If he asks why you are giving him this tell him that you don't want a beef with him, you know how hard it is to stop friends from instinctively flicking butts and wanted to help him before you have to escalate it.

Then in a month when none of this works, you will feel fine about escalating it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:25 PM on September 16, 2008

We had this very same problem and solved it by taking the cigarette butts up to the 4th floor where they were coming from, politely giving them back to them, and asking them nicely not to toss them out onto our backyard--NOR allow their guests to do so (we had gone through a round of this when they had obnoxious visitors they blamed).

After a few rounds of this, it stopped. But it took several visits, some in the middle of the night, to keep them from ditching their cigarettes in our little backyard.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:06 PM on September 16, 2008

You should talk to them first before going to the management company. I had a problem with a neighbor who was violating her lease agreement (she was doing slightly illegal things). The management did nothing until legal action was threatened. They will ask you first if you approached your neighbor and talked to them - they are quite conflict avoidant.
posted by howcast at 12:21 PM on September 17, 2008

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