Move to another apartment in the same neighborhood to escape landlord?
July 9, 2014 4:36 PM   Subscribe

I need to decide by tomorrow whether to move out of my apartment (in September). Dislike the landlord, who lives above me, but the place is nice and my daughter was born there. My old landlord, who I like a lot, has a place for rent. Details below:

I am thinking of moving and have to decide fast. My landlord is frankly kind of a jerk, a young guy with a muscle t-shirt who lives in the upstairs apt and sometimes plays loud videogames, though he always turns it down if I ask. To be fair he has been good about shoveling snow, turning down his music, taking care of repairs, etc. He hasn't been a terrible landlord; I think he just has no social skills. We share a driveway which is enough of a pain, but he didn't tell me before I moved that he also likes to take his big loud motorcycle out of the garage all the time. Plus he is planning on getting a new car and putting it in the garage, which means my car will always have to be moved. He is willing to move my car himself, but he leaves it running in the street while he moves his own car, and I worry that it will be stolen! Though he may change that behavior if I ask. And I worry that if he changes his mind about moving the car himself, I'll be screwed - I can't leave the baby alone in the house and go out to the street. Driveway yes; street, no. There have been a few times when I forgot to leave the key in its special spot, and he delivered a new lease to me this week tgat includes this crazy clause about how if I forget to leave the key in the spot for him to move the car, he will fine me $100 each time. Which I think is ridiculous. I don't fine him $100 everytime he wakes my kid up with his motorcycle or doesn't get to shoveling the snow before he goes to work. Also, he didn't put anything about moving the car himself in the lease. I would be screwed if he changed his mind on that one... I can't go move the car out to the street and leave the baby alone in the house.

I ran into my old landlord who is a sweetheart recently and he offered me one of his apartments, which also has a great location. His daughter and her boyfriend live upstairs - I am guessing they're very nice (his youngest daughter was friends with some of my students, and was really nice). It has a nice but small backyard and I have friends who all live within a few blocks, a bit closer than where I am now. There is a toddler playground next door (vs half a block away where I am now, so not too different there). The rent is the same plus gas heat (not oil) which will be much cheaper in winter. The problem? It's much smaller, and not *quite* as nice. But I could imagine doing cookouts etc with the upstairs neighbors. Maybe. But who knows, I haven't met them yet.

He also has a 3BR for the same rent a few blocks in the other direction which I saw this afternoon, just a few blocks from where I presently live but much closer to busy streets. It was big and light but had fake wood floors and I'm not crazy about being on a busier street, just a block from a big gas station. Afterwards he lent me the key to the first place and I went back and measured, and realized the rooms are really small. The bedrooms are only 7x9 feet. I am not sure I can fit a queen bed, a crib, and a dresser in one of them. But at the time I got a great vibe and went and brought the keys back to him, had a beer and watched the World Cup with him, and told him I wanted the apartment.

And then. I came home, and realized the rooms here are literally twice the size and much nicer (the floor has a pretty serious slant there, old house). And started thinking that maybe this will be a lot of change for Baby H on top of me starting work the same month, maybe I love living one block from a big park, maybe I can live with the motorcycle till October or whenever it gets cold. I started remembering Baby H as a tiny newborn here and feeling sad about leaving. I really like my next door neighbors - stay at home dad with two young kids who has been super sweet. I dunno. If it was a big beautiful apartment there would be no doubt. But I'm feeling unsure. And I need to decide by tomorrow!

Also, the old/new landlord is not perfect. He is a really nice guy, and I'm on great terms with him, but sometimes he was slow to repair stuff (I lived in one of his places a few years ago, for three years).

Would it be reasonable to ask him to add the thing about his taking responsibility for moving the car to the lease? I'm also not happy that unlike most landlords he is only renewing the lease on a year to year basis (in the past after the first year it has gone to month-to-month so I could for instance live somewhere for 4 1/2 years).

Thoughts? Am I crazy to think about moving? I need to decide by tomorrow (Thu). I don't think I have the time/energy to mount a whole apartment search - this just seemed easy because it fell into my lap.
posted by betsbillabong to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Shoot! Not sure how to edit my post now, but I am a single professional mom with a 6 month old daughter. Money is a bit tight. Also, when I said "would it be reasonable to ask him to add to the lease..." I was talking about my current landlord who moves the car.
posted by betsbillabong at 4:37 PM on July 9, 2014

The $100 fine is sort of silly, but at the same time, if he has to take a cab to and from wherever he's going because your car is keeping him from getting his car, $100 seems a lot less unreasonable.

This doesn't directly the answer the question, but why wouldn't you just get another copy of the key to the car rather than dealing with the leaving the key / fine issue at all? I realize that modern car keys aren't cheap, but surely a one time expense like that is worth saving all that hassle. It's got to be a whole lot cheaper than moving.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Specifically where are you located? You may not get good answers to a rent/tenancy question without this information.

My gut says don't move. Depending on where you are located and how long you have been in your current place, you may be eligible for rent control or closer to it. Never give up the potential for rent control! I also question why you're renewing for a year every time you sign the lease.

I didn't see you mention the parking situation at the new place. If the parking is such that you have a spot and you don't have to move the car, then it's worth it to move.

Otherwise, it sounds like the new place is smaller for the same rent, and while the heating might be cheaper, if you have to park in the street, forget it.

You may have some rights regarding the parking space at your current apartment, but I can't be sure without seeing your lease. I strongly suggest that before you sign a new lease with any additional car move or parking spot clauses, you run it by your local lawyer or tenant advocacy group.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2014

Hi, thanks to both of you. Just to answer a couple of questions:

- He has never been left high and dry, but has had to ring the apartment to ask me for the key. I would be happy to pay his expenses to get somewhere if that happened.

- I live in Providence, Rhode Island. No rent control, but it's a cheapish place to live and he did not raise the rent. The other landlord dropped the rent by $100 because he is a friend.

- Good point about the parking situation. I should have my own place BUT his daughter and her BF have two cars, and may not be happy about giving up one of their spots. Parking is a big deal for me because it's handy to let my daughter nap in the car while I run groceries in, etc. I would not feel safe doing that from the street.

- No time to run lease by anyone, I'm afraid, though that's a good idea.
posted by betsbillabong at 5:04 PM on July 9, 2014

There is a third (fourth, fifth, etc.) option I haven't heard you consider: moving to a place that isn't owned by your former landlord. The former landlord offered you a low-hanging-fruit opportunity. I think if you do some looking around, you might find another place that fills more of your needs and wants, without the downsides of your current place or the previous-landlord's places. No need to mount a full search -- just start putting feelers out, and keep your eyes open.
posted by nacho fries at 5:10 PM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

The moving-the-car thing alone would be a dealbreaker for me. But I know there are a lot of other issues in play.

So here's what I do. I get out a coin, pick one option for heads and one option for tails, and I tell myself I'll go with whatever the coin decides. The coin lands. And then I get that flash of response of joy or disappointment. If I'm happy with the coin, I stick with it. If I'm not happy, I pick the other option.

For me, it's a shortcut to understanding how I really feel about my options.
posted by mochapickle at 5:13 PM on July 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

I would not move. Frankly, none of the things you talk about regarding your landlord make him sound like kind of a jerk. He may be socially offputting to you, and he does make noise that wakes your baby up - but he's just living his life, and it sounds like he is willing to work with you and be flexible when he gets in your way. Honestly, he sounds more like a mensch to me!

Considering how much this guy annoys you, I wouldn't take the risk and move into a slightly less nice place with more people that will live above you. That's 2x more people who could possibly annoy you, compared to this one guy, who seems like he's slightly annoying but not too hard to live near. I've had... way more terrible neighbors and landlords than the guy you're describing. Unless you left something really heinous out?
posted by pazazygeek at 5:14 PM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

These are not your only two options. You can go for door number three, the place with a parking space, enough room and nice neighbors. In other words, look for a place that'll work for you 100%.

Your nice neighbors can still be friends. You can still hang with your old landlord.

Now, not moving is FULL of greatness, no packing, no hassle, no extra expense to move. I would have to be PRETTY annoyed with the landlord to pay $1,000 to move. And if you don't think it'll be that much:

1. Charges to move utilities

2. Renting a truck, hiring movers.

3. Boxes, tape and newsprint.

4. Pizza and Beer for the friends who help you

5. $200 in thumb tacks that you always spend when you move

Honestly, if you can make it work for you for another year, I'd do that. Have your LL take that dumb clause out, and instead work out something like giving him his own key, and discussing that he roll the motorcycle out into the street before starting it up so he doesn't wake the baby.

You've been through a lot in the past year, do you REALLY want to move just now?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:16 PM on July 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

I don't disagree with Ruthless Bunny but I personally hate my landlord, whose actions don't rise to the level of legally actionable harassment but who has made a habit for years of not responding intelligibly to requests/questions, and then being snippy about it when I ask for clarification. It's a low level irritation that if I had the opportunity to get rid of, I would, in a heartbeat. However, I've been in a rent controlled apartment for 19 years and there's no way I could get what I have for less than twice the price I pay. (Which, in my opinion, goes a long way toward explaining why my landlord acts like an idiot and/or asshole). Landlord hassles are like a buzzing refrigerator, you don't even realize what a huge bummer it is until you don't have it any more.
posted by janey47 at 6:20 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't want to threadsit but just wanted to say that I have neither the time nor energy to really look for the perfect apartment - and I am also between fulltime jobs and am adjuncting. It's not a problem, financially, but I think it will make it a lot harder for me to get an apartment.

I'm leaning towards just staying. We are talking about the lease tomorrow. Thank you all for your input.
posted by betsbillabong at 6:55 PM on July 9, 2014

... there is no way in heck that I would be letting my landlord use my car on a regular basis, even if only to move it in and out of the driveway. That's nuts. That would have already decided the issue for me - either I'd never have gotten into it, or I'd have found a different place pronto once it was demanded.
posted by stormyteal at 6:56 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stormyteal, it's either that or leave my baby inside alone while I move the car. Unfortunately.
posted by betsbillabong at 7:01 PM on July 9, 2014

One consideration, since you mention that at least some of these units are older and all of the units are managed by casual small-scale landlords, and since your baby will be crawling and walking and mouthing surfaces during your next lease term: which of these apartments, if any, have lead paint mitigation certificates? (Your landlord(s) may have done other work that isn't in the database, which you could ask them about. But the database is a place to start.)

I would at least consider that before making a final decision.
posted by pie ninja at 7:13 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you tell him you want to go month to month? Depending on your local laws you may be entitled to that option. Then you aren't locked in another year if it gets to be too irritating with the car situation or if a better place turns up.
posted by JenMarie at 8:44 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I have a lot of anecdotal experience with this. I live in an apartment that I enjoy very much and if I were to move out, it would mean paying more for less somewhere else. I have a very challenging landlord whom I would describe as a "habitual line-stepper" - he unfortunately lives on the property, has health problems and went through a divorce, I've heard him yell at other tenants, he tried raising my rent twice in one year, and he doesn't repair things unless you ask a million times and then start yelling at him. If you pay your rent on time and are otherwise a good tenant I recommend doing the following.

The trick is to put your cards out on the table. When I did this the landlord stopped fucking with me completely. For example, tell your landlord, I'm a single mom raising a child, and I'm looking for a reasonably stable, supportive place to do this. I don't want to interfere with my neighbors or be interfered with. I don't want my lease to be rewritten for me at a whim to include penalties to "incentivize" me to avoid making mistakes normal people sometimes make. This is deeply uncomfortable. Your motorcycle wakes my kid up in the morning and that also is very uncomfortable and I don't ask you to pay fines for that. I also want you to know that because of my economic situation and having a kid that I'm raising by myself, signing a year-long lease is really challenging and I like to honor my agreements. Maybe there is something we can do in the future to work this out so neither of us is hurt or worried. Being comfortable is really important to me right now and I otherwise like the apartment and having you as a landlord.

Do this and you'll have your answer tomorrow. The rest is about also reminding him the things he does really well and making a few concessions. Like giving him your phone number if he needs to call you to move his car. Or figuring out a better system. Or just being nicer to each other.

This is called being the adult in the relationship. You're taking a chance, but you will be rewarded for standing up for yourself, trust me. You're a valuable tenant. If it doesn't work out, which I'm almost sure it will, you approach the new landlord the same way. Hope this helps.
posted by phaedon at 8:48 PM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, you could leave your kid in the car in the driveway while you unload groceries to just inside the door, then drive the car to parking spot, and carry child home. What do you think?

Yep. Ask him to roll the motorcycle to the street from now on.

Tell him you won't sign that clause in the lease because you will no longer be parking in the driveway. GET A DISCOUNT OR AVOID RENT INCREASE TO OFFSET LOSS OF DRIVEWAY PARKING.

Lastly, check your local laws. It's likely you are legally month-to-month. Make that happen if you can.

Hon, the $100 fee is to get the driveway privileges back from you. If you want to stay there, this is his condition. He finds moving your car a pain in the ass, but he won't tell you to your face.

Knowing this, what do you want to do?
posted by jbenben at 10:58 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for lots to think about. I am inclined to stay now, but want to have a talk with the landlord (which I have scheduled at 8am).

Pie Ninja, thanks so much for the link to the lead certification site. None of the homes have lead certification, but the new one (and the other one, in fact) have both been completely repainted in the last year. All three apartments have new windows - that was a dealbreaker for me while looking at places.

Wish me luck! (And any other advice still gratefully accepted...)
posted by betsbillabong at 4:46 AM on July 10, 2014

Hi everyone,

OP here. I ended up making him a new valet key, asking him to take the ridiculous $100 fee off the lease, and renewing. He was not willing to talk about month to month after the current lease, so I will likely move at the end of this lease.

In the end, this apartment is much nicer than the few that I looked at; and I realized that my major issue was not with how he acted but with how he spoke to me.

One thing that was very helpful was making a list of best and worst-case scenarios for both staying and leaving -- and then trying to figure out how I could stay in the current apartment and still get as many of the positives of moving and mitigate my worst fears about staying. That included things like inviting the next door neighbors over for BBQs, getting rid of the $100 thing on the lease, and so on. I realized that emotionally I wanted to leave but that it didn't make good logistic sense.

I appreciate all of your help - thank you!
posted by betsbillabong at 5:03 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Where should I live in Manchester, NH?   |   How do we appropriately ask for t-shirt design... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.