Why yes I can overthink a can of trash, thank you.
October 4, 2014 4:33 PM   Subscribe

In a 2-unit converted house in greater Boston, with the owner/landlord living upstairs, is the etiquette for the first-floor renter (me) to simply put my trash in outside cans/recycling bins as needed, and expect my landlord to take them to the curb on trash day? Or am I responsible for moving 'my own' trash to the sidewalk?

I've just moved into the first-floor unit of a 2-unit converted house (greater Boston), where the landlord/owner lives upstairs. There are several trash cans and two large recycling bins in the driveway we share. All the trash cans are the same, so I don't think they're leftovers from the previous tenant (and thus can't tell if my unit has its own designated cans.)

Thus, I'm at a loss trying to predict the most likely cultural etiquette. Option A: "Hey, you pay rent, and this is one of the things you pay rent for." Option B: "Hey, it's your trash, and why would you expect anyone else to take it to the curb for you, landlord or not?"

I checked the lease already, no help there. I'm totally willing to be responsible for my own trash, I'm just trying to navigate what is obviously a very complex, high-stakes social and cultural situation fraught with symbolic meaning and the potential for giving unintended offense. Naturally, I've come here for guidance.
posted by amy lecteur to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Best answer: I've lived in lots of these situations, and I took it out sometimes and sometimes I let the landlord or other tenants take it out, trying to pitch in for a fair amount of weeks.
posted by geegollygosh at 4:35 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This might be too obvious, but... ask the landlord?
posted by celtalitha at 4:36 PM on October 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, actually talk to them. I have a similar setup, and we've fallen into the rhythm like the first poster.
posted by canine epigram at 4:47 PM on October 4, 2014

Best answer: Yeah, I would ask the landlord. In my experience, this issue has always been formally--on the lease--addressed and clarified. If it's not on your lease, ask your landlord.
posted by primate moon at 4:47 PM on October 4, 2014

Best answer: If it's just you downstairs, and them upstairs, you probably take your own trash. Just ask them which of the trash cans are for your use, and which are theirs.
posted by instead of three wishes at 4:48 PM on October 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: When I lived in Somerville in a similar situation (I was upstairs, landlord was downstairs), each of us took out our own trashcans and recycling bins. We knew to do this because each set of cans had a big "#1" and "#2" written on it, corresponding to our unit numbers. The underneath of each trashcan lid was numbered as well. So ask your landlord, and if your situation is the same as mine, ask them if you can put unit numbers on the cans, or if they'd do it.
posted by Mizu at 4:54 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Assuming you don't create colossal amounts of trash, or especially stinky/obtrusive trash, I would err on the side of not doing the curb drag for a week and see if it's still there after trash day. If yes, clearly the expectation is that you have a designated can that needs to be moved by you on the appointed day. If no, then obviously this is a task your landlord routinely does.

Or, yeah, you could just ask. But in the absence of being able to ask, the above would also work.

(FWIW I rent in a similar situation, do not have an appointed can for my specific use, and my landlord takes out all the cans on trash day. YMMV, obviously.)
posted by Sara C. at 4:54 PM on October 4, 2014

Response by poster: I should have clarified: normally I'm all for the directly-asking approach, but this landlord is kind of standoffish in person (though perfectly responsible landlord-wise so far), so I thought I'd take the temperature here before asking in person.

I did a thorough inspection for any numbers on the cans/bins, and no such luck.

My trash is respectable, even modest in both amount and smell, if I do say so myself. It sounds like the best approach is a trial run this week to see if the landlord moves it, then for me to chip in down the line (or curb my own trash) as needed.

Thanks everyone!
posted by amy lecteur at 4:59 PM on October 4, 2014

Best answer: Don't take their standoffishness personally, or even consider it. It's a business relationship first and foremost. They may be cold so as to discourage you from asking for minor stuff, but trash is a basic responsibility for the property owner so it's their job to know and to tell you.
posted by rhizome at 5:31 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To clarify, barring being told otherwise by the landlord, I would assume that we each used separate trashcans. This has been the case at multiple duplexes I've lived in. I would not assume that because the can of trash goes to the curb one week that means they are ok with that arrangement - they would be taking their own trash to the curb regardless, and you might end up with a terse "by the way, you need to start taking your trash out" from the landlord a month from now after they've had a chance to build up a bit of annoyance.
posted by celtalitha at 5:32 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Don't do the wait thing - curb it yourself and then follow up with "did I put it out at the right time/right place?" with the landlord. If they say, "Don't worry about it - I'll take care of it," you are absolved. If they say, "Well, you want to take it out later so that the bottle pickers don't make a huge mess" then you know it's up to you.

From experience, first impressions in a new (in building) landlord system make a difference and a little dragging now can help you down the line.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:34 PM on October 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Agreeing with getting it to the curb yourself the first time--then check in with landlord.
Better to be the tenant that does too much than the lazy renter that can't even get their trash to the curb.
posted by calgirl at 5:47 PM on October 4, 2014

Best answer: Just ask him. You're way overthinking this. At my duplex we alternate weeks of dragging all the cans to the curb, but we could have made a deal to just take our own out. There's no "usual", just whatever you and your neighbor agree on.
posted by MsMolly at 6:37 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just ask the landlord upfront. Your plan has way more potential to result in upset feelings of some kind.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:26 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay kids - sounds like it's time to pin down the landlord and ask.

For what it's worth, I really am trying to be the best possible tenant here - which is why I was trying to figure out whether there was some kind of unwritten rule I just didn't know about. Since it sounds like working it out with the landlord is the unwritten rule, I'll go that route.

Thanks everyone!
posted by amy lecteur at 7:16 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been the landlord in this situation. In our locality, we pay for trash service per can so my guess is that one of those cans is for you and one for him, even if they are not labelled. Recycling comes in larger bins that are shared and there is no charge for them. My expectation (and this is just personal) is that the tenant takes out one can, we take out the other can and the recycling. The fact that my tenant will often take out or put away more than that is one of those bonuses that makes me appreciate them (along with paying rent scrupulously on time and not expecting problems to be fixed instantaneously)

Also, if you have extra trash (more than one can worth) one week, do not put it out until the cans are at the curb so you aren't using up "their" space with your trash until you know they aren't going to use it.
posted by metahawk at 10:30 AM on October 5, 2014

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