Negotiating bicycle storage in an apartment
February 15, 2017 12:15 PM   Subscribe

My apartment got sold to a new management company. The new lease prohibits storing bicycles inside the apartment. This is a deal breaker for me, but can I negotiate? Have you had luck negotiating this kind of clause?

The new rental contract requires storing bicycles on the outside storage racks,which I don't want to do because of theft and snow and rain. (My bike is not extravagant but nice enough to be a theft target, and the leather saddle should be kept dry.) It also says that getting caught with a bicycle inside the apartment is a material violation of the lease. I really really don't want to move, but I don't want to risk eviction for keeping my bike indoors! What can I do?
posted by Jeanne to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Response by poster: I should probably mention I'm in Iowa.
posted by Jeanne at 12:16 PM on February 15, 2017

IANAL, but I wouldn't think they could change the rules on you in the middle of a lease. Can they?

Assuming we're talking about a new lease they're offering, I think you have to make it clear that you can't and won't store your bike outside, but that it also hasn't been a problem in your unit so far (assuming this is true).

They may insist it's still a term of the new lease, in which case I guess you'd have to move, but even then presumably only when your current lease is up, right.
posted by uberchet at 12:20 PM on February 15, 2017

Do you currently have a fixed-term lease, or are you month-to-month? If the former, how long remains on your lease term, and does the lease contain any clauses concerning what happens if the building is sold? It may be the case that your current lease terms can't actually change until your old lease expires.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:20 PM on February 15, 2017

Response by poster: The new lease doesn't go into effect until August, so no, it's not something they're forcing me to suddenly comply with ; but moving at the end of my lease is also something I really don't want to do. (I don't have a car, don't have money for movers, own way too many books, etc.)
posted by Jeanne at 12:25 PM on February 15, 2017

I've had some luck in the past with crossing out parts of the lease I don't like and initialing the changes and then sending it back. You'd be shocked at the number of places that don't bother looking at the lease once you send it back to them.

That being said... you probably need to be willing to move. Hire movers, it's the best money I ever spent.
posted by Oktober at 12:35 PM on February 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

I've had lots of leases that prevented keeping various things inside the apartment. I never paid any attention to them and it's never been a problem. At first I was worried that I would need to hide stuff when the maintenance guys came, but then I realized that the maintenance guys care about doing maintenance, not enforcing the random provisions of my lease that they don't even know about.

In your situation I would, probably, just do nothing, and accept the possibility that the landlord might try to evict over which case you'd be not much worse off and in the same situation you are right now (having to choose to move or store the bike outside). But if the landlord does nothing, then you don't have to do anything either.
posted by phoenixy at 12:43 PM on February 15, 2017 [13 favorites]

I had a similar situation in grad school where the new management wanted tenants to pay an extra $50 a month for pets (cats and small dogs.) I was pretty poor at the time, so continued to live there with my indoor cat without paying rent for it - I know, probably not the best decision - and whenever I'd take her to vet visits, etc, I'd make sure I was going the back way so the manager wouldn't be likely to see her.

If you can be sure no one relevant is likely to see you bringing the bike in and out of the complex, I'd ignore the clause. If not, you might have to be prepared to move.

N.B: Try Oktober's suggestion! It may work.
posted by Everydayville at 12:51 PM on February 15, 2017

Best answer: I've had some luck in the past with crossing out parts of the lease I don't like and initialing the changes and then sending it back. You'd be shocked at the number of places that don't bother looking at the lease once you send it back to them.

That doesn't really form a binding contract under the amended terms, so it's basically the same thing as signing the lease as-is, ignoring the rule, and hoping you never get caught. Which is itself not an unworkable plan of action in a case like this.

Jeanne, you could also be upfront about it, say you've been storing your bike in the unit all along, it hasn't caused any problems and that you'd like to amend the lease to allow you to continue to do so. The risk you have to consider here is related to occupancy rates in your area, and whether your rent is at or near market rate. If the landlord has no reason to want you out, they might be amenable to the amendment to keep a long term, problem-free tenant in place and avoid the costs of re-renting the place. If rentals in your area are in high demand and they want to raise the rent more than they're permitted to because you're a long term tenant, though, it'll draw their attention to you to watch for future rules infractions.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:52 PM on February 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you are otherwise a good tenant and don't have any feuds with neighbors, you can almost certainly get away with ignoring this clause. Odds that anyone will notice are low (how often are they in your apartment?), odds that they would try to evict over it even if they did notice are low. At worst, they find out (and then find out again that you've ignored their warning), and you end up leaving anyway, so you've gained time. (If all NYC tenants were held strictly to the terms of their leases, the streets would be jammed with the evicted.)
posted by praemunire at 12:52 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

That doesn't really form a binding contract under the amended terms, so it's basically the same thing as signing the lease as-is, ignoring the rule, and hoping you never get caught.

Depends--in my experience, landlords send you the contract unsigned. You sign, send in the copies, and then they sign and send back a copy to you. Sending back an amended signed contract would be a counteroffer. Signing the amended contract would be an acceptance. If they notice and refuse to sign, though, you've drawn attention to the issue, which as a practical matter may be much more detrimental than formal agreement to the no-bikes clause.
posted by praemunire at 12:55 PM on February 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Storing bikes outside is bullshit - my bike is my primary mode of transportation. Expecting to store a $500-$1000 (replacement cost) object it outside where it can get stolen and rusted is not cool. I mean, I kind of get it - my current stairwell walls are colored with tire scuff marks from all of us with bikes carrying them up and down several flights of stairs. But unless the alternative is secure and weather-protected, it's still a big ask IMO. Magic erasers and/or paint can fix wall scuffs but the landlord won't be paying for a new bike if mine gets stolen.

The standard Chicago lease (from the Chicago Association of Realtors/has their logo on it) has a "building rules" section which includes a rule that says no bicycles in the apartment, but I've always kept bikes inside and never had a problem. Does the new lease seem like a specifically drafted custom one, or did they just use a template? Without knowing that it's hard to say if my experience would translate. The mention of outside racks sounds like it might be a more deliberate decision which means they might be more diligent about enforcement.

I'd start saving for a move now, but I don't know how to decide if you'd rather just plan to move or sign and then wait and see if they really do move to evict over it.
posted by misskaz at 1:09 PM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Agreed with Oktober. I've done this tons of times for various issues. Works best if you amend by hand to make it sound like a reasonable compromise. In this case I'd cross it off and write in "tenant may store 1 bicycle in residence".

It is such a frustrating ban. If they push back, definitely point out that bikes don't bring in any more debris than strollers. Your local bike advocacy organization might be able to help out with data showing the growing need/expectations for safe bike storage. Changes are they'll want to keep a good, proven tenant.
posted by veery at 1:19 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, don't underestimate the value of a renter that pays in full on time and doesn't give the landlord too many problems!
posted by jillithd at 1:50 PM on February 15, 2017

Best answer: You should definitely keep your bike indoors; outdoors is for people who don't care about their bikes or who have absolutely no alternative beyond actually sharing a bed with their bike.

Seconding either requesting that that lease provision be struck or just ignoring it. In the event you talk this over with them, you might ask specifically what they're trying to avoid by prohibiting bicycle storage in apartments. Is it damage to floors or walls? You could get or make a non-damaging wall or floor stand for your bike, or keep it on top of a tarp to avoid getting dirt and water on the floor, or both. Is it that they don't want you blocking exits? Make sure to store your bike somewhere that won't be a fire hazard. You could even do something completely silly-looking and use cheap hats or socks or something as pedal cozies to prevent scratches in common hallways if that's an issue.

Tips on a couple of other matters: shower caps are a great way to protect your nice saddle when you actually do need to leave it out for a bit, and you can get 'em free from a hotel or pay a few bucks for a fancy sturdy one from a beauty supply store. If you need to move a bunch of books without using a car or paying for movers, USPS Media Mail is your friend (though not cost-effective for an in-town move, for sure.)
posted by asperity at 9:13 PM on February 15, 2017

Best answer: You could contact the Iowa Bicycle Coalition to get their advice. They will know the general lay of the land on issues like this.

FYI some (many, nowadays) cities have a requirement for bicycle storage in apartment buildings (example--note separate requirements for short-term vs long-term storage areas). The requirement isn't usually to allow it inside your apartment, but rather that it must be long-term storage, which means #1. Covered and #2. Secure. The outside storage you are talking about isn't EITHER of those. Inside your apartment is. If they could offer another covered/secure area that could possibly be a compromise solution, but the simple way to achieve covered & secure is just to allow the bicycles inside the apartment.
posted by flug at 11:48 PM on February 15, 2017

Ignoring a clause like this is a lot harder than ignoring a clause for something that rarely leaves your apartment - like a cat. People will see you bringing the bike in and out of the building. You should negotiate and see what they offer in return. If there is a garage in the building, they could set aside an area for bikes. If there are detached garages, they could add lockers next to them and charge $5-10 per month. If you know of any other bike using tenants, talk to them as well.
posted by soelo at 10:34 AM on February 16, 2017

As far as I know (it's been a while since I rented), a clause like that would be unenforceable. It wouldn't matter what you had signed; the provincial rules covering landlord-tenant whatnot would override any little hijinx the landlords had come up with. I'd get in touch with whoever deals with the landlord-tenant rules in your area and ask if this is actually an enforceable rule, or just a nuisance clause you couldn't possibly be evicted over.

(Also, if you have a lot of cyclist neighbours, there's always the possibility of getting up a petition and organizing to say that the majority of the residents will be ignoring it, thank you. Again, depends on your rental market; that would be golden for a landlord in some areas and a nightmare in others.)
posted by kmennie at 12:01 PM on February 16, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all your answers - I came down on the "try to negotiate" side rather than the "keep it a secret" side just because I live quite close to the apartment management office and didn't want to be constantly worrying about my clandestine contraband bicycle. And lo, they were willing to compromise and let me use the secure bicycle storage in the next complex over (which normally costs $15/month) for free.
posted by Jeanne at 12:02 PM on February 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

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