Should I stay or should I go?
May 23, 2006 8:59 AM   Subscribe

A new management company has taken over my apartment building, and my lease is up. Should I stay where I am, or should I start looking for a new apartment?

I love my location, am cool with my apartment, and get along well with my neighbors/door staff. I rarely deal with our management company, since all work orders and rent payments are done online, but all my interactions with them have been positive or neutral. I've lived here for nearly four years and my rent is very, very reasonable (maybe even cheap). I have a 800 square foot apartment that I pay $1,140/month for. My rent goes up to $1,215/month if I renew.

My building is was constructed in the mid-70's. It's comfortable, but not luxe. For instance, my kitchen cabinets are the standard issue mid-80's apartment cabinets. My dishwasher has seen better days cosmetically, but still works like a charm. So, some rehabbing would do the property good, but it's not necessary for my continued enjoyment of my apartment.

I got a notice under my door that our building has been sold to a new managment company, Waterton Property Management. Waterton comes in and rehabs "B" level properties, from what I can tell from a non-exhaustive Google search (and from the letter itself - "We are excited to add River North Park to our portfolio and have exciting plans for future improvements to the property.").

My concern is that my lease is up for renewal in July. I'm not sure about the new management company, and I'm also not real keen on dealing with bunches of construction in my home. If the building is going to be extensively rehabbed in the next few months, I'd really rather avoid all that noise and dust and inconvenience and move to another building.

Then again, if I move, there's almost no way I will get the space I have for the rent I pay. I will probably have to pay more like $1,500+ to live in the way I have enjoyed in my current building. Also, if I move, I will have to hire movers, since I purchased a bunch of nice, heavy, grown-up furniture when I moved into this place.

As a note - I enjoy leasing - I am not ready to purchase property right now and I will be leasing an apartment for the foreseeable future. I really want to stay close to my office and the neighborhood I have come to love, so my rent estimates take that into account. I know I could move to Schaumburg or some other suburb and pay $1,000 for a bigger condo. Then I'd have to buy a car and deal with a long commute (even by train), which I don't want to do.

Has anyone had a similar experience? What did you do? Should I renew my lease (and enjoy my location with the understanding that I may be miserable with future construction) or should I move (and incur the expense and inconvenience of moving)?
posted by MeetMegan to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I think it depends on a lot of factors.

The construction probably won't be that bad. You haven't said what kind of construction your building is. Can you easily hear everything that goes on in the rest of the complex? How tall is the building and what kind of renovations are likely?

I personally detest management company changes. Any guarantees that you were made that aren't in writing are now null and void. For instance, I just got a *collection notice* from the management company that took over my old apartment complex's property ... no invoices prior, no notifications before they sent it to collections, because they said the carpet had to be replaced when I moved out. The previous management company had said that the carpet would be replaced no matter what because I'd been in the apartment for a few years. Scumsuckers.

Renovations, I don't think, are that huge of a deal. If they're going to essentially rebuild the building, it's a big deal. If they're going to replace cabinets and utilities and recarpet and repaint, then it's not a big issue... they can do that in a day or two at most per unit and it'll be staggered out as people's leases expire.

I think you need to talk to them and ask a couple of questions about the plans. For instance, do they plan to start switching the building to condos after they renovate? That got to be real popular in Oregon, and it caused a lot of hassles because people were only given 30 days or so before they were evicted for whatever reasons the management company could find. And what are the renovation plans? Are they planning to discount your rent while you're having to deal with the noise and mess that they're creating?

Note that you should also check with your local tenant rights organization so that you know your rights during renovations. Construction work is prohibited during certain times and days and for certain lengths of time here... that varies by locality.

You might want to renew your lease now if they plan to raise rents. Lock in a lower rate while you can for as long as you can if you decide to stay. When a new company takes things 'upscale', they often raise rents to match.
posted by SpecialK at 9:13 AM on May 23, 2006

In my experience, it takes ages for them to get the property titles transferred, paperwork, construction permits, etc. You may not have any rehabbing construction to worry about at all until you've lived there for another year.

Have they given you any timetable? The new company must be expecting such queries on the part of current occupants -- call them?

Depending on your state laws, they can only raise your rent by so much of a percent per year. You may have some protection against being priced out.
posted by desuetude at 9:14 AM on May 23, 2006

if i were you, i'd stay. no way you're going to find comparable rent in this neighborhood and it will be a huge change in lifestyle to stop walking to work. plus the expense of moving and hassle of finding a new place is a wash, when you consider your rent increase is under $100.

how many units? my experience in highrises is that you don't hear much of what's going on on other floors and if the rehabbing amounts to cabinet fronts and new appliances, it should only take a day or two for your unit. if they plan to do flooring and bathrooms, that will be more disruptive.

i don't have any personal experience with that management company, but the only apartment rehabbing i ever found really disruptive was windows. but the new windows were so much nicer, it was worth it.

do you have nearby friends who will let you sleep on the couch if it gets really bad for a week?
posted by crush-onastick at 9:37 AM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: SpecialK -
There's a glut of condos in our market, especially in my neighborhood (I was looking for a condo before I reassessed and figured out it was about 30% cheaper for me to just continue renting) - there are a number of units of similar square footage to mine - with balconies and washer/dryer in unit! - that have been on the market for months. Two brand-new buildings have just been built within a block of my building and are about 80% and 85% occupied.

My building is brick exterior, but the interior walls (separating my apartment from others) are not brick - probably some thick plasterboard or something. There are 12 units per floor, 24 floors, with large retail on the lower level, and townhomes on the second level. Likely renovations include new doors, new HVAC units, new appliances in the kitchen, new cabinetry throughout, new lighting, new tiles in bathroom/kitchen, new closets - plus new paint and carpet. Really, in my opinion, it's a gut rehab without the wall removal.

I have called the new management company and our leasing office and they haven't figured anything out as far as timelines go. They don't even know who I am supposed to make my rent check out to at the end of this month. To be honest I am not concerned about rent increases for this year - as I noted I already know what my rent will increase to with my new lease. I can revisit the issue in May of next year should my rent become outrageous.

I can stay with my family in Schaumburg if need be, but I am not sure how much of a "move out" I will need to do if they rehab my unit. Perhaps that's a better way of stating my concern - I don't want to decide to stay here and then end up essentially moving out when the rehab time comes.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:46 AM on May 23, 2006

Based on your response, if I were you, I'd stay put. If they do need to get into your unit for rehabbing purposes, they'll be required to be as unobtrusive as possible.
posted by desuetude at 10:55 AM on May 23, 2006

Maybe you could ask to go month-to-month after your lease expires, and then see how things go.
posted by trevyn at 12:12 PM on May 23, 2006

This is just my opinion, but from what you are describing, that is no 'gut-re-hab'. I've done more than a few renovation projects, and that list doesn't sound too intrusive. "New closets" is the only thing that sounds like they might be cutting into or adding to the existing walls, and that is what makes the biggest mess. Working with drywall makes dust in copious amounts and there is no getting around it. A good crew will clean things up well, but there is no gurantee of that... I would say that you should sign the lease and stay put. If you think it's a good deal and you don't want to move, then don't!

I would also recommend that you check out this site:

I have found them to be very useful in the past. (In case the link doesn't show, it's to the Metropolitan Tenants Organization and shows up at the top of a google for "Chicago tenants rights")
posted by schwap23 at 3:44 PM on May 23, 2006

Maybe you could ask to go month-to-month after your lease expires
In many places, that is in fact the norm: you commit to a year (or sometimes even two) for a lease, and after that, it converts to month-to-month. If it isn't the norm for your place, it certainly wouldn't hurt to propose it (because of the potential construction work).
posted by WestCoaster at 5:36 PM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: Month-to-month raises my rent (rent is based on contract term) to $1,490.
posted by MeetMegan at 11:18 AM on May 25, 2006

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