Home Hacks

‘Help! I Pay Too Much Rent to Be *This* Cold’

How to deal with landlords that care too much, and those that don't care at all.

September 20, 2019
Photo by Emily Ringel

What's your apartment living pet peeve? Your next-door nuisance? What do you do about the nosy neighbor who rifles through your mail? Or the guy who practices the trombone at 7 a.m. on weekends? In our latest series, Ask a Friendly Landlord, a peaceable expert suggests resolutions to the issues that arise when humans share space.

Developing a level of trust with your landlord is one of the surest ways to feel comfortable, safe, and happy in an apartment. A positive, mutually respectful, and communicative relationship means that you feel less worried that they’re gonna screw you over, and they’re less worried you might accidentally drill an enormous, unfillable hole into your wall while trying to mount your new 50-inch flat screen. (Seriously, find professional help for that.)

This week’s apartment concerns come from people who are having issues with the ways in which their landlords monitor—or don’t monitor—their living situation. Because while it’s nice to have a landlord who cares that you’re warm enough during the winter, you don’t want one that’s so involved they’re rifling through your trash bags.

I’m living in an apartment where heat is included in the rent. However, the temperature constantly hovers between 58-60°F in my apartment in the winter, and I’m forced to keep my sweater and wool socks on indoors (which is pretty miz). Is there a legal minimum temperature? This is not a comfortable living situation!
Ana T.

Your question is giving me chilling memories of the last Brooklyn apartment I had, where the heat was weaker than a newborn’s bicep and where my roommate used to turn the oven on just to keep her toes from freezing right off. (Note: I do NOT recommend this, but ovens ARE warm.) We used to sit on the couch, wrapped up in multiple sweaters and blankets, passing the time by wailing about our situation, waiting for the space heater to get going.

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Top Comment:
“Who is Eric? ”
— Georgine

Different cities and states have different rules about what your apartment temperature should reach during the colder months. In New York, it’s 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and 62 at night. To monitor this, Eric recommends buying a thermometer, “and presenting your findings to the landlord.”

Or, perhaps yours is just the one apartment that needs help with the ventilation and it's not a conscious management decision to keep it cold. Having evidence like actual photos of a temperature reading will help your case. And if your landlord doesn’t want to go through the trouble of fixing the heating system, you can ask them to pay for a space heater of your choosing, up to a certain price point. (This is what we did at my old apartment, and got one that looked like a little plastic fireplace.)

At the end of the day, Eric says, communication remains the most important issue here—but just as important is knowing your rights: “Talk it out! If [they are doing this] on purpose, then you have the data to file a valid complaint.”

I always do my best to recycle—I have three separate bins in my kitchen, I compost, even tie up my cardboard. But apparently, that isn't enough. My landlord regularly goes through my bags to check on my recyclables and catch me out on the one day I mess up. He has even left “proof” on my doorstep. I’m now nervous every time I take out my recycling.
Mario L.

I gotta say…this one would drive me crazy. It taps into two very deep wells of rage: not wanting to be treated like a baby who can’t clean up after herself, and not wanting people literally sniffing! Around! In your stuff! I get it! This is annoying. You don’t wanna have an anxiety attack every time you’re depositing a bag full of cans into a dumpster. But you don’t want this issue to escalate, either.

So, set up a meeting with your landlord—as annoying as they may be—to discuss this issue. Explain your concerns—that you’re doing your best, and that it feels invasive to have them going through your literal trash, and that you’d like to come up with a system that works for the both of you. (This last part is really important.)

Eric recommends indulging their nosiness for a contained period of time. “Schedule three weekly meetings before you take the trash out, so he can approve and see you are doing it right,” he recommends. “If you aren't sorting correctly, that's his chance to correct you. Make the deal that if you do it together three times, he is not to monitor you going forward.” If you want to be really thorough, get it in writing—landlords love that.

Illustration by Emily Ringel

Do you have a landlord who doesn't care? Or one that gets too involved? Tell us in the comments below!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Halli
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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Halli October 13, 2019
You haven’t said where you are, but the landlord may be fined if the recycling isn’t sorted properly. Also, you’re not clear on which he goes through - it sounds like through your trash looking for recyclables, but then you say that you’re nervous when you take out your recycleables rather than your trash. In any event, the advice to meet with him before you take it out for a few times is a good idea.
Valentina |. October 13, 2019
Well, we moved yesterday from an apt we spent over 3 years in. We were waking up now with 60 degrees, and in winter we touched 49 F more than once - even using a heater - because there was no insulation in that cottage!
Georgine September 21, 2019
Who is Eric?