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.
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.
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 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
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