From surprise visits from the maintenance man to tough landlords to (what sounds like) a 24-7 party taking place upstairs, being a renter has its challenges.
Someday you’ll look back and laugh at these problems. Until then, here are seven things only renters can understand — and solutions for overcoming the struggle of apartment living, whether you’re talking Boston, MA rentals or San Diego, CA rentals.
1. The search
Before you can even gain renter status, you have to find a place — and that process alone can be arduous. Fierce competition can wear down even the peppiest apartment seekers.
Solution: The rental world has changed since the day of supermarket fliers. Trulia has an advanced rental search feature that breaks listings down categorically, by pet-friendly, furnished, new, and more.
2. The upfront costs
The three most stressful words in the English language: “First, last, deposit.” City rents are already overwhelming: tripling them as an upfront cost is enough to send you crawling back to your parents’ house.
Solution: Search for no-fee situations on Trulia. You can also try to negotiate for a longer lease in return for lower rent, which will save you money over time.
3. A quirky landlord
Everyone has a landlord story. The landlord who entered your apartment during the day and rifled through your things. The landlord who presented as laid-back and chummy and proved to be a neat freak. The landlord who came to make a quick repair and left three hours later because he would not stop talking.
Solution: As the old adage goes, You can’t change others, you can only change yourself. So charm the heck out of your landlord. Smile when you cross paths. Send your rent check early. Dress nicely if you’re meeting to renegotiate the lease. Be your most charming self over text or email. If you’re not a problem renter, you’re far less likely to be on the receiving end of those quirky interactions.
4. Outdated amenities
Some property owners don’t invest in state-of-the-art accoutrements because, if appliances are clean and functioning, the apartment will still get rented. Which means even the most charming rental may be lacking in modern trappings, especially in the kitchen and bathroom.
Solution: There are swaps to be made. Hate your showerhead? Spend the 20 bucks to get a new one. If the lack of a dishwasher is killing you, invest in a countertop dishwasher, which usually runs around $200 and can be hauled to your next place. Cherry-pick the changes that will have the most positive effect on your day-to-day life, and then make the investment.
5. Repairs that get done … eventually
When you’re a renter, you’re on landlord time, which means that as long as you’re not in an unsafe situation, your landlord will get to that leaky faucet when they can.
Solution: There’s no time like the present to get handy. YouTube boasts a wealth of DIY home repair videos, and as hokey as it sounds, old-school books such as the Time Life Home Repair & Improvement set (which is probably in your parents’ basement right now) are timeless resources. Supply stores also often offer free home repair classes on the weekends. Just be careful not to take on a project that could find you in breach of your lease.
6. Decorating limitations
Your lease was a two-page litany of what NOT to do to the place: no shelving, no screws, no wallpaper. No fun.
Solution: When it comes to decorating, there are lots of traditional rental rules worth breaking. Painting is the easiest one — some landlords are amenable to a color change (just ask first) and will often pay for the paint and supplies. Temporary wallpaper is a wondrous invention that invites you to decorate as creatively as any homeowner. And switching out light fixtures is a terrific way to personalize a space — just remember to swap the originals back in before you move out.
7. Partying neighbors
Your apartment complex was perfect until that gaggle of 22-year-olds suddenly moved in 10 feet above your sleeping head. Now it’s late night parties on Tuesdays and loud conversations that seem to seep through the ceiling all night, every night (are they bowling up there?).
Solution: First, a call to the police is a last resort, not a first one. Once you introduce a third-party authority figure, you’ve fanned the flames of hostility. Start with soundproofing your apartment, and then escalate to the friendly knock-and-talk, which is far more effective than a passive-aggressive note left in their mailbox. If your neighbors don’t get the message, try recording the noise in your apartment so they see what you’re up against. And if they still don’t get the message? It’s time to call the landlord — the same landlord you’ve charmed with your maturity and friendliness.
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