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7 Tips For Stress-Free Apartment Renting

September 17, 2015

I was going to write an amazing post today about the fact that I drafted an entire Fantasy Football team with players that don’t have any domestic abuse record but then our bathroom overflowed with sewage for the second time this month, and I had to deal with that for several hours. Now I’m too exhausted and stressed to write anything except for this cautionary tale about stress-free apartment renting (spoiler alert: there is no such thing).

Renting an apartment – especially an old one – is a pain. It is often difficult to get in touch with land lords, management companies or owners and, in the case of many L.A. apartments, old buildings contribute to a ton of maintenance issues. Here are some tips R and I have picked-up along the way and now employ to keep ourselves safe and sane in this little space we pay real bucks for each month (unless they don’t fix this plumbing problem once and for all in which case we will be living in a hotel for free!).

1. Get ALL the building contact info when you first move in

Find out exactly who is responsible for what in the building and how you can reach them – morning, noon and night. We learned this the hard way when we realized that the new building manager didn’t supply any cell phone contact and our toilet overflowed on a Sunday afternoon. She didn’t get back to us until Monday!

2. Know the maintenance protocol

What are you supposed to do if there is a problem? Call one specific person? Send an emergency e-mail? File a report? What if there is an emergency and you don’t hear back from someone quickly? Can you call a plumber and get reimbursed? Know all of this.

3. Get the maintenance protocol revised if it is terrible 

Remember, renters have rights. I don’t know them all because I haven’t read whatever book they’re all in, but I know that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a change to a policy that isn’t working for anyone in the building.

4. Keep records of everything! From conversations with repair people to money spent on self-repairs

“Remember I told you this happened,” doesn’t work as well as, “remember when I emailed you photos of this happening and then sent a copy of the receipt for what it cost me to fix it because you didn’t return my calls and I needed to take a damn shower?”

5. Follow the building rules 

It’s hard to maintain the upper hand if you’re illegally subletting, hiding an unauthorized BBQ on your patio and selling your extra parking space to your buddy. Just saying.

6. Befriend your neighbors

Because you may need to shower in a bathroom that isn’t suddenly covered in sewage fifteen minutes before you’re supposed to leave for work, but also because your neighbors may have more info or intel around the management company.

7. Do NOT be afraid to withhold rent

At the end of the day the only real power you have is your almighty monthly check. If an unsafe, unsanitary or truly uncomfortable situation remains unresolved (yes, all those un’s were necessary), take steps to begin holding your rent in escrow. That means you deposit your rent into an account proving that you have the rent to pay and will do so once your requests are met, I think? There is a whole lot of legal information around this, so please take the time to check it out before taking any steps. Here’s a helpful article. Alternatively you can propose a reduced rent for an upcoming month to account for damaged or personal costs.

Good luck to us all but mostly to me because I now have to re-clean the tub that wasn’t properly cleaned by the workers – again. After that I will drink a beer and then finally write the fantasy football piece. The real lesson here: always write your blog posts the night before.

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