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As any New Yorker will tell you, finding an apartment is just the beginning of the New York renting experience. The long game is staying in your apartment, especially if it’s a good deal. Being a tenant in New York requires a mix of assertiveness, restraint, and cultivated goodwill.
Here are some tips for how to stay on your landlord's good side, without getting jerked around.
1. Pay your rent on time
It seems basic, but you really want this aspect of your relationship with your landlord to be as issue-free as possible.
“Being respectful of the contract you signed (the lease) goes a long way,” says Adam Stone of Stone Realty Management.
Having a strong track record of punctual payments will give you more leverage if you ever need to use the last-ditch option of going on rent strike to try to get a serious, persistent maintenance issue addressed.
“Pay your rent on time, every time. Landlords are in this business to make money," says Andrew Sacks, a broker at Citi Habitats. "If there’s a problem with your apartment or a necessary repair, be proactive and bring it to their attention, and give them a chance to fix it. Use the tactic of withholding rent only as a last resort. It will only create tension and brand you as a troublemaker.”
2. Fix what you can, within reason
“Under-the-radar” is a term you’ll hear lots of New Yorkers use when discussing landlord relations; i.e., the less the landlord hears from you, the better. And it’s true that cultivating self-sufficiency is probably not a bad idea. Again, this will help your request carry more weight when you do urgently need the landlord to take action.
“If your light doesn’t work, please change the bulb before you come running to the landlord accusing them of giving you a faulty fixture,” Stone say.
But some issues should be left to the professionals.
“A small leak may not seem like a big deal, but over time it becomes a costly repair,” Stone says.
“You should always get the super/landlord involved with issues relating to heating and cooling systems, electrical issues, and water issues,” adds David Huff, an agent with Citi Habitats.
3. Follow the rules
Ignoring building rules is not going to help you get on your landlord’s good side, or, for that matter, your super’s. Your super, after all, might be the one tasked with fixing that roof you weren't supposed to go on.
4. Don’t go over people’s heads
“In the Army, we had a tier system of how [to] report issues and problems… which usually starts with your first line supervisor, i.e. those who are directly above you in personnel management,” Huff says. “As it pertains to a tenant, if their building has a super, that would be their first line of communication of problems they are having. Give the super adequate time to solve the problem, and if the super cannot solve it in a timely and efficient manner, then it would be appropriate to go higher and contact the management company directly.”
5. Put it in writing
You’re going to want a paper trail. Even if your relationship isn't contentious right now, it will be useful to have a record of what was said, and when, should that ever change.
6. Spread a little sugar
“As with any relationship in life, it's all about having a healthy balance of give and take," Huff says. "If the landlord is providing you with habitable and comfortable living conditions and you have a safe place to come home to everyday, why not show your appreciation?”
He suggests a hand-written note, an online review, or even a building-wide appreciation day for the staff.
“Little acts of kindness can go a long way, and you never know whose day you can make better with kind and genuine gestures of appreciation,” he says.
7. Be respectful
“For the most part landlords just want a tenant who acts like an adult,” Stone says.
This means thinking about how your actions impact those around you, i.e. your neighbors.
“Don’t be the cause of complaints. Keep to the ruckus to a minimum and be respectful to other residents,” Sacks says. “For example, don’t play loud music, especially after 9 or 10 at night. And if you’re going to have a party, be sure to invite the neighbors.”
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