All I Want is a Place to Call Home



A couple of days ago we received a letter from our apartment's building management stating that we were in violation of our lease. My heart sank, what exactly did we do? Well, in a word, nothing. Our lease was due for renewal at the end of March, and it was stated in the letter that each tenant needs to renew next year's lease at least 60 days in advance. Really? 60 days? Geez, I didn't need to give that much time when we moved in.


We have been thinking about moving for some time. About one week into moving into our apartment, we discovered that there was second hand smoke coming from the neighbor's unit, a significant level. The guy next door smokes all day. I can even tell you his smoking pattern, it's heaviest at 10pm at night and at 7am in the morning, I'm guessing he smokes 3 or 4 packs per day, and he likes to smoke with his windows tightly shut. If you walk into his apartment, you'll quickly notice that the walls have yellowed from the accumulated hours, days, and years of smoking. Now, imagine living with someone like that. It's unbearable, especially in heat of summer when the humidity magnifies the problem.


Building management claims that they have done all that they can to seal our apartment, but surprisingly, given the strong language in our lease about second hand smoke, they have been very reluctant to move us or him to a new unit. So we've been in search of a new apartment. I started looking for a new apartment shortly after the new year.


Apartment searching in New York is an adventure unlike in any other city I know. Layered upon the time and effort it takes to schedule appointments, and to run around town, you must work with a real estate broker. Some reliable, many not, and some with very interesting personalities. All charge a fee that can run from couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, if they find you an apartment. While the introduction of Craig's List has introduced some transparency, many rental buildings in New York still do not allow access unless you work with a broker. I know because I was woefully rejected door after door when I thought I could simply show up and see any vacant units, and even when I tried to set up appointments over the phone I was simply given a broker's number, who did not call me back half of the time.

 
The first broker we spoke with in January, scheduled a time to meet the following day at 11am. And after spending half an hour schlepping myself down and across town in the freezing snow, she didn't show up. I waited and waited. I called the broker multiple times, each call ignored. Ay-yaiii-yaiii! I know utterly annoying and completely inconsiderate, but unfortunately not uncommon.


After trying to schedule additional appointments with other brokers, I quickly learned that none of the brokers want to work with you unless you are ready to sign a lease relatively soon, we were 45 days too early. The situation of not knowing where we'll live in the 60 days simply made me nervous. I'm just not accustomed to saying, "Okay, I'm going to definitely move out in 60 days." But at the same time have no idea where we're going. What if I changed my mind two weeks before the lease is up? I have a feeling they would just tell me tough luck.


So it is now three weeks before our lease is up, and we still do not know whether we are moving or not. We've spent quite a bit of time and energy looking at apartments, many which are unfinished and ask that we imagine their potential. It's a bit maddening, New York is ridiculously expensive, and we're not getting very much for it. You might laugh, but I was ecstatic about finding one apartment that had 100 sq. feet over what we currently have, space is such a precious commodity in New York, and a one bedroom apartment in midtown typically runs between $3,000-3,500 a month. That's probably someone's mortgage, and for us it's something that evaporates into thin air at the end of each month.


Times like these make me wish we were back in San Francisco or 99% of anywhere else in the world. For now we might move, or we might stay put and tolerate the second hand smoke for another year.  So for the next three weeks my posts will continue to be a bit erratic - apologies! Hopefully, it will be because we found a good place that to call home. 

Out of extreme curiosity, would you tolerate second hand smoke in your home?

67 comments:

Trissa said...

Isn't it so frustrating? I remember my frustrations before finding our house as well! But hang in there - it'll happen - even if it doesn't feel like it! Think of this as the opportunity to find your dream place! :)

Second hand smoke - NO WAY!

3 hungry tummies said...

Oh I hope you'll sort out your apartment situation soon. No to another year of second hand smoke!

KennyT said...

Come live in Hong Kong, the lease may be slightly more expensive, but you can get cheaper food (coz we dont need to tip), and you get a one bedroom apartment easily.

Simply Life said...

Oh no! Sorry to hear about the frustrating process. What is the cost of living/lifestyle in SF? My husband was just telling me he dreams of living there, but I've never been!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Second hand smoke is unpleasant....and no one should have to put up with it!!!!!! Sorry dear. Hope you find a new apartment soon......

Stella said...

I'm sorry, Christine. New York is certainly a dichotomy in and of itself. Wonderful and enchanting at times with all of the action and culture while also just big and dirty with ridiculous real estate prices. I hope your'e able to find a place for a decent deal that doesn't wreak of smoke-that's not good for you guys. Who smokes inside anymore anyway? Even my smoking friends comment negatively on this old school habit!

Belinda @zomppa said...

Oh! What a pain...sorry. Love NYC but yeah, the apartment thing is not so fun. I had to pay an exorbitant broker's fee (almost 2x monthly rent!) and had to give so much information, the co-op board knows more about me than anyone else.

I don't think I'd put up with the smoke if I had the opportunity to leave.... Best of luck!

La Table De Nana said...

I have heard how very $$$ NY apts .are..
I feel sorry for you.

I could never tolerate the smell of smoke where I live anymore..
If I walk into a hotel.. I know if someone has smoked in the room.
Could you live outside of NYC?

Sounds like you need a nice professional agent too.

Can someone recommend an agent to you?

Joanne said...

UGH! I'm so sorry this is happening to you!

I would absolutely NOT tolerate second hand smoke. I've seen cancerous lungs before. They don't look fun.

I'm going to email you with my uncle's cell phone number. He's a real estate agent in Queens but he might know someone in Manhattan who could help you out.

Velva said...

Just thinking about moving is stressful-actually moving, is even worse. There is an old Czek saying "Tis better that your house burn down twice, than to move it once" (laugh)

Everything will work out.

P.S. I could not imagine looking for an apartment in NYC.

kat said...

I know from experience how bad that second hand smoke can be. We loved our apartment in San Francisco expect for our upstairs neighbor. She would sit in the window above our living & smoke, thus blowing all the smoke in our living room, erg! Even worse was she once got drunk & threw up out her window down ours, lovely. This wasn't even some young party girl. Anyway I can't imagine looking for a place in NYC, we always though SF was expensive but damn!

Bob said...

Ugh, that sucks. Moving in general blows and having a tight schedule is grueling.

No, I definitely wouldn't tolerate the smoke, especially if I had something in my lease about it. I don't know what the laws are like in NY, but if there's trouble you might want to contact a lawyer. If the landlord is in violation you might be able to get some more time to look. Good luck!

Pam said...

Oh, I'm so sorry for your troubles! You are so sweet and don't deserve this....no, I couldn't handle second hand smoke and you shouldn't either...move...girl...move!

I hope you find something soon if that is what you choose!

xoxo

Debby Koz said...

If I lived in NYC, I would live in Brooklyn. I love my son's neighborhood. And it's an easy hop on the L. As for second hand smoke? Nope. Not me.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Oh my stars! What an ordeal!
I hope it all works out soon, how stressful.

Barbara said...

I've been through this with my daughter, several times. She likes TriBeCa so her last 3 apartments have been there.
But she now is searching for a new location for her gallery. Her lease is up there and she wants to move her gallery to a better location. So I am getting all sorts of photos in my email and today she put a bid in on a gallery space in Chelsea. Hope you have good luck finding someplace!

Trix said...

Oh boy, do you have all of my sympathy! I remember those days ... we got kicked out of our Park Slope apartment by horrible landlords, got lucky and found a place in the 11th hour ... well, that place, as it turned out, was literally falling apart! Then we bought a house we couldn't afford ... and then it was bye, bye NYC. There are a LOT of things I miss about the city - apartment and house hunting not tops on the list. The secondhand smoke would be tough, it just permeates everything. Oh man - maybe you should consider Brooklyn Heights or Long Island City?
Good luck!!!!

Kim said...

First of all, I'm so very sorry to hear about the hardships of finding an apartment in NYC. I had no idea. I would most definitely NOT tolerate second hand smoke and you shouldn't have to either. I hope that you can find a place to call home soon. It seems like these things always have a way of working out, even if they are last minute.
I can't imagine paying so much for an apartment, but real estate is so much cheaper down south. You would probably flip out if you knew how cheap you could live in other parts of the country. The difference is astounding.
Good luck to you!!

Denise said...

Thanks for sharing...I had heard it was hard to get a great apt in NYC...never imagined how hard and taxing it was to even go look at them!! How frustrating to have no-shows!! I also would not put up with the second hand smoke...though for me I think I'm allergic. I am hoping something awesome comes up for you soon!!

Cynthia said...

I won't tolerate second hand smoke.

It is maddening what you are going through. Gosh renting in my part of the world is so different...

I pray that you all find some place really nice and soon.

Thanks for stopping by to visit.

Fresh Local and Best said...

Thanks everyone for your supportive comments. It truly means a great deal to read your uplifting comments. And more importantly gives us clarity about whether to move or stay. It will be more expensive, but ultimately, we don't want another year of cigarette smoke. I will keep you updated as the situation progresses.

Bob - We did bring up the matter of eviction, as stated in the lease, and because the other tenant is a senior citizen, the building managers told us that it would be easier to evict us than him. It seem doesn't right, but I'm pretty sure that it is true. We're not looking to put someone out, but at the same time the building are unwilling to move us or him. It'll probably be easier for everyone if we move.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

No, I wouldn't tolerate second hand smoke and neither should you have to.

I wish there was something I could do to help you - I remember flat hunting in Paris was so frustrating too.

Good luck and hugs xox

Mom on the Run said...

I can only imagine your frustrations. I have always thought that moving to a city would be so much fun but after hearing stories like this, I enjoy my little house in CT.

Best of luck. I hope you find something that you like.

Gulmohar said...

Sorry to hear that. Good luck with your house hunt and I sincerely hope that you'll find a good one and will not suffer the second hand smoke any more

Joie de vivre said...

Oh my goodness. Good luck finding a place. I can't believe rent is that expensive. That is crazy.

Sherry said...

Christine, the second-hand smoke sounds horrible - definitely get out if you can! Hope you find something very soon.

A Year on the Grill said...

Oh how awful. I spent one year in NYC, but was very lucky, only a small place, but only $500... but it was 15 years ago, probably a little higher...

good luck, keep us informed

Michelle said...

As I remember in Chicago I think it's 60 days too.

I had a landlord inform me since I wasn't renewing my lease that I was responsible to find a tenant and a perspective tenant was showing up in an hour to view the house and I HAD to be home to let him in and show him around. WHAT!

Hey buddy I may have been born at night, just not last night!

Sarah said...

I'm so sorry to here about your housing frustrations! Not fun!
Good luck in your search and I hope you find your dream apartment.

A cupcake or two said...

Like they say patience is a virtue. You will find a place. Just think about how lucky you are to be in one of the best cities in the world and that should take your worries away. I adore NY. I was there last June for 9 days and enjoyed every moment of it. Goodluck and I hope your dream apartment comes up soon.

Esme said...

Good luck with this-I could not handle this-I like to know in advance what I am doing. Second hand smoke-absoulutely not it would drive me and the kitties crazy.

no smoke for my babies.

tasteofbeirut said...

As I was reading about your woes in the Big Apple I was reminded of my aunt and uncle who live for 60 years (or close to it) in a wonderful apartment in Soho, designed by I.M.Pei, it is called La Guardia Place. their view was of the Empire State Building. We lived there next door for a couple of months and I decided that it was the best area in the city!
Do you know this area? this building was filled with retirees.
I would NOT tolerate second-hand smoke, ever!

Amanda said...

Yikes! That second hand smoke would do it for me...

I used to have a neighbor who would yell and swear every day at 12pm. Like clock work. We moved out and bought a place. The mortgage payment is through the roof but it's so worth not hearing HIM anymore.

Good luck!

Chow and Chatter said...

good luck getting a new place wow so expensive

alwayswinner786 said...

Sorry to hear that you are going through such a stress.New York is so expensive and with all that hard earned money flying off I think I can't tolerate a second hand smoke. But don't worry God must have some better plans for you. I hope and pray that you will soon get your dream home.
God Bless.

Meena said...

Oh, I do hope you find an awesome apt. asap!!! Secondhand smoke is just totally unimaginable...keep searching for that great apt...and hopefully you will find it soooon!

HippieMom said...

I hope You will find the perfect place to move.

I had to move so much times with not enough time and options!! it's crazy!! I can totaly relate.

Sending you great vibes my dear ♥

El said...

OMG, it sounds like a nightmare. I'm sorry you guys are going through this. Definitely get away from the smoker. Health is everything. Sending out lots of positive energy that you find a decent, safe place to live. Keep us posted.

TKW said...

Unfair! I'm so sorry you're going through this! Hope things get resolved without too much pain.

Laurie said...

What a nightmare! I can't believe how expensive and difficult housing is in NYC. Honestly, your rent is significantly more than my mortgage and I live on Cape Cod and can walk to the beach from my house.

Second hand smoke is really unhealthy, so it probably is better to move. Good luck! I hope this is resolved soon for you.

Beth said...

Christine--good luck with your apartment search. The housing situation in NYC is terrible--it's the main reason I never seriously considered moving there.

And second hand smoke is gross, we dealt with it in the apartment building where we lived before we bought our house. But in some old buildings, it's really hard to control.

Lori Lynn said...

Best wishes with your predicament. Oy. $3000/month with nothing to show in the end. I'd probably put up with second hand smoke, would not put up with paying off someone else's mortgage to that tune. Good luck. Keep us posted.
LL

Penny said...

Christine, Good luck with your apartment search. NYC is such a wonderful place to live, but finding an apartment must be a nightmare. I have a feeling your tenaciousness will prevail and you will find something great. How important is the kitchen to you? That would be one of my priorities.

Julia said...

Ugh. That is such a bummer. The smoke is a bummer and the hunt is a bummer and not knowing what is going on is SUCH a bummer. Wish I could figure it out for you. The smoke issue would drive me bananas. Somehow it will all work out.

Janice said...

your neighbor should be courteous and open his windows to smoke...that's uterly disgusting. I hope you guys find your next home soon.

Claudia said...

I grew up in NYC and moved to Manhattan shortly after college. It was decades ago and when the city was going co-op. Rentals were harder and harder to find. I feel your pain - you have my heart. Crossing fingers and toes - something will come up.

high low said...

So sorry Christine! I empathize with you - the NYC apt search is the craziest and most frustrating experience!

I hate secondhand smoke! You know how we live on the first floor? I like having the windows open for "fresh" air, but we have a neighbor who smokes right outside our window 3-5 times a day. Ugh.

Fingers crossed that you'll find a new home soon.

Kitchen M said...

Oh my... That's tough!! I thought SF was expensive but wow... how do people in NY survive!?? I hope you'll find a place very soon. :)

Pierce said...

Oh..that is frustrating. And I can't stand smoke....it's really hard for me to use my own car after my son has borrowed it...and he keeps the window down...but smoke is bothersome for me.

The Duo Dishes said...

No second hand smoke. No way! G'luck with the apartment search. It is not easy, but it's not impossible. Stay positive!

Katy ~ said...

I don't know that there are many things more emotionally or mentally draining than home hunting. I do not envy you the task, but it sounds like a must do.

Wishing you the perfect home in the perfect place for a prefect rent!

Diana Bauman said...

Oh Christine, I am so sorry to hear that you are currently going through this madness. I absolutely would not tolerate second hand smoke. But my, I'm not in your circumstance. Do what you need to do. I'm praying for you.

Cinnamon-Girl said...

I'm sorry your going through this! That is really awful about your neighbor and the second hand smoke. I've never been in this type of situation. I wish you the best in your apartment search.

sweetlife said...

finger crossed for you to find something fab!! Second hand smoke--no no no so so sorry!!

sweetlife

Debinhawaii said...

Such a bummer! Hopefully you will find something great soon.

Ravenous Couple said...

Things will work out! Keep those spirits up!

The Diva on a Diet said...

My heart really goes out to you Christina. Without question, NYC is the most difficult city in the world when it comes to finding/renting a home. While I know the task ahead is formidable, I'd hate for you to stay put and risk continued exposure to the second-hand-smoke. Here's hoping you'll find the exact right place (at a good price!) and soon. HUGS!

Megan said...

Besides the other health drawbacks, I would definitely have a constant sinus headache and itchy skin if I had to be around secondhand smoke all the time. One of my college roommates used to smoke (just out the window -- like it doesn't come back inside), and that irritated me enough! I'm so sorry you have to deal with that. It's hard enough apartment hunting in Boston -- I can imagine that NYC is 1,000 times worse. I wish you the best of luck finding something -- or maybe your smoking neighbor will see the light and quit... or move out. :o)

Joy said...

I have heard many stories about the hellish adventure that is "apartment searching" in New York -- I hope you will be able to find another place.

In my opinion, second hand smoke is disgusting and it is very harmful to your health. I don't think it's fair that you would have to be effected by someone else's bad habit especially if you are paying rent to live there. Anyways, hope all goes well, best of luck to you :) !!!!

Lori said...

I can't imagine searching for apartments in NYC. It has to be totally crazy. That price you listed - that is about 3 mortgages for an average sized 3BR to 2BA where we are. Cost of living of different cities is always amazing me.

I couldn't handle the smoke. I really hope you can find something you like and fits your budget soon!

tigerfish said...

ABSOLUTELY NO NO. No second hand smoke, though I had to tolerate it for a few months when the unit downstairs smoke....he was a heavy smoker. Why can't they have non-smoking apartments? And I'm in the West Coast - imagine having to shut our windows all day just because of the smoke :O

Hmmm....at least we do not need a broker when finding a rental apt...but purchasing a home is tough in California too, I would say. Bloody expensive, still! What crisis?

Danielle said...

my husband is allergic to nicotine so it would be out of the question. Rent is outragious!!! Thats 2 house payments and we live in SoCal! Good luck on whatever you decide to do.

nancy at goodfoodmatters said...

I feel that there is always the right place for a person to be---and hopefully this uncomfortable push will bring you to a place that will better suit you. Fingers crossed!

The second hand smoke would make me sick.

Best wishes in your search

MeetaK said...

hi christine new to your blog and this post just tears at my inner-self. i can relate somewhat as last year we were supposed to move to another country, packed, given notices where notices are supposed to be given and 3 weeks before we are supposed to move my husband's company calls us back as the project has stopped. almost a year later it's still like living in limbo!! i could write paragraphs about how i felt and still feel but i do not want to intrude on your space. all i can say - hang in there according to my mum everything happens for a reason and we're all wiser after the experience!

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

I could never tolerate 2nd hand smoke, not even for a day! I hope you sort your accommodation issues soon. Such a bummer. :( Good luck, Christine!

Sophia said...

Good luck with your apartment situation! When in grad school, I lived for 2 years in an apartment that had been previously occupied by a smoker. There was yellow stain on the windows, in the bathroom, and in various other spots. Not a good experience.

Yasmeen said...

I hope you soon find a comfortable place to live.