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?