Lessons from a Small Landlord

Insider moving tips from a small landlord

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As I’ve explained before, I hate losing tenants, but sometimes they leave anyway.  Once I’ve signed the lease with the incoming tenant, collected three months of rent upfront, and agreed to a move-in date, my goals around a tenant move-in are pretty simple:
 
  1. Keep my new tenant from destroying the common areas due to inept moving.
  2. Keep my other tenants happy by not clogging the hallways.
  3. Ensure that moving is so miserable that no tenant will ever want to leave.
  4. Start the landlord-tenant relationship off professionally and cordially.
 
Number 3, of course, is inherent to the moving process; new renters often bring this upon themselves by trying to move all their stuff around midday on the hottest days of the year, the night after having barely finished packing at 4 am.
 
Unlike larger buildings in Manhattan, I don’t require my tenants to hire professional movers with scads of liability insurance or only allow move-ins between 9 and 4 on weekdays, making the new tenants sacrifice vacation days. Nor do I require them to call me 48 hours before bringing a couch up the stairs--that kind of attitude seems pointless in a small building. My other tenants don't care when you come in and out, and I don't have doormen  who need to supervise the move anyway.
 
Here are a few of the tips that I give my tenants before they move in:
 
Don’t move at the beginning or end of the month.  Everyone else does; you can’t get trucks, people, or utilities installed, etc.  If at all possible, try to move mid-month, both for your own sanity as well as for the sake of your pocketbook.  If the apartment is currently empty, many landlords will let you move your stuff in early without much (if any) additional charge.
 
Stake out the parking spots in front of your current apartment and my building.  Be willing to take a ticket or two (which usually range from $45-$65) to make it easier and faster to get in and out--otherwise you are paying people to carry your stuff up and down the street. But don't block a hydrant -- you'll get towed.
 
Don’t move yourself.  Your desk job hasn’t given you the stamina to walk up and down 300 stairs in the heat while carrying heavy boxes, and unless you were born to a life of manual labor, you probably don’t know the tricks of maneuvering furniture through tight spaces.  Even if you do, there's a good chance your furniture simply won’t make it upstairs.  The first time you gouge the door with a sofa negates the cost advantage, so please don’t try to be a hero.
 
Get rid of all liquids in glass bottles before you move.  I recommend having a Drink All My Alcohol Party a week before moving.  Likewise, if you haven’t cracked your textbooks since college, you might want to sell them via Bookscouter and use the money to fund decorations for your new apartment.
 
Change the locks asap.  Who knows who the prior tenant gave keys to?  New cylinders are around $10-12 at the local hardware store, and only take a few minutes to install. 
 
Got kids?  Moving day would be a great day to have them visit their grandparents.  This gets the the two most stressful sets of people out of your life on moving day.
 

Lessons from a Small Landlord is a bi-weekly column penned by a real-life NYC landlord whose pseudonym is Craig Roche.
 
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