The Market

The ups and downs of renting from a mom-and-pop landlord

By V. L. Hendrickson  | December 9, 2011 - 7:15AM

One of my first apartments in New York was a basement studio in an Upper West Side brownstone. The landlord lived on the second floor; I walked past his work room to get to my door.

That place was cheap -- $700 a month, I think – but I didn’t stay long: the landlord didn’t like that my boyfriend stayed with me on weekends. He’d literally knock on the door at 9am on a Saturday morning to discuss how my actions were not in keeping with his wishes.  I left after only six months.

I’m not the only one who has had trouble with an owner-occupant landlord. As we have noted here before, the experience can be like sharing a building with an overly involved parent who has not yet adjusted to having adult children

Over on StreetEasy recently, commenters had a few things to say about the pros and cons of renting directly from a mom-and-pop landlord.  Whether such landlords live on-site or not, relationships can be “tricky." On the other hand, some renters note, the potential for quick repairs and direct communication is a plus. 

Here are some excerpts from the StreetEasy discussion:

  • “Talk directly to as many of the private owner's tenants as possible. Generally speaking, you're going to be better off with.... more direct access, more responsive to problems in HIS building -- but like anything else, if you get a bad apple it'll be an ugly experience.”
  • “We saw an apartment in a building where the owners live in one unit and rent out the rest. The guy is a ‘Mr. Fix It’ type. To the naked eye, everything looked OK. But when we started poking around, the hot and cold water were reversed, the faucets turned every which way, the electrical seemed jerry-rigged, and there was some odd and probably illegal situation going on with the cable and internet....I think you're generally likely to be better with a management company if you want to remain ‘anonymous’ as a tenant.”
  • “When I first moved to NY, I rented from a private owner who was amazing. The first night I was there, a fuse went out (entire apartment was on a single fuse and I had a powerful window AC unit). I had heard stories about NYC LLs so I was afraid to call him at 1:00 in the morning. So I just went to bed (it was August and 90 degrees). When I got up the next morning, I called him and told him what happened. He actually yelled at me for not calling at 1:00am. After this happened about 3 more times, he finally said 'If this happens again, I'm getting an electrician out here and am going to re-wire the whole place.' Sure enough, he did - he split the apartment into 4 zones. After my 1 year lease was up, he didn't raise my rent (even though the market had gone up) and didn't have me sign another lease - he said to keep paying him the same rent.”
  • “If you rent from an owner, you run the risk they want to sell at the end of your lease (happened in my last apartment and we ended up moving out before we had really wanted to).”

(; previously)


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