Roommates + Landlords

The unexpected benefits of an absentee landlord

By Virginia K. Smith  | August 21, 2014 - 8:59AM

Just about every budget-conscious renter knows the headache of getting the landlord to finally send someone over to make basic repairs—or getting them on the phone, period. And truly negligent landlords are one of the city's biggest scourges, to be sure.

That said, there's a wide spectrum of landlord styles ranging from "nosy and resides in the building" to "faceless management company" to the truly dangerous slum lords. Sometimes, a landlord who falls somewhere in the middle (and is mysteriously unreachable when it comes time to fix that leak) can be a bonus. After all, if they're not completely holding up their end of the deal, it's that much harder for them to crack down on you for doing the same. Not that we necessarily recommend doing anything that'd jeopardize your lease, your security deposit, or the goodwill of the people you live with. But in our experience with careless (or disorganized) owners, you can get away with more than you might think. And it never hurts to look on the bright side, right?

Flexible payments

As a rule, if the management is flaky about the upkeep of their own building, chances are, they're also not keeping a close enough eye on their accounts to make sure your check comes in right on time at the first of the month. You still need to pay your rent in full—there's no way around that, unfortunately—but you and your roomies can probably send in different checks at different times of the month without getting a slap on the wrist, and you'll have a little leeway if you're sending in rent a few weeks late from time to time.

Be the host with the most

A landlord who doesn't live on-site or check in much is a landlord who won't know if you're throwing a raging party, at least not until way after the fact. A party-ready apartment is a rare thing, so may as well use this to your advantage. Again, the key tactic here is to clear things with your roommates and neighbors (or y'know, just invite them).

The more guests, the merrier 

If your landlord isn't paying much attention to your building (let alone your apartment) you can pretty safely get away with repeated overnight guests if you decide to skip town for a while, or rake in some extra cash via Airbnb rentals. (Bear in mind that in addition to violating the terms of your lease, renting out your apartment when you're not living there for 30 days or less is illegal in NYC.)  Just be sure to square your plans with the roommates (and maybe your closest neighbors, too).

Come and go as you please 

Now, you may think that as an adult who's paying good money for your own apartment, you're already entitled to keep whatever hours and habits you want. That is, until you have an in-building landlord who starts making angry calls or giving you dirty looks in the hallway when they hear doors closing (or feet on the stairs) at 2 a.m. Enjoy your freedom, if you have it. It could be fleeting.

No need to stress about the trash

Granted, we should all be doing our part to recycle, and generally make waste disposal in New York as efficient and seamless as possible. But some buildings make this... something of an uphill battle. The flip side of this is that if your building's bins are a mess (and the collection schedule unclear), you're not too likely to face personal fines if you accidentally put out your plastics on the wrong day. Do your best to comply and keep things clean, but most likely, you'll just get an A for effort here.

Make some furry friends

The risk level here varies depending on the terms of your lease (and the size of your animal), but if you do decide to take on a secret pet, chances are your landlord won't be any the wiser, unless it somehow causes the kind of damage that'll ding your security deposit when you move out, or causes such a stir that your neighbors call your landlord to complain. In other words, a cat might work better than an enormous Rottweiler, but really, it's up to you.


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