How I scored a new fridge for my rental

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When you rent in NYC at real-people price points, you really can't want for too much. But my standard issue 14.6-cubic-foot Hotpoint—such a counterintuitive name for a fridge—just wasn’t cutting it anymore. It was cramped, often packed to the gills with a not-inordinate amount of food to feed my family of four that items would spoil before I made use of them. The exterior wasn’t much better, scuffed and messy with the usual detritus of school schedules, emergency contact info, photographs and the like.

The final straw, though, came this summer. I had signed up for a CSA half-share and every other week carted home two enormous grocery bags full chard, kale, lettuce, baby bok choy, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, eggplants and whatever else was being harvested then. But my small fridge just wasn't practically laid out enough to fit what I needed to feed my family. I squeezed what I could into the fridge and arranged the rest in bowls on my dining room table where it quickly began to spoil. My husband started to complain about the waste of food—and money. The situation had become untenable.

Unsure what the options would be, I emailed my management company and, to my surprise and delight, they responded right away and sent a super to take measurements, eventually offering me the chance to pick what I wanted because there was nothing bigger in their existing inventory.

I’d never shopped for appliances before: I was tempted by stainless-steel versions (but the rest of my kitchen appliances were basic white); a model with a bottom freezer (maybe too inconvenient?); a French door-style (was it me or did it appear to have less space that a traditional fridge?); and one with an ice-maker in the door (nixed because my kids would think it was a toy).

Ultimately, space and price dictated my choice: a larger-than-usual 17.5 cubic foot, top-freezer General Electric for $539 that my management company split with me 50/50. It’s not fancy, but it is new and more capacious,  with plenty of space for everything, including my bi-weekly CSA take. And it fits the space precisely.

So could you do it, too? My tips for scoring an appliance upgrade in a rental:

• If you’re a tenant in good standing, a reasonable request for an upgrade is likely to be entertained.

• Decide what you can and can’t live without before approaching management with your request. (You’ll need to make a really good case for a $5000 appliance to replace an existing $500 one)

• Exercise some restraint: A fancy appliance may be the dream but the reality, if you rent, is that you’ll leave it behind if and when you move out—something to consider when setting a price point. (For me, shelling out my $270 share for a better, more practical fridge was a no-brainer.)


Ask Sam: is my landlord obligated to upgrade my ancient kitchen?

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