Why You Might Be Every Landlord's Worst Nightmare
I am never deterred by a rental that needs a little elbow grease, because I have never been afraid to roll up my sleeves and take matters into my own hands. Throughout my many years renting apartments in New York and Los Angeles, I’ve had a few run-ins with landlords (some more understanding than others) on my journey to making my leased home feel as personal as possible. If, like me, your position on being a renter has always been to ask for forgiveness, not permission, then you too might be every landlord’s worst nightmare. Here’s why…
In my first New York City apartment, I loved the bones of the space but hated every color and finish throughout. So, I painted every surface, from the floors and ceilings to the cabinets and countertops. The landlord turned pale as a ghost the first time he saw the space. But to my defense, it was a total upgrade to the shabby apartment, and he actually sent me a thank-you note with my returned security deposit upon moving out.
The aforementioned apartment was a 250-square-foot studio on the first floor with soaring windows that looked onto the high-rise across the street. When living in a small space, you are inevitably faced with the tough decision to cross the apartment in the buff and risk your neighbors peeping if you forget your towel or are just having a free-and-easy moment. Maybe I became a little too comfortable doing this with the curtains open. One day, the landlord called me to coffee and suggested I “consider closing the curtains” as he’d been “receiving complaints from the neighbors.” Mortified, I didn't press issue, and from then on, I made it a point to keep the drapes drawn when parading in my birthday suit.
Just like the servant/master dichotomy in the plays of William Shakespeare, the tenant must always look for ways to outwit the landlord. I once baked a roast to disguise the scent of toxic fumes of floor sealant that would waft through the mom-and-pop building in which the landlord lived on the floor below. The painted patterned floors turned out amazing, but the roast was a little overdone.
As an interiors junky, I sometimes wake up on a Saturday with the urge to reinvent a room in a dramatic way. Once, I used giant graffiti markers to create a 360-degree scribble mural that looked as if a giant child had gone to town on the dining room walls when his giant parents weren’t looking. Though landlords can vary from apartment to apartment, they each give the same pale-as-a-ghost look when they first see my work. In this landlord's favor, the wall treatment made me feel crazy after living with it for only two months and has forced me to pursue a calmer, more serene vibe ever since.
If you followed MyDomaine during the holidays, you might be familiar with my upside-down Christmas tree disaster. If attempting to hang your fully decorated tree from a power point in the ceiling, I’d recommend consulting an electrician first. The fallen spruce resulted in damaged electrical wiring in half my house. It was also one of the more difficult problems to explain to the landlord.
When I first moved to New York City, I signed a lease on a tiny apartment with loads of potential. I had no job and little resources, so I furnished it in an over-the-top nautical theme using flea market finds and street furniture. The result was like a boutique hotel where Pee-wee Herman might stay if vacationing in the Hamptons. Before the days of Airbnb, I would list the space for rent on Craigslist and make my pricey West Village rent back in a single weekend. Due to a police call on a pair of feuding Russian newlyweds during their honeymoon gone wrong, my landlord started to watch me a little more closely.
While I’ve taken many risks during my time as a renter, I’ve also made sure to educate myself on the inherent rights provided to me in a lease, should things ever go sour. I once had a landlord try to kick me out for placing too many complaints about unlivable conditions created by building construction. Because I only communicated in writing through the help of a family friend that just so happened to be a huge tenant lawyer, I became a big enough nightmare that I was offered six months’ rent in cash to vacate the apartment. It was a true New York City dream come true, complete with a Sopranos-like moment when he handed me a huge paper bag full of $50s in the dry storage room of a diner he owned on the ground floor. His last words to me? “You are a complete nightmare.”
What are the craziest things you've done to your landlord? Share your stories in the comments below!