When I started looking for an apartment two years ago, I had a dream: move to Coolidge Corner, a quaint neighborhood in Boston that I adored. It was closer to the city than my current place in Brighton—the only issue was finding an affordable three-bedroom for me and my roommates.
But, as if I manifested it, a three-bedroom popped up that was under our budget. It had a ton of space, plenty of natural light, and a sizable shared porch. It was also located near plenty of shops, a five-minute walk to my barre studio, and less than a 20-minute commute to work for all of us, back when that was still a thing. I was already picturing all the plants I was going to buy for it.
It seemed almost too good to be true—and it was. The big caveat was that our landlord would be living in the apartment directly below us.
Despite any hesitation we had, we decided to sign the lease for the dreamy location and the price. Over time, there have been some uncomfortable occurrences, especially with us at home most of the day, and therefore, we were kept on our toes not to disturb her.
While I don’t think I’ll ever move into the same building as my landlord again, it does come with some perks to weigh against the many, many compromises. Each landlord is different, but this is my experience of what it was like living directly above mine.
We Had to Jump Through Hoops to Sign the Lease
Before we were even able to sign our lease, our landlord requested that we each get co-signers to send in their applications by mail—thanks, Dad—despite each of making more than enough to cover the rent. Yes, we were in our early 20s, but none of my previous landlords ever requested this.
It should have been a red flag, but when all was said and done, we were excited to have the place.
After we signed the lease, our landlord asked if she could meet us in person, which we thought was reasonable considering we’d all be in close quarters for at least a year. She seemed like a nice lady, and she overemphasized how loud the previous tenants were. Apparently, they had “elephant” feet, frequently had a lot of guests over, and illegally left couches on the porch.
We explained to her that we weren’t planning on throwing house parties, but this gave us a taste of what the expectations were.
Late-Night Gatherings Were Not an Option
After living in the apartment with no major issues, we decided to have a smallish gathering for a housewarming party. We invited about 15 people—remember those days?—but I will admit that things got loud. The final straw for my landlord probably was hearing us dance to “Mr. Brightside.”
When I opened the door to walk one of my friends out, I was struck with horror at seeing my landlord at the door, explaining that we were being too loud—and the “party” dissipated shortly thereafter.
The final straw for my landlord probably was hearing us dance to 'Mr. Brightside.'
My roommates and I agreed to never have a large gathering again, but we still had to be extra mindful of our feet. Once when cleaning up after wine and cheese night around 10 p.m., we heard her banging on the ceiling from down below.
This tip-toeing around was exasperated by being home constantly during the pandemic. One of my roommates—who admittedly has elephant feet—heard banging from down below when she was simply walking around the living room. It was pretty passive-aggressive, though we never received any eviction warnings.
We Were Approached About "Unwanted Tenants"
My landlord constantly accused us of letting men move into our apartment. In her defense, a former tenant did have a boyfriend move in against the lease, and after seeing one of my roommate’s boyfriends let himself in after grabbing something from his car, she was on edge.
As the only single woman in the apartment who occasionally would have the guy I was seeing over, I was always dumbstruck that she would confront only me about this when I ran into her downstairs. Our exchanges consisted of her asking me if I had a man living with me—due to her heading loud footsteps in the morning—and I would reply that it was me leaving for a workout. The chats would always leave me feeling guilty.
At-Home Workouts Are a Challenge
Because of the pandemic, I no longer had a gym to do my early-morning workouts—and doing workouts with a thin ceiling between me and my landlord, as she literally sleeps in the room below mine, was not an option.
After an unfortunate incident, my landlord banged on her ceiling while I was doing an 8 a.m. workout routine and sent me a strongly worded email. Figuring out how to workout at home was hard enough as is, but I needed to alter my routine to still get my daily dose of sweat in while not disturbing her.
I played around with quieter workouts, like pilates over burpees, invested in a not-so-noisy spin bike—thank you, Peloton—and moved my workouts to the afternoon when she often left to babysit her nieces. I went as far as doing my workouts in the parking lot behind our building just to get a full workout in without bothering her.
We Were Sandwiched Between Family
While we could initially handle living above our landlord, we did not anticipate living below her son, who moved into the unit above us a little after a year of living in the apartment. Now, we’re literally sandwiched between two families who don’t abide by their own complaints.
Oftentimes, we heard her son either using a punching bag or dancing at late hours—I’m talking after 10 p.m.—and despite multiple emails to our landlord asking if she could tell the “tenants” above us to be more mindful, the noise did not stop. I even heard his child in the room above me crying before 6 a.m. and not stopping for hours.
It made an uncomfortable situation less ideal, and for that reason, we finally got out.
The Perks of Living With My Landlord
We’re not renewing the lease for another year, as one of my roommates is moving in with her boyfriend, the other is moving to North Carolina, and I’m likely living on my own, but I will admit that some good things have come from living above my landlord.
Our apartment is older and uses radiators to heat the entire building. While I don’t pay for heating per our lease, it’s always on during the colder days as our landlord wants the heat, too. I’ve had issues in other apartments where the building management wouldn’t turn it on until it was freezing, so it was nice not having to bundle up with two sweatshirts, fuzzy socks, and slippers while living here.
Additionally, when we need something fixed, we know exactly where to find her. After our toaster oven somehow burnt one of our outlets, she was in there a few days later to replace it herself. And if I ever had a burning concern—for example, where the electrical breaker was, as I blew a fuse at 8 a.m.—I could knock on her door to get the answer immediately.
If I ever had a burning concern, like for example, where the electrical breaker was, as I blew a fuse at 8 a.m., I could knock on her door to get the answer immediately.
Our landlord was also super cautious of porch pirates and had two outdoor cameras facing the unlocked area where packages are dropped—something a landlord who didn’t live there might not care about. And though everyone in the building is pretty neighborly about bringing packages inside, sometimes we weren't quick enough. When my roommate had a food gift stolen, she was able to get the video of the culprit and send it to the police. She didn’t get it back, but it was comforting knowing there was some sort of security there.
With our lease coming to an end, I do wish her luck finding new tenants with quieter feet and can deal with a family. The price might be right for the area, but tip-toeing around isn’t always worth it.