Unless your landlord is a bear, he probably did not make a cameo in Goldilocks’ memoirs. That said, the concept of “too much, too little,” tends to pop up when you are dealing with the person who takes a large chunk of your change on a monthly basis. What do I mean? Landlords are, invariably, either too attentive or not attentive enough. Which is better? It’s a toss-up, but really, it doesn’t much matter because while you get to choose your place of residence, you usually don’t get to choose your landlord.
I began the renting process in college due to a lack of on-campus housing. My first year of renting, I had a Greek landlord who, before letting me move in, quizzed me on “what are you? Are you Greek? You look Greek. Okay, then.” He then proceeded to garden in the backyard 2-3 times a week before the Boston weather became too unbearable. My roommates and I, having never rented before, didn’t want to offend him by asking him to give us our space. We also didn’t know our rights as tenants; a landlord must give at least 24 hours notice before arriving at your home, be it to show it to other prospective renters or to stick a hoe in a pile of dirt. Come spring, after talking with friends about our problem, we had a nice conversation with Mr. Stennoapolis about our tenants’ rights to privacy. While he appeared hurt, he kept his distance.
The following year, I had a lawyer as a landlord who placed all of the house’s responsibility on his wife, who was also caring for two small children. My roommates and I would have to call her at least three, often five, times, in order to get any sort of response or call back. We were convinced she screened our calls. Once, in order to get the fire detector’s battery changed (we needed a ladder to reach it), I had to threaten to hire a private handyman and take his fee out of our month’s rent. While made in desperation, the threat worked wonders, because she knew that it was within our rights as renters to do so. Remember your monthly rent covers not only your living space—but also the landlord’s obligation to maintain your apartment.
Which landlord do I have now that I’m all grown up and living in a big, scary city? I have the former, the landlord who is madly in love with his building, the landlord who will talk to me about brass door hinges for half an hour if I call to ask him to fix a broken light on the back stairwell. In a way, it’s refreshing how much effort he put into making his Chicago Bungalow reflect its vintage history. But, when he calls me every week, just to ask how things are going, I feel like I’ve inherited a third parent. With him, the tables have turned: now, I screen his calls.