Given that landlords wield so much power over their tenants, you’d think anyone who’s actually friends with his landlord has it made, right? Well, not so fast. Sure, there are upsides (read: late-night parties with no complaints because your landlord is in attendance], but there can be drawbacks as well. Big ones.
As proof, check out these real-life landlord-tenant stories of heaven and hell, helpfully arranged into situational pros and cons. (Names have been disguised to protect respondents who might still want to live in their apartments.)
Pro: Your rent may not go up
If you and your landlord are buds, odds are decent he won’t rake you over the coals with freakishly steep rent hikes, or come down hard if you’re a few days late paying rent. Katie N. in New York City discovered this when she suddenly found herself unemployed due to an injury.
“I’ve never been more grateful to my landlords than when I was injured and couldn’t work for six months,” she says. “We’d become friends after four years of my living there, so when I needed surgery after a bad accident, they let me know that if rent was late they’d understand for a few months. That helped take some of the pressure off and allowed me to heal without the fear of ending up in a box on a street corner while crippled on crutches!”
Con: When it does, your friendship may not feel so warm and fuzzy
On the flip side, what happens when your landlord “pal” decides to jack up rent on your once reasonably priced apartment? Suffice it to say, your friendship will likely go the way of print magazines and dial-up modems.
“We were friends with our landlords before we moved in—but we actually just found out our rent is going up 40% next year,” says Kathy P. in Brooklyn. “Our friend said, ‘Hey it’s a business,’ which is to say, there are no friends—just landlords.”
Pro: When something in your apartment breaks, he’ll rush to repair it
Hey, buddy, can you get up here to unclog the massively clogged toilet, again? Now? Thanks, dude! One thing about being friends with your landlord: He’s basically on your speed dial. As Adam B., in Metamora, IL, puts it, “If I need some sort of maintenance done, it gets done.”
Con: Or he’ll let repairs slide, because you’re pals
Of course the flip side is when landlords let those toilets stay clogged (gross) because you’re “friends,” and they know you’ll be more forgiving if they don’t get to it.
“Our buzzer doesn’t work in our walk-up, and it’s a nightmare,” says Kathy P. “So whenever we have guests or order takeout, we go down three flights of stairs. We’ve asked our landlord/friend to fix it over and over. So much for getting special favors!”
Pro: It feels like you’re coming ‘home’ to a family
If your landlord lives in the building and you’re close with him and his family, it starts to feel less like renting from some abstract entity and more like being part of a clan.
“Everyone in my building knows each other, and we’re all friends with our landlord and his wife and daughters,” says Robyn S. about the brownstone where she lives. “We all actually have ‘family’ barbecues. It fosters a real sense of community.”
Con: Like family, a landlord can annoy the hell out of you
So yeah, he’s your buddy and your landlord, but that doesn’t mean he suddenly has an all-access pass to your abode, right? What is this, a mid-’80s sitcom?
“Thanks to answering a Craigslist ad, I moved into a multifamily unit in the Bronx,” recallsAnna D. “I split the apartment with four girls, only paid $600 in rent, and became good friends with my landlord. Should have been a happy ending, right? Wrong! This landlord totally took our ‘friendship’ too far and began walking into the house randomly—she had the key—without knocking. One time I was about to walk into the shower as she was coming in, and she walked into the bathroom to talk to me. Hello? Privacy?”
Pro: Landlords who are friends can come to your rescue fast
You’ll always know there is someone you can call if you’re, say, face to face with a critter you can’t, well, face.
“I’m not squeamish, but when my apartment suddenly got these gigantic water bugs in it, I was having heart attacks,” says Katie N. “Fortunately, since my landlords are also my friends, I actually was able to call them to come help me kill a bug! Not only did they show up with a very large shoe to squash it, but they also arrived bearing gifts of roach traps, which we set up all over the apartment. Now that is going above and beyond.”
Con: Landlords who are friends may not always take your concerns seriously
And then sometimes, if a landlord knows you and your buttons, he can more easily brush you off as being overly dramatic. That’s what happened to Todd T. in Los Angeles. He moved into his friend’s beach cottage, which became infested with spiders. Black widows. “I got bitten twice and had to go to the doctor; trust me, this is not something you want to have happen a third time,” he says. “Plus, the venom can be fatal to small dogs (and I had two). I begged my landlady to do something about the broken screen that allowed them to get in, but she would laugh and say I was overreacting. Finally one night after lying awake all night panicked like I was in some ‘Arachnophobia’ horror movie, I packed up my stuff, grabbed my dogs, got in the car, and never came back.”
Pro: If you’re lonely, you’ve got instant company
Home should be someplace you’re happy, and when you’re friends with your landlord, it can lead to awesome times.
“My landlords and I share a beautiful outdoor kitchen and deck area,” says Sara B. “It’s so lovely to feel comfortable using the outdoor space at all times, as we enjoy sharing a glass of wine and conversation together.”
Con: If they have money issues, it could affect you
Even landlords have to pay rent (i.e., the mortgage). Just ask Henry P. from Birmingham, U.K.: “My landlord and I were friends before I moved in; he offered me a spare room, saying the rent would help him out. I suspected he wasn’t working much but assumed the mortgage was being paid. It turns out he pretty much had no income and was living off my rent while sitting, waiting for foreclosure. Eventually he was evicted, and I was too!”
Result: one less Christmas card to send each year. Friends are so overrated.