Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QZip 20009: I was wondering what the protocol is when the walls are so paper thin in your apartment that you can hear your neighbors fight, followed by a "passionate reconciliation"?
AI am not sure there is a specific protocol for dealing with paper-thin walls, though most apartment-dwellers have had to deal with noise problems at one time or another. I've heard many cases of "passionate reconciliations," and most people find it awkward to ask their neighbors to quiet down. But sometimes people do not know how far their noise goes, and if you have a friendly conversation about poor building construction and noise, people might try to be a little quieter. Or, in this case, they might be so embarrassed they'll have no choice.
Home renter: My boyfriend and I are renting a home, and we would like to do some aesthetic repairs. The owner said that was fine, but made no mention of paying us back for our improvements. I want to live in a nice environment, but the benefits are more for the homeowner. Is there any good way to approach this situation?
You could ask for your landlord to compensate you, perhaps in a reduction of summer rent, for any work you do to the property.
Alexandria: My apartment management changes the heating and air-conditioning filters twice a year. We have to clear out a large closet to allow access to the furnace, and are usually given several days' notice.
Last Tuesday, however, while I was on a business trip, notices were posted on doors about 5 p.m., saying this would be done the following day, and if a closet was not empty, staff would clear it out and we would be billed for this "service." Since my closet was not empty, I was billed $40.
My lease allows emergency entry into my apartment at any time, but reasonable notice is required for non-emergency access. As this was routine maintenance, I don't think it can be characterized as an emergency. Is a few hours' notice, on a weekday evening, "reasonable"?
No, less than 24 hours is not a reasonable amount of time for routine maintenance. You're absolutely right -- this was not an emergency and you clearly could not comply. You should definitely not pay the $40.
Boston: My friend lives in an apartment with two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and one bedroom and a bath on his level. He pays more than the other two because of the bathroom on his floor. One upstairs roommate decided he didn't like the perfectly functional bathroom, and insists on using my friend's bathroom every morning without asking.
What's one to do in this situation? The guy thinks it's perfectly fine, even though he's getting a break in rent to use the shared bathroom.
I first suggest talking to the guy who is using the wrong bathroom. Does he even know how bothersome it is? Does one of you think it's worth using his for a while?
Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com. The next chat is scheduled for July 7 at 2 p.m.