i hate looking for new apartments.
i don’t even know exactly why i am looking for a new apartment. my current apartment is fine. jared & i have the entire third-floor of a big three-story house that has been split into apartments. we have a huge living room with enough space for numerous bookcases, two couches, a desk, several armchairs, & a huge dining room table. i have a small office. we have a large bedroom with plenty of storage under the eaves. we have a bathtub. the apartment has hardwood floors & really nice light. it’s well-situated between downtown lawrence & the university, & we have free private off-street parking. the utilities are pretty reasonable. the landlord permits pets with no additional charges.
the bad things about the apartment mostly center around the kitchen. i’ll estimate that the kitchen is less than thirty square feet, & that space is packed with a small oven, a full-sized refrigerator, a butcher block (which is our only form a counter space–there are no counters in the kitchen), an elderly sink, an ugly little shelf on which to store groceries. the cabinets aren’t deep enough to hold plates & also close the cabinet doors. if jared is in the kitchen, there isn’t really enough room for me to be in the kitchen as well. what i’m trying to say is that the kitchen is ludicrously tiny–it is easily the smallest room in the house, which isn’t great, because we cook a lot. we would love to have a larger kitchen.
& now that we actually have a real game plan for planning to have a child, jared has semi-convinced me that we need another bedroom. not that i have big plans for a nursery or anything. i think i’ll just have the baby sleep with us for the first year or so. but babies do have a lot of extra crap (clothes, diapers, toys, board books, spacial baby-sized wash basins, etc), & it seems smart to have a dedicated space for all that stuff. i think we could fit a baby into our current apartment without much difficulty, but jared says that the main part of the apartment is basically an open floor plan, which is not ideal for balancing a screaming baby & dissertation-writing responsibilities. i don’t know. i have mixed feelings.
but i figured that it doesn’t hurt to see what else is out there. maybe our dream apartment is lurking right around the corner–a single-family two-bedroom house near downtown & the university, hardwood floors, efficient appliances, an on-site washer & dryer, a dishwasher (to save my hands the arthritis pain that comes with washing by hand), lots of light, a private porch or deck area, a large kitchen with ample cabinet & counter space, a gas stove, no pet fees, permission to paint, high ceilings, on a quiet street, spider-free, & maybe some nice touches like stained glass windows or built-in antique sconces or something.
is that really so much to ask?
i found a listing for a nicely-priced one-bedroom with many of these features a few blocks away from our current place. the landlady told me it was in a house split into apartments (as opposed to a managed building, which we do not like, as they tend to feature ugly carpeting, noisy undergraduate neighbors, & close proximity to depressing strip malls). i am very familiar with the neighborhood & know that it’s mostly populated by drunk asshole undergrads that stroll up & down the street at all hours of the night, screaming & getting arrested for public intoxication. not exactly a recipe for restful sleep with an infant in the house. but we went to see it anyway.
we showed up a little early for our appointment, but no landlord was around. she hadn’t given me an apartment number or even any information about whether the apartment was in the front or the back, upstairs or downstairs. we crept into the house & went upstairs, where doors were hanging open, giving us a clear view of a bedroom with an ugly KU bedspread, the noises of the afternoon basketball game on TV. the halls were dim, carpeted, stained, & gross. finally we discovered that the apartment we were there to see was in the back. i almost died slipping on unshoveled ice leading to the back door. the words, “this is how i’m going to die,” actually crossed my mind. but the apartment it self was cute–lots of storage, high ceilings, nice-sized kitchen. i’d live there in a hot second…if i was 23 years old.
because the current tenant, who lived there throughout college years, confirmed that there is a noisy college bar around the corner & that noise is a huge issue. & that the apartment in the front of the building controls the heat for everyone, & they usually keep it turned too low. i HATE being cold. i don’t know. it was a cute apartment. i just don’t think it was a couple-in-theirs-30s-starting-a-family apartment.
we moved on to a different apartment in a much quieter neighborhood, across 9th st. in old west lawrence. that’s where all the professors live, in these huge beautiful victorian homes. i had high hopes. but the apartment was really nothing special. two bedrooms, both smaller than our current bedroom. the larger one had hardwood floors, but acoustic ceiling tiles (yuck). the smaller one had normal ceilings, but hideous low-pile carpeting. the kitchen was galley style, with a half-wall separating it from the living room. i always find that tacky. i don’t know. it was okay. i think we could have taken down the ugly plastic venetian blinds & made it kind of cute. the current tenants have the place done up with a huge plasma screen TV & black leather furniture, so it can’t help but look ugly. but it was far more expensive than our current place, & it sounded like utilities would have been much higher as well.
the landlord gave us an application to fill out, just in case, & explained that they require a financial statement or a co-signer. i am familiar with how this works. i have been renting apartments for fifteen years now. most landlords request pay stubs that show the tenant makes at least three times the cost of the rent they will be paying. i currently pay a little more $300 in rent ($635 a month split in half with jared), so i had to prove that i make at least $900 a month. no problem.
but these people require that each tenant makes FOUR times the amount of the TOTAL rent. the apartment cost $745 total. that would mean that jared & i would each pay $372.50 a month. $372.50 times four is about $1500 a month. okay. i make that much money. no problem. but no–the landlord clarified that we EACH need to make four times the amount of the TOTAL rent–four times $750 per month. that’s $3000 a month.
my jaw dropped. seriously? that’s $36,000 a year, which maybe doesn’t sound like much, but is FAR more than i make or have ever made in my entire life. the average household income in lawrence, kansas is about $39,000 a month. if jared & i could put our annual incomes together & come up with $72,000 a year, you better believe we wouldn’t be RENTING an apartment! the landlords would still rent to us if our incomes dipped below that level, but we would need co-signers. our co-signers could be anyone who owns property in the united states. they were like, “maybe your parents?”
first of all, plenty of people’s parents do not actually own property. jared’s actually do, but my dad is dead & my mom certainly has no income & lives with my brother in the apartment he rents with student loan money. also, i don’t talk to her, so i told the landlord that my parents were both dead. they were like, “some of our tenants have gotten their professors up at school to co-sign for them.” does that seem fucking crazy to anyone else? NO FUCKING WAY would i co-sign for some college kid (unless maybe it was my own actual kid…& even then, it’s a big maybe). that kid skips out on the rent & i’m left holding the bag in exchange for doing a nice favor.
second of all, i’m 31 years old. i feel like that’s a little old to be needing a co-signer. i have never, in all my years of renting apartments, failed to pay rent or even been LATE paying rent. even when i was renting an apartment that cost $950 a month (& i did not have a roommate). i lived off canned soup & spaghetti, but i paid my rent.
third of all, this stipulation is just crazy. i talked to the landlords at length about how they came up with this figure, & the lady half of the couple explained that about 18 years ago, she volunteered with the city housing commission. they were updating their policies around housing discrimination, including the newest (at the time) figures from the office of housing & urban development stipulating that a tenant paying any more than a third of their monthly income toward rent was living under a hardship. somehow the landlady conflated “hardship” with “discrimination” & decided that she needed to make extra, extra sure her tenants could afford her rents…not by lowering her rents (can i just mention that lawrence rents tend to be unjustifiably high for what you get, or absurdly, crazy low?–our next door neighbor has the entire first floor of a house, with hardwoods, a big kitchen, two bedrooms, & a private all-weather porch for only $500 a month) but by ensuring that their rent is only 25% of their total income (or they have a co-signer). & because she seems to live in sheer terror of being accused of discriminating against someone based on their family or marital status, she applies this rule to roommates & partnered couples alike. she was like, “you don’t know. your partner could leave you stuck with the whole rent just like a roommate could.” & while that is certainly true, that is still not an excuse for expecting her tenants to essentially be either independently wealthy or willing to enter into an infantilizing legal relationship with whoever they know who happens to own property.
i actually called the housing commission after i got done talking to the landlord & was like, “seriously? four times the TOTAL RENT? that’s CRAZY, right?” & they were like, “wow. that is TOTALLY CRAZY. but as long as that’s the income requirement they ask of all their tenants, it’s also totally legal.” (that is a verbatim quote.) (also, i didn’t think what they were doing was illegal. i just thought it was a very flawed & bizarre interpretation of the law.)
so…the search is on. maybe we’ll find our dream apartment, maybe we’ll just stay put. jared did just recently make adorable bathroom curtains patterned with owls. maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to just stay here.