Turning BedBug Lemons into Apartment Lemonade

As you know by now, I’ve been living in plastic-wrapped hell for the past few weeks while my place goes through a series of fumigations to make super-sure that all the critters are annihilated. Okay, so “hell” may be a little strong, but I work from home so I don’t really get away from this environment, the pesticides give me headaches if I don’t open my windows and freeze at least once every 3 hours for about 10 days after each treatment, and I have to warn new massage clients about how the place looks because some folks think all the plastic gives my apartment a “Dexter vibe”.

Of course I don’t want to tell my clients about bedbugs, especially since my problem was incredibly minimal and didn’t affect them – they’re only active 2am-5am and don’t like vinyl or finished wood (the materials my massage table is made of). But I’ve offered a vague version of the truth to explain the state of my studio: I just had some building maintenance work done and am taking the opportunity to repaint and redecorate. That pretty much commits me to repainting and redecorating, since I threw out the rugs as well – which my mom pointed out were looking a bit worn anyway. Heck, one of them was a $30 remnant that was only supposed to be temporary.

I hate painting, but I hate “NYC apartment white” even more. I have two color walls, and I bartered back in 2004 to have that job done. So yesterday I remembered that, when my landlord was trying to raise my rent $150 this time last year, he offered to have the place repainted to make me feel like I was getting some value for that big increase. I declined and postponed the negotiations to my advantage. Well, I haven’t contacted him at all during this bedbug hullaballoo, which I figure makes me his favorite tenant ever. This was very deliberate on my part – I wanted the “perfect tenant” bargaining chip. So last night I emailed him to see if the offer of a paint job still stands, and he said yes, no problem, call so-and-so to arrange. So I’ll get the normal wear-and-tear scuffs spiffed up, and those bright walls I’m planning to paint myself will essentially be primed for me, free!

Then I decided to push my luck a little. When I negotiated my current lease terms earlier this year, my February 1st cycle became an October 1st cycle (10/1/10). This sucks for me because it means the next round of negotiations will take place in mid-summer 2010, when rents are at their highest because of seasonal demand. And if I were to move, negotiating in September is equally disadvantageous. Personal experience has shown me that you can end up paying 5-7% less if you’re looking in winter v. summer, and in Manhattan, that’s 3 figures for most places. So I requested a lease extension on my current terms to April 1, 2011 – and got it, no hassle! Not only do I not have to deal with lease renewal turmoil until Feb 1, 2011, but I’ll be back in a “cheap” lease cycle whether I stay here or move.

I really do want to stay as long as possible. It’s my home and my livelihood, and heck, I’m investing a few hundred in paint, curtains, rugs, etc. to spruce the place up. I’ve been here 6 years and wouldn’t mind 6 more.

3 Responses

  1. Good for you. I really enjoy posts about negotiations because we all need to read these success stories to get up the courage to ask for discounts and deals.

  2. Oh, thanks for fleshing that out. I knew you were extending but forgot about the nuances of the NYC rental market that made the extension desirable.

  3. Very cool!! You are such a smart cookie. I would put that smiley here but it is too lame. lol.

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