Me: “Hello, yes, I am calling in regards to an advertisement I saw posted for an available 2 bedroom apartment.”
Realtor: “Oh yes wonderful! Will it be just you living there?”—(said in a VERY excited voice)
Me: “No, myself, my husband, and our 5 month old son”
Realtor: “Oh, you have a son…I’m sorry that apartment was rented this morning”
Sadly, I can’t tell you how many times that has happened over the course of our apartment hunting…
As I mentioned in a previous post Good Bye Slum Lord, apartment hunting in Boston is terrible…practically impossible if you have a small child (or even a pet). Rents are astronomical, quality apartments are limited, brokers are cut throat, and if you have a child land lords do not want to rent to you.
Boston is a very old city full of beautiful architecture, historic sites, Irish Heritage, and New England Charm. However, most of the buildings are still in their original state and have not been renovated. Our current house was built over 100 years ago in the early 1900’s. Before electricity, central air, or the known hazards of lead paint.
Moving into an old home was a new experience for us. Upon signing our lease we were presented with a “Tenant Lead Notification Form.” The State of Massachusetts requires that land lords of buildings built before 1978 have their tenants sign this document acknowledging lead paint may have been used on interior or exterior surfaces. Since we did not have a child at the time, we painted over all the walls ourselves, and my husband and I are intelligent enough not to eat paint chips, we were not concerned with the hazards of lead paint. Now that LD is here, life is a completely different ball game and we must find a de-leaded or “lead free” home.
Massachusetts law also states that if a child under the age of 6 is living in a home, the land lord must have the unit tested for lead. If the test comes up positive they must have the lead removed or covered by a state certified specialist. Alternative housing must be provided (at the expense of the land lord) during the renovations.
Needless to say NO ONE wants to rent to a family with small children and endure such a head ache. The lead testing alone costs around $300 and then the cost of de-leading even after the states subsidize assistance will run thousands of dollars. As soon as a renter catches a glimpse of our baby boy’s smile they panic and want to flee!
After touring a lot of mediocre apartments my husband stumbled upon an ad on Craig’s list that sounded too good to be true. A two bedroom apartment with granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, full size washer and dryer in unit, a yard with shed, across the street from a playground and steps away from my son’s daycare…within our price range and no broker fee! *gasp* Must be a scam! (Unfortunately, all to many times we saw pictures of what appeared to be a beautiful apartment, only to arrive and it look NOTHING like the pictures)
We had agreed before touring the apartment that if it even remotely resembled the advertisement we were going to take it. Of course as soon as we arrived the land lord took one look at our son and began expressing his concern for the “potential lead in the apartment.” Fearing that he just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of us and potentially losing this *perfect* apartment to a kid free couple I jumped into action like a momma bear protecting her cub (I am ½ Irish, an only child, and an Aries… I can be stubborn as hell and aggressive when need be).
Me: “What if I wrote you a check right now for the first month’s rent. Have the house tested for lead and if it comes back positive you can rip up my check, if it’s negative we would love to have it!”
Land Lord: “uh, a, I dunno”
Me: “Please we really love this apartment, it is perfect for us, we have already had other places slip through our fingers and we don’t want to lose this one too.”
Land Lord: “I’m not sure, I am comfortable with that”
Me: “who should I make the check out to?”
Land Lord: “um, okay, sure write me a check”
Oh yes…money talks!
At first I felt kind of bad, like I backed him into a corner. He probably didn’t want to rent to us with the hassle of our son, but The State of Massachusetts protects families such as ours, as it is against the law to discriminate against and refuse to rent to us solely because we have a young child.
Considering the guy already cashed my check and we have a paper trail of emails between both parties discussing arrangements of signing the lease I think the apartment is ours…I don’t want to get my hopes too high yet, but I can’t help but be excited at the possibility of having my own washer and dryer, and beautiful LEAD FREE apartment.
Maybe you can live in Boston with small children…just know your legal rights and don’t back down!