The Search for New Neighbors

Dear Apartment Guru,

I live in a four-unit brownstone and my upstairs neighbors are getting ready to move out. I love them. Our dogs play together and they are perfect neighbors. My problem is, my dog hates cats so I am hoping whoever moves in doesn't have a cat. Also, I REALLY don't want young kids moving in up there because we share a backyard and it could get noisy with running back and forth upstairs. Now, I don't think I have much say in who we can get to move in there. But is there any way or anything I can say to my management company to help influence them with their decision about who moves in? If so, what can I do?

-- Discerning, Not Discriminating

Dear Discerning,

I don't think there is a single reader out there who doesn't sympathize with your situation. To go from "the perfect neighbors" to the great unknown is a scary proposition, indeed.

"I totally get why she'd be concerned," agrees Gabe Leibowitz, managing director of Above Ground Realty in New York City, "But [discriminating against] kids is so far out of the question, it's not even funny -- that would be a violation of every NYC law and fair housing code imaginable."
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So what can you do? Change is hard enough even when you are clear on what the projected outcome will be. But in your case, there are no guarantees. So one thing you might think about doing is to make some of those unknown variables, known. In other words, conduct your own neighbor search!

You obviously can't have final say on renting out the place, but you can be responsible for spreading the word, very specifically to people who parent neither human nor cat. Once you have a few interested parties, put them in touch with your landlord/Realtor.

"If you happen to have a personal relationship with your landlord," continues Leibowitz, "it's not absurd to gently mention that if all things are equal, you'd prefer to not have [something like] a barking dog above you since landlords can refuse to allow pets."

In fact, Discerning, if you have a personal relationship with your building's management, you are free to mention anything you want -- from cats, to kids, to people who enjoy cooking with a lot of stinky garlic. However, your building's management, by law, might not be able to do anything about it.

Still, by planting the seed, you might be able to help in guiding the final outcome. Try something like, "Look, I know you can't do anything about this, but if two applicants come to you at the same time with very similar financial backgrounds and one is cat/child free and the other is not, I am simply nudging you in the direction of freedom."

Also, if you happen to be home at the time of open houses and viewings, you can always strike up a conversation with any potential neighbors. Why not mention that your dog hates cats (and throw in kids for good measure)? Since these people will be sharing a backyard with you, it will be good information for them to have when making their own decision about moving in. Not everyone wants to start a new living arrangement with a crazy dog-owner who has a crazy dog.

Anyway, it can't hurt.

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