PSA: Don't Renovate Your Rental Apartment

Are you a renter? This means, in a technical sense, that you give someone else money in order to stay in their apartment. Feel like you want to do some expensive renovations? Stop right there!

Did you see that story in the New York Times real estate section last weekend about the couple that spent $45,000 renovating their two-bedroom rental apartment in Manhattan—which their landlord will turn around and rent to someone else (for a much higher price) five years from now? Crazy, right? "Look at these nuts," was the subtext of that story. But it turns out that there is more than one rental apartment in this overpriced metropolis that has enjoyed pricey renovations thanks to a renter who does not even own the joint.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of artists in Red Hook are in court trying to get their building rent-stabilized, so that they aren't all priced out by the rising rents. (Which are as inevitable in Red Hook as the fact that it will always be a pain in the ass to get to.) Besides the general, legitimate pain in the ass of being priced out of one's own neighborhood by "entrepreneurs" who make "startups," what has these tenants so incensed?

Because they expected rents to remain affordable for years, tenants say they spent tens of thousands of dollars on their homes, installing showers and in at least one case an elaborate claw-foot tub, full kitchens and screen doors to let the breeze in on stuffy summer days.

They are now hoping that a judge will give them a rent break due to all their renovatin', but it doesn't look so good. What lessons can we take from all this?

1. If you want to renovate an apartment, buy it first.

2. If you can't afford to buy it, don't renovate.

3. If you do renovate, accept the fact that you are essentially making a long-term donation to the Landlord Financial Improvement Fund.

4. Anything nice that you manage to get your hands on will eventually be taken away from you by someone richer.

5. Life is just one goddamn thing after another.

[Photo: Flickr]