My worst nightmare finally came true

31 Oct

About a year ago, a new company bought the apartment complex that I live in. It was great at first. They hired a responsive manager and actually fixed things when they were broken. But then they started renovating the building. They fixed the intercom system, which had been completely broken for more than 2 years. They repainted the hallways and put in new carpeting. They re-keyed the entire building. As people moved out of apartments, they redid those entirely too – putting in new appliances and replacing the ugly carpet with gorgeous hard wood floors.

So several months ago, I started to get freaked out. We’ve been living in our apartment for almost three years now and pay extremely low rent, especially considering the excellent neighborhood we live in – technically in Temescal and right next to Rockridge. So these renovations got me scared that they were going to raise our rent, especially since our building is too new to be covered by rent control laws.

Every time we received a letter from our landlord, I went through the same ritual. My girlfriend and I sat down and drank some wine, and then we opened the letter. But everytime we opened those letters, we breathed a sigh of relief. All of them were just alerting us of some apartment upgrade or some new rule.

Well, that is, all of them until yesterday. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at home when the letter arrived so my girlfriend skipped our usual ritual and opened the letter. She immediately called me at work and told me she had bad news – the letter alerted us that they were going to raise our rent $200 per month.

For me, $200 monthly is a lot of money. I could probably afford it, but I’d have to give up a lot of other things, like eating out and grabbing drinks at a bar after work. It wouldn’t kill me, but it would really suck.

The only reason I’m not entirely freaking out right now is that our landlord is actually being pretty nice about this and is not raising the rent until February. So we have three more months of our cheap rent, and then we need to figure out what to do.

It’s pretty likely that we’re going to move in the next few months. North Oakland is the only part of Oakland I’ve lived in. Any suggestions for Oakland neighborhoods I should check out when searching for a new apartment? Keep in mind that I’m public transit dependent.

13 Responses to “My worst nightmare finally came true”

  1. jennconspiracy October 31, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    I thought that they could only raise it within a certain % – was it more than that?

    My landlord lives in the front of the front-back duplex we share – he just bought a place in Richmond and is waiting for things to go through. His unit is pretty nice – he re-did the floors, levelled the place and it is 2 bedrooms with washer/dryer – $1600 near 51st/Broadway on a 1 block street (dead-ends on one side, street meets the median on 51st on the other) so there’s not a lot of traffic on the street. E-mail if you want details about location…

  2. Becks October 31, 2008 at 10:18 am #

    Jenn – Since my apartment is too new to be covered by rent control, I’m pretty sure my landlord could raise the rent by any amount. The duplex sounds beautiful, but is unfortunately way out of my range. Thanks though.

  3. inadvertentgardener October 31, 2008 at 10:51 am #

    Ugh. The place I lived when I was still in the DC area had essentially a rent freeze for me for a long time, and I always had kind of the same ritual.

    I adore living in the DTO, but it might be hard to find a bargain. Depends…but I’m certainly super-close to public transit, and love everything I can easily get to in the neighborhood. I’m down near Chinatown and Old Oakland. Part of the reason I picked the place I lived over cheaper spots was the absolute proximity to BART. I knew I’d be heading into the city a fair amount, and figured I would want that access, especially late at night. I was right…and it was worth it for me to pay a bit of a premium for it.

    What a pain! Hope you figure out what to do soon…

  4. The Overhead Wire October 31, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    Man that’s a bummer Becks. I hope you find something else in a nice neighborhood.

  5. ihatewheat October 31, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    I just moved to lake Merritt and love it so far. I live by the Whole Foods and 2 blocks to the Lake, and about a 15 minute walk to the Grand lake Theater and that area. I don’t know about public transpo in a lot of areas, but I live about 15 minutes from the 51 on Broadway.

    It is quite expensive, but it sounds like you have a dual income for your rent. I pay $1200 a month for my one-bedroom, and that was on the lower end.

  6. dto510 October 31, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    I’m sorry that you have to move, but it’s a great opportunity too. Like the Inadvertent Gardener, I love living in downtown Oakland, but I find there are some bargains. The neighborhood around Laney College has many beautiful old apartment buildings and is cheaper than other parts of the DTO. It’s on the 1 line and near Lake Merritt BART but relatively far from Broadway. I hope everything works out for you!

  7. Coolhand Luke November 3, 2008 at 12:47 am #

    It feels like the general consensus here is that Downtown is the best bet, but East Oakland will yield much better rents. The Laurel is nice and up and coming, is right on the 57 and a quick ride down 35th to the Fruitvale Bart. The Fruitvale area is worth looking into as well. Unfortunately folks tend to demonize anything east of the lake, but there are some great neighborhoods

  8. David November 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    The neighborhoods around the Parkway and Park Boulevard are a decent combination of affordability and convenience too. I walk to downtown and BART often (25-30 min by foot at a decent pace), and if walking or biking isn’t your thing, there seem to be a lot of bus lines running through the neighborhood too. (I can’t vouch for the frequency, however, as I never take the bus). You won’t find the abundance of shops, cafes, and restaurants that you have in Rockridge, but there are more opening every year, and Grand/Lakeshore Aves are only a short walk away with all that they have to offer (farmer’s market, arizmendi, TJ’s, Grand Lake Theatre, etc. etc. etc.). Frankly, I’d rather live in Temescal, but I’m pretty happy with this neighborhood too, and my rent’s pretty good.

    If you plan to buy a home in Oakland someday, then you might want to consider doing it now if you can manage it financially. Prices may keep dropping for a little while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re near a low point right now. Get in while the getting’s good!

  9. Becks November 3, 2008 at 4:46 pm #

    Luke & David – I’m not opposed to living east of the lake in theory. I particularly like the neighborhood around Park Boulevard and think some of the architecture there is gorgeous.

    The problem is that I have my girlfriend’s commute to account for too. So while it would be pretty quick for me to get to my job in downtown, it would take her a very long time to get to UC Berkeley, where she goes to school. If only BRT was up and running, this wouldn’t be such a big concern.

    I wish I could afford to buy right now! I’m hopeful that in a year or two I’ll be ready to buy. Who knows if that will be the best time, but I just couldn’t manage the mortgage right now.

  10. jarichmond November 3, 2008 at 10:09 pm #

    I moved fairly recently from a place on the Rockridge border to sort of the boundary between Piedmont Ave and the auto row and absolutely love the neighborhood. Just south of 580, Glen Echo Creek surfaces for a few blocks, which makes for a nice little park, plus my commute to the Berkeley campus is pretty friendly between the slow but convenient 51 and the fast but hilly walk 1R. It has left me less connected to Temescal than I’d really like, but Piedmont Ave makes up for it.

  11. jarichmond November 3, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    One other thing I meant to point out is that the 18 bus these days runs from downtown Berkeley, around the lake, and then all the way down Park Blvd to Montclair. It might not be the fastest bus ever, but at least it makes a single bus commute possible between the close by eastern neighborhood and the UC campus.

  12. Jame November 5, 2008 at 8:58 pm #

    I recommend the area around Piedmont Ave, either closer to the Piedmont line or on the Auto Row side. The 51 is close, as is the 57. The 57 will take you to Macarthur Bart. There is also the comutter friendly 12. And it is totally walkable to Rockridge and the good spots on Piedmont Ave. I have the bargain of the century, but the 1 beds are around 1000-1100 with some deals to be had in either direction. Living closer to Piedmont, the city gives you a little extra exercise with the super hills, but all in all a great neighborhood. And you’d be close to the other stuff you know. The 57 is pretty good, and goes up Macarthur all the way to E-Ville. Also convinient to Safeway, Piedmont Grocey, Trader Joes and Farmer Joes. Wins all around.

  13. Freccia December 16, 2008 at 10:58 am #

    If you can find something not owned by cookie-cutter Lapham, Adam’s Point is great. You’re 15 minutes from BART and you’ve got the NL and casual carpool right on the corner of Perkins and Grand. You’re also close to perhaps the greatest Ethiopian restaurant in the East Bay, Ensarro. 15 minutes from the farmer’s market and the Grand Lake theater and a great new coffee shop just opened up on Bellevue and Grand.

    It’s worth a look.

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