National News

When the Landlord Tries to Break Up With You

Posted May 28, 2018 2:25 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — This winter, Eugenia Forteza and Mimi Klipstine faced a common inconvenience for those living in apartment shares: a departing roommate.

“We were like, ‘Oh, that’s a pain.’ We were so comfortable with each other,” said Forteza, a 28-year-old opera singer who became close friends with Klipstine, a 25-year-old actress and singer, after moving in two years ago.

But while they were dumbfounded that their roommate would want to leave their large and lovely three-bedroom in Washington Heights to move farther uptown, the apartment’s charms made it easy to find someone new, and Forteza quickly found a college acquaintance to fill the room. There was just one glitch: They hadn’t yet received their renewal lease, usually sent out months in advance.

“I just wanted the rent number so I could tell the new girl what her share would be,” said Forteza, who emailed the management company. “And they were like, ‘Oh, we have to talk on the phone.'”

“On the phone!” Klipstine said, to add emphasis.

The news was ominous: Their apartment was slated for renovation — it was being reconfigured into a four-bedroom — and they would have to move out when their lease ended in a month.

This, understandably, came as a shock. Not only do many landlords wait to renovate until tenants move out of their own accord, but their housing luck had, up to that point, been so good.

First, there was the apartment itself, which Klipstine and a friend had found after a leaky ceiling necessitated a departure from a cramped three-bedroom a few blocks away. And then there was the fact of their meeting.

Forteza had braced herself for a long and possibly unpleasant apartment hunt as she neared the end of a graduate program in New Jersey. But on her first week of looking she came across a video tour that Klipstine had posted on Gypsy Housing, a Facebook group where people post room and apartment listings.

“I thought, ‘I like this girl! This girl is so chill,'” said Forteza, recalling how funny she had found Klipstine’s ravings about the huge closets and radiator covers. “And it was a beautiful apartment in a good location.”

“We were like, ‘This is too easy!'” said Klipstine. “I think that’s why when we had to leave, it was so horrifying. And it was out of the blue.”

The management company softened the blow by offering them a choice of two other empty apartments in the building: a three-bedroom on the ground floor or a two-bedroom down the hall. Both had been recently renovated, from a two- and one-bedroom respectively, and had new kitchens. But the generously sized layouts were gone.

“The three-bedroom was terrible,” said Klipstine. “It was right on the street, with these tiny bedrooms.”

“And then we were like, ‘If we have the opportunity to live together —'” Forteza said.

“That would be nice,” Klipstine said, finishing the sentence.

They told the management company they would take the two-bedroom, so long as they could keep the same per-person rent of $970 each. The company agreed.

“When I came to the city, my goal was to find something under $1,000, and I want to maintain that,” said Forteza, who, in addition to her work as an opera singer, runs a blog about the behind-the-scenes of the opera world, 360° of Opera. (Klipstine also has several side gigs, working as a personal assistant and a personal shopper.)

They moved into the two-bedroom in March, a process that entailed culling quite a few possessions. They got rid of much of their furniture, though Forteza’s keyboard and several paintings by Klipstine’s grandmother made the cut, as did Forteza’s opera gowns and musical scores, a collection she augmented significantly when she worked at the Juilliard bookstore.

That they are both in the performing arts, but not the same performing arts — Klipstine performs in plays, musicals and cabarets, but not operas — makes them ideal roommates. They understand each other’s career challenges, but can offer an outside perspective.

“I don’t think I’d love to live with another opera singer,” Forteza said.

And as Klipstine pointed out, being able to find support and a soothing atmosphere at home is important when you are in a stressful calling that involves regularly going on auditions.

As for the new apartment, Forteza admitted that “it was stressful at first, but overall it was a pretty good situation.”

“They could have just said, ‘We’re not renewing,’ and then we would have had a month to find another place,” she said.

Klipstine confessed that the first week she lived in the new apartment, she doubted her decision, given the tighter quarters.

“But then you set up your stuff, and you’re like, ‘OK, this is our place.'”