Home, Rental Home: Tips for the Eco-Apartment Hunter

Pick a living space that meets all your green requirements.

| January/February 2003

Whether you own it or not, you can still take action to make your living space healthier and homier.

Living in a rental house or apartment is fundamentally different from living in a home that you own, primarily because you don’t have as much freedom in working with your living space. During the many years I spent in rented apartments, however, I found a number of ways to make the temporary homes more healthy and natural.

Location, location, location

Rentals, especially apartment buildings, are often located in less desirable areas, such as on busy streets. Look around and be creative. Depending on where you live, you may have more options than you think. Consider, for example, seeking out “in-law” or “garden” apartments in residential neighborhoods, as well as backyard cottages or larger old houses that have been converted to rental apartments. Air quality will be better, in general, in a unit that is older and on an upper floor, farther away from traffic fumes.

If you have no other choice but to live in an area with poor air quality, you can always purchase an air filter. Factor in the cost of this before you sign a lease.

Shop for landlords

Landlords are not all alike. Seek out a landlord who will allow you some freedom to make changes, and recognize that the changes you make for your own pleasure and comfort may actually benefit him or her, too. Negotiate what you want, and point out the benefits—especially the financial ones.

I twice rented apartments where I was easily able to negotiate removal of the carpets, which harbor volatile organic compounds and mold, among other substances I didn’t want in my living space. In one apartment the carpet was in pretty bad shape. I said I would remove it and refinish the hardwood floor beneath, if necessary, giving the landlord a floor in better condition for the next tenant. As it turned out, the wood floor was in very good condition, having been covered with carpet for years.

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