Dear Sensible Midwesterner,
My husband and I rent a flat in a home in a residential neighborhood of a big city (that is NOT in the Midwest, you’ll likely gather from my story). My landlords also live in the building. We own one car, which gets daily use. My landlords own four cars, many of which do not get daily use, but act instead as placeholders to maximize my landlords’ on-street parking. For years they’ve been parking one car specifically so they can use a parking space in front of the driveway. This space is not for general use by the residents of our building but for their exclusive use. Their other vehicles reside in proximity, effectively rendering the immediate public street parking space also exclusively theirs.
We live in a friendly neighborhood and know the people who live in the nearby homes. Some of them have garages and don’t use street parking, so the cars on the street are easily identifiable. What’s more, we are all long-time residents and this situation has been tolerated for years.
Our city has a policy that no car can remain in place for more than 72 hours, and my landlords have called the city when others have parked cars in “their” area. It’s clear to me that if I were to call the city to report their vehicles, I (and my neighbors) would be subject to interrogation about this perceived betrayal. Such conversations, expressing outrage at the lack of courtesy “among neighbors” have happened here and there over the many years I have lived here. We all disregard the 72-hour policy, in what I feel is an appropriate use of neighborliness, when folks are known to be on vacations, but, to our detriment, we have also disregarded the policy for the sake of keeping peace with these monopolizing residents.
We love our apartment and we are otherwise on good terms with our landlords, even socializing here and there by way of house parties. Our rent is affordable and we have limited options for relocation since our city’s rents are otherwise very high and apartments few and far between. We don’t want to move.
I should add that the situation has recently been aggravated by the addition of my landlords’ relatives, who are not obligated to work (meaning their two cars do not get daily use) and are now also residing, in a semi-permanent way, in two more spots directly in front of our house.
So my question is this: Is it appropriate for me to request my landlords modify their parking practices? And if so, how might I go about doing this? It seems pointedly un-neighborly to monopolize public parking space, but (as you have mentioned in other columns) I understand that pointing out others’ poor manners is never good manners. My nightly search for a parking space as I drive past my landlords’ cars smugly tucked in the front of our house raises my blood pressure, and I am tired of holding my tongue. Or should I just start calling the city, which will result in due process (warnings left on vehicles, and subsequent “boots” placed on the cars if the warning is not heeded), and then claim innocence when the interrogations begin? I have not made a habit of lying so this would not be an easy proposition for me, but I would give it a go if the situation requires it.
Your advice is most welcome!
A Former Midwesterner
Yikes. I know how tough this is for a Midwesterner. On the one hand, you don’t want to tattle; on the other hand, it is killing you that someone else isn’t following the spirit and intent of the rules, especially in such a blatant, extremely non-Midwestern fashion.
The real question is what do you have to gain by reporting these cars? You seem to think that you’ll get an easier-to-find, closer-to-your-apartment parking space. I’m going to posit that this just isn’t true. My guess is that after that first warning is left on their car(s) your landlords will simply buckle down and adopt a strict car-moving schedule so they are not violating the letter of the 72-hour rule.
Part of me wants to call your landlord in on your behalf, but the sensible part of me – the part that knows even rules don’t make things fair or stop entitled people from behaving in an entitled fashion (I mean, did you read about this ass trying to steal a beach?) – knows that not much can be done to fix this problem.
My guess is your landlords have probably owned the building since long before parking was at quite the premium it is now and somehow feel, rightly or (as we know) wrongly, that those spaces near their building somehow “belong” to them. That’s the essence of entitlement, right? They are not acting from a place of reason, they are acting from the gut, from a feeling. So engaging them in a reasonable discussion is going to be… I’m going to guess pretty near impossible.
Long story short, I have a lot of trouble imaging how that conversation goes anywhere pleasant or effective.
The only tactic I can imagine possibly working would be if you’re a woman and arrive home after dark on a regular basis and you could, perhaps, approach them about getting access to that driveway space for safety reasons. You could offer to pay for the privilege.
Keep in mind that any other modification doesn’t guarantee you a better spot, since someone else could take any street spot, but does guarantee them a worse spot. That’s a tricky proposal to sell.
For an apartment you love with a rent you can afford and landlords with whom you otherwise get along, the sensible thing is to let this go. I would also gently suggest that you accept that the cars aren’t “smugly” parked, they are simply parked in the best space that was available at the time. The game is rigged against you because of your schedule, but you would grab the best spot if you could.