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Old 08-29-2017, 02:55 PM
 
6 posts, read 3,795 times
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I'm hoping the board's collective wisdom can help me answer an etiquette question about double-decker living. Before relocating to the Boston area from down south, I lived in SFHs or large apartment complexes. So the world of smaller multi families is new to me.

We are on the second floor of a double-decker. There is another apartment on the first floor, and another apartment in the basement (which has a walk-out entry on the rear of the house and is completely disconnected from the first- and second-floor apartments). Parking for all 3 apartments is behind the house, at the same level as the basement apartment.

From the parking area, there are two ways to get to our apartment. You could go up some external stairs, then walk around the side of the house to our exclusive front door, then climb internal stairs to the second floor. Or you could go up the external stairs, go in the back entrance (via the first floor deck), then climb the back stairs to our apartment. The back staircase has landings on the first- and second-floors with those apartments' washes/dryers, and lockable back entrances to each apartment.

Here's the issue: the first floor apartment has effectively claimed the back staircase's first-floor landing, because they keep their apartment's back entrance (which opens onto the first-floor landing) open, and they also keep the house's back entrance (which opens onto the first-floor deck) open, so their dogs can freely go between their apartment and the first-floor deck. That means my wife and I, while carrying our infant child or groceries, cannot use the entrance closest to our cars. Instead we have to walk around the side of the house to get to our front door. We'd prefer to use the closest entrance, especially during winter, when there will be snow/ice/slush on the side of the house.

So! Does the first-floor unit have exclusive rights to that back entrance and landing, or is it a common area that we should be allowed to use to access our unit? I appreciate hearing any thoughts that anyone has, before we (tactfully) approach our neighbors about keeping their dogs within their apartment so we could use the back staircase.
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Old 08-29-2017, 03:04 PM
 
3,574 posts, read 1,826,788 times
Reputation: 3851
Ask the landlord for clarification. There's no clear answer without seeing the lease and it may not even be specified.

The back staircase is the secondary egress out of the building so it should be considered a common area IMHO.
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Old 08-29-2017, 03:13 PM
miu
 
Location: MA/NH
16,475 posts, read 33,447,811 times
Reputation: 15210
You should really ask your landlord this question. My gut feeling is that the first floor can't "hosey" that first floor deck 24/7 like that, just because it's convenient for their dogs.

Plus, your apartment needs to have two egresses, it's a fire and safety code issue.

So talk with your landlord, and let him tell the first floor tenants to share that deck. And if you need to, gently point out the important of having two egresses for your apartment.

And if that doesn't happen, contact your city or town's housing code department.
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Old 08-29-2017, 03:26 PM
 
Location: Camberville
11,403 posts, read 16,012,641 times
Reputation: 18060
Yup, ask your landlord.

The agreement in my 2 family with the landlord is the the downstairs gets full use of the deck (which, with 3 kids who play sports and a dog, means it's used as their storage) but that I can use it to access our back door closest to my car. They often keep the door open for the dog, so I have had to get used to a huge overexcited bulldog slobbering all over me, but it's no big deal.
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Old 08-29-2017, 03:45 PM
miu
 
Location: MA/NH
16,475 posts, read 33,447,811 times
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Also, take the time to get to know your neighbors' dogs and make sure that they accept you and your family.
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Old 08-29-2017, 04:56 PM
miu
 
Location: MA/NH
16,475 posts, read 33,447,811 times
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Even if you don't like dogs, the fact is, they are also your immediate neighbors and as long as you live there, they are a part of your life.

If you ever need to use the deck as some sort of emergency exit, you at least need to eliminate the stress of running by these dogs and not worry that they think you hostile strangers that they need to defend their home against. You have a baby to think about also. So get to know your neighbors and have some sort of friendly contact with them.
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Old 08-29-2017, 06:28 PM
 
3,268 posts, read 2,197,578 times
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I lived in a triple decker once but the other people living there were related to me so this was never an issue. That's tricky because I guess the people on the 2nd and 3rs floor have their own private front and back porch that they don't have to share. The first floor person gets a bit screwed here. Maybe that should entitle them to cheaper rent.

If its easier for you i would talk to the landlord about
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Old 08-29-2017, 07:12 PM
 
449 posts, read 461,789 times
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We live on the first floor of a two family. We each have our own external door in the front off the front porch. Upstairs neighbor has his own second floor deck on the front. There's a first floor back porch and a second floor back porch. We have use of the first floor one and he has use of the second, but he certainly uses the back door to exit to his car, therefore walking on "our" porch. Since our LL put a screen door in the back door we, on occasion, have left our back door open for airflow. But we have no pets.

I would agree that you should talk to the LL, but you do need access to both entrances for egress. IMHO that back entrance is common space even if the back porch is mostly for their use.
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Old 08-30-2017, 08:56 AM
 
282 posts, read 150,388 times
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Check with the landlord as others suggested ....... but you will likely find that that the back stairs and landing are common areas and the deck is assigned/private.
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Old 08-30-2017, 02:02 PM
 
Location: Denver CO
19,048 posts, read 10,079,571 times
Reputation: 27863
While I agree that you should ask the landlord, I'm confused about how the first floor keeping the door open denies you use of the back entrance? Are you saying that because the door is open, you perceive it as an extension of their apartment? Are you concerned about the dog bothering you if you go through "its territory"?

In any case, unless you were told up front that you weren't allowed to use the back entrance (and as noticed, at least for egress, that would be a fire code violation), I think that it's unlikely the first floor apt can prevent you from using that entrance.
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