At first I laughed, assuming the online apartment listing I was eyeing was just being overly specific. “This one actually lists that the apartment has a refrigerator,” I snickered to my now-husband as we searched for our first apartment in L.A. “Thanks. Does it have a toilet, too?”
“No, that's good,” he replied. “Not all apartments in L.A. come with refrigerators.”
I presumed he had to be mistaken. What kind of apartment wouldn't come with a refrigerator? He must have looked at one place, once, that didn't have one, and figured it was commonplace. But that couldn't be normal.
Just a few more clicks on Westside Rentals showed me I was totally and completely wrong.
As anyone who's ever rented in this city knows, it's entirely possible that your dream apartment may come with everything but the fridge. In fact, it's reported that about 50 percent of them don't. In that half, between the kitchen sink and the wooden cabinets you'll find a gaping hole where a refrigerator should be, and you're expected to fill the space.
What's more unbelievable: this practice is completely legal, and almost encouraged by our municipal codes. The city's Housing and Community Investment Department confirms that refrigerators are considered an “amenity,” and therefore landlords are not required to provide them.
Which is insane. An amenity? Garage parking is an amenity. A gym is an amenity. Hell, much simpler things like dishwashers, on-site laundry or even window unit air conditioners could be considered amenities. But a refrigerator? That's a necessity. Really, what's the alternative? Eat nothing but takeout (and never have leftovers)? Pop a cooler in its spot and buy fresh ice every day? Start a booming chain of refrigeratomats? It's been almost 100 years since in-home refrigerators were first introduced to the U.S. market. Our grandmothers may remember a time without them, but our parents certainly don't. And if you can afford to own an investment property, you can afford to furnish it with this extremely basic appliance.
Most cities take that as a given. Per the New York City Housing Authority, providing a refrigerator is a legal requirement to renting out a unit of housing. And while plenty of other cities don't mandate refrigerators, even in those places, renting an apartment without one is practically unheard of.
But here in L.A., refrigerator-free apartments are rampant, and we're at the mercy of our landlords. We have no choice but to bite the bullet and buy one if one doesn't come with our lease, even though a refrigerator is a ridiculous thing to own when you're a renter. You end up moving it from place to place, leaving that sad gaping hole for the next tenant to fill. And there's no end in sight to this vicious cycle.
Here's one idea to fix this problem:
Everybody stop moving your refrigerators.
Everybody. Just. Stop. If all of us committed to leaving our refrigerators exactly where they are, even if we personally paid good money for them, there'd be one waiting for each of us wherever we move, and finally this refrigerator buying-and-moving madness could end.
Yes, you may have spent $300 buying a used one off Craigslist. And yes, you may have to take that financial hit. But suck it up for the greater good of Los Angeles. If your kind neighbor does the same — if we all do — this sick game of refrigerator musical chairs will cease!
Of course, landlords would have to play along, taking ownership of fridges, and fixing them when they break. They haven't looked out for our best refrigerator interests up to this point, so why should we assume they'll start?
And that's where the city needs to come in. Mayor Garcetti ran on a campaign of getting “back to basics.” Is a refrigerator not one of the most basic things there is? It's time he takes a break from playing with Jay Z and Beyonce and pushes for an ordinance that forces landlords to do the decent thing.
Let's break the cycle, and then let's change the law. Just say “no” to schlepping.