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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2004
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    Default Which of us is unreasonable: me, or our landlord?

    ETA: Someone bumped this up, so update posted second page. tl;dr, we moved.

    Backstory: My roommate and I rent a house from a woman "Mary" who lives out of state. Because she cannot immediately deal with problems, she pays a local, "Bob," a retaining fee to handle problems.

    Early in November I called Bob saying that the heating in my bedroom only was not working. I postulated a problem with the radiator. Bob came over, agreed there was a problem with the radiator but also the boiler, and said he would call a steam-fitter to deal with it. Three calls to Bob later, he said the steam-fitter was out of town. Since this was the man who had actually built the boiler system for the house it was felt we should wait until he got back. Fast forward a week, when we noticed water dripping from the pipe under the questionable radiator and actually the ceiling plaster falling down. Immediate call to Bob. Bob came out and said "Yeah, that pipe is cracked." He was going to come back later with a pipe wrench to do... something... and that never happened. I expressed that I wanted someone out NOW to fix the problem since we had a cracked and actively leaking pipe and the ceiling was falling down. Loooong story short, due to Bob's complete inability to communicate effectively- this has been a problem in the past- the boiler and heating and pipe was not addressed until four days later.

    I of course was in touch with the landlord throughout this whole process. When it took two weeks to resolve an issue with our heating- in November- and a week to fix a cracked pipe with obvious water damage, I said that while I understood it was not specifically Mary's fault that it was not resolved more immediately, I felt that we had done our due diligence in attempting to get it fixed and that Bob, her representative, had dropped the ball. I wanted a reduction in our rent for this month. Our landlord is not certain that is reasonable.

    Now it is questionable whether the "fixed" boiler is actually working at all, or whether our thermostat is broken. When I am shivering in three sweatshirts with my hand wrapped around a hot drink, it is definitely not 70 degrees in the house.

    Am I unreasonable for continuing to push for a reduction in rent for November given the fact that our heat has now been working improperly for three weeks? Frankly, I'm looking at other rentals.
    Last edited by Renn/aissance; Feb. 9, 2013 at 09:51 PM.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
    - Harry Dresden

    Horse Isle 2: Legend of the Esrohs LifeCycle Breeding and competition MMORPG



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep. 19, 2008
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    Half past the point of oblivion
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    Default

    I think you are completely right, especially since the problem STILL isn't fixed.
    Holy crap, how does Darwin keep missing you? ~Lauruffian


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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep. 13, 2000
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    Greenville, MI,
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    Default

    I do not think so, But I have been told that unless there is a prior agreement that there will be a rent reduction as a result of problems unfixed you are not due one. I am totally unsure. Was there any contract drawn up that said how repairs will be handled? Are you free to call an independent repair company and have it looked at aside from Bob's person?
    "you can only ride the drama llama so hard before it decides to spit in your face." ?Caffeinated.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar. 30, 2009
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    CA to Costa Rica to WI
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    Default

    In my experience, it's very challenging to ask for a reduction in rent. If you look over your contract, and it looks like she has broken that, you can move out Asap, she'll probably keep your deposit, and you can look into taking her to small claims court to get it back.

    Is it reasonable to ask for a reduction in your rent? Absolutely. Will you get it? Who knows. But I'd be actively looking for other options. She's not going to replace Bob, so it's just going to be another issue next month.
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    Fourteen Months Living and Working in Costa Rica


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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 12, 2010
    Location
    Westford, Massachusetts
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    Default

    Unless there is a provision in your lease for reduced rent in case of extended periods without repair, I'm not sure you can force the landlord to let you pay less. What I would do is document EVERYTHING...the calls you've made, what has been done/not done, the water damage, etc...so she doesn't try to take any damage out of your security deposit when and if you do leave.

    You may be in a position to break your lease if the house isn't meeting minimum standards.


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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 24, 2000
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    Somewhere in the Midwest
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    Default

    Make sure all requests for maintenance are in writing and copied to the out of state owner. Look at Landlord-Tenant laws in your state to see the law regarding failure to do repairs, all states are different. Most likely they have broken the lease so that gives you an out as far as moving. Do you have rental insurance? If the ceiling falls and your personal items get damaged, most likely they are not responsible for that, most leases have language stating so.


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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct. 16, 2011
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    Default

    This is something, at least IMO, you may want to ask someone in the legal field that works with these things. They totally dropped the ball on getting repairs done and the repairs they did do seem questionable they even are done correctly, but at least where I live lots of the laws benefit the landlord, not the tennant. Morally I think you are entitled to a reduction, but legally maybe not and I don't want to see her retaliate against you by trying to move towards eviction or something for "failure to pay rent."

    Good luck OP. I'd be looking elsewhere too if this is a continuing problem.
    *Wendy* 4.17.73 - 12.20.05



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul. 22, 2008
    Location
    Rochester, NY
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    Default

    While you are reasonable in asking, I doubt you'll get one. As others have said, unless it states in your lease that rent will be reduced for such issues, you're kinda SOL. What you CAN do, if you want to pursue the issue & the property is uninhabitable, is call whatever office in your municipality that issues certificates of occupancy for rentals and let them know that your property is currently uninhabitable and your LL is not doing her due diligence to have the problem repaired (if that is the case). You will have to move, of course. It doesn't sound like the property actually IS uninhabitable, so again, I think you're probably SOL.

    I would contact the landlord and tell her you would like to call a repair service independently to protect her property from further damage.

    I was without heat of any sort for a significant part of last winter. Furnace was working sporadically, contacted LL who attempted to ghetto-rig the thing, back to busted less than 48 hours later. Contacted LL again, he sent an HVAC service who agreed with my diagnosis and recommended a replacement part, LL refused and asked them to ghetto-rig again- worked OK for a couple of weeks after that, if spottily, but the part that needed replacing finally died a real death while LL was out of town and the weather was as cold as it got last season. I attempted to contact LL but he was unresponsive as he was out of town and as our pipes were beginning to freeze, I just called the HVAC service that had been in before. They came, set up space heaters near the main water lines, ordered the part and had everything working less than 12 hours later. Room mate & I immediately began receiving nasty calls/texts from LL about allowing an unauthorized repair. To recap- property was legitimately uninhabitable during this time. Temp in the house was well under 30 degrees. I took time off of work to go back every few hours to run the water to try to keep the pipes thawed & keep our animals from freezing. Lost income AND had to stay 8 miles away from the house, adding gas costs to inconvenience. Despite my efforts, the pipes were beginning to freeze at the point when I called HVAC. I made an executive decision that LL would rather pay for the emergency call now rather then after the pipes burst.

    After I recounted my efforts to protect the LL's property to him, he backed down, but refused to reduce our rent for the period during which we couldn't actually live in the house.

    Good luck. Decent land lords are very hard to find.
    bar.ka think u al.l. susp.ect
    free bar.ka and tidy rabbit



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2004
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    Default

    Thanks for the opinions. Contractually she is not obligated to give us a reduction. We've had a history of communication problems with Bob of which she has been aware and very helpful with. (He's a nice guy, and when he gets in gear he gets stuff done and it's usually done right the first time but something is 'off' about him socially and I really just think he honest to goodness does not understand how to work with people.) This is the first really significant problem we've had.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
    - Harry Dresden

    Horse Isle 2: Legend of the Esrohs LifeCycle Breeding and competition MMORPG



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb. 18, 2001
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    New York, NY
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    Default

    In New York City housing code, not having heat or hot water makes an apartment "uninhabitable," and thus the landlord can't enforce rent. I'd imagine other states have similar laws. However, I wouldn't recommend withholding rent, but I would make a very serious threat that you're planning on doing so and seeing if that gets them into gear.

    Our radiator was broken last week (albeit just for a day or so—promptly fixed), so I feel your pain! It's not fun to wear four sweaters in your own house.


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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar. 26, 2005
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    Back to Normal.. or as close as I'll ever get
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    Default

    As a former landlady, IMHO, "Mary" is an idiot.

    It is her property that is now being damaged by the leaking pipe.
    No matter how much reduction in rent you take, she is looking at some pretty costly repairs.
    I had tenants who waited almost a week to report a loss in water pressure that was the result of a cracked water heater.
    Morons.

    I'd deduct from the November rent & keep on deducting until you find someplace to move with a resopnsible landlord.
    Of course, you can probably expect Mary to keep back from your Security deposit any deductions, but at least you'll have more $$ in hand to rent a new place.
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009
    Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2006
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    Default

    If I had tenants that deducted from the rent, they would be looking for a place to move. If not immediately, I wouldn't renew their lease.

    I totally agree that Mary needs to find someone better to fix the problems.

    However, sometimes it's hard to find someone you trust and it takes time to get a problem fixed. Is there someone in your area that you could recommend to Mary?

    Personally, when my own home boiler malfunctioned, it took three weeks to get the problem fixed.

    Good luck with it. I hope you can get it resolved.


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  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec. 11, 2005
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    Southern California - Hemet
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    Default

    Many, many years ago when I was renting an apartment and they seriously dragged their heels fixing a very leaky bedroom window in the middle of a stormy Michigan summer, I put my rent in escrow with an attorney until the repair was made. Lo and behold, at the mention of attorney and rent escrow to the apartment manager, the problem was fixed the next day. Of course, it helped that I worked for that attorney at the time, so he did not charge me anything to do so. I think landlord/tenant rights vary considerably from state to state and contract to contract, so I am not sure if this would have been an appropriate avenue for you.


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  14. #14
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    Jun. 24, 2005
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    Alabama
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    Default

    I think it depends on state and local laws. Some places have virtually nothing to protect tenants. I think hurrying with the hunt for a new rental would be a better option.
    You can't fix stupid-Ron White


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  15. #15
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    As a former landlady, IMHO, "Mary" is an idiot.

    It is her property that is now being damaged by the leaking pipe.
    That's about my thought. I was thinking "Man, lady, YOUR property now has water damage and the potential of mold, YOU are the one who is gonna have to deal with this, not us!"

    I don't believe deducting from our rent on our own is legal in the state. I certainly don't believe it's ethical. Either we get this worked out amicably, or we move. (And boy, is that going to be a headache, considering that the housemate owns a German Shepherd.)
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
    - Harry Dresden

    Horse Isle 2: Legend of the Esrohs LifeCycle Breeding and competition MMORPG



  16. #16
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    Feb. 20, 2011
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    Dutchess county, NY
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    I haven't read all the replies, but in the state of Massachusetts the tenant does have the right to withhold rent for such conditions. Try googling tenant rights in your state


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  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec. 15, 2003
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    1,396

    Default

    Check on your local tenant laws.

    A few years back the furnace went out in the house I was renting, in the middle of winter with below-freezing temps and the house did not have a fireplace or any other source of heat. My landlord dropped off a space heater and told me it would take a week to get the heat fixed. The space heater did NOT heat even the living room and after a couple of days of freezing in my house I asked the landlord for more details. She said she had gotten quotes and the vendors that could come out the next day were more expensive than the one with a week wait.

    I found the landlord/tenant laws for our area with a quick google and informed my landlord that a house without working heat was considered not suitable to be rented so I was going to move to a hotel for a few days and we needed to work out what the rent deduction would be for that month.

    The heat was fixed the next day.

    Some areas have stronger tenant protections than others, but it's not unreasonable to expect to have heat in a rental.



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec. 19, 2009
    Location
    Pennsylvania
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hb View Post
    Check on your local tenant laws.

    A few years back the furnace went out in the house I was renting, in the middle of winter with below-freezing temps and the house did not have a fireplace or any other source of heat. My landlord dropped off a space heater and told me it would take a week to get the heat fixed. The space heater did NOT heat even the living room and after a couple of days of freezing in my house I asked the landlord for more details. She said she had gotten quotes and the vendors that could come out the next day were more expensive than the one with a week wait.

    I found the landlord/tenant laws for our area with a quick google and informed my landlord that a house without working heat was considered not suitable to be rented so I was going to move to a hotel for a few days and we needed to work out what the rent deduction would be for that month.

    The heat was fixed the next day.

    Some areas have stronger tenant protections than others, but it's not unreasonable to expect to have heat in a rental.
    I agree - if the house is cold enough that you can't stay there, deducting hotel costs from your rent seems reasonable. Or, the cost of a space heater or electric blanket. Just randomly deducting a certain amount from your rent doesn't make any sense... what is the deduction for? Sweaters? If you see my point...

    Good luck... I hope things work out for you! It sounds miserable. Twice I've gone lengthy times without heat, but it was at work - not home. There I really couldn't deduct anything, and it made me glad that most of the time I do work in a climate-controlled environment... glad I didn't have to sleep there.



  19. #19
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    Jun. 14, 2006
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    VA
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    Default

    I can totally empathize with you, OP. That must be uncomfortable.

    However, I am baffled as to why "Mary" isn't irate! Her property, her asset, is being damaged by "Bob's" slow responsiveness.

    Perhaps that is the angle to pursue if you don't wish to consult an attorney.

    "Gee, Mary, you know, we try to report any issues promptly to avoid damage to the property, but Bob isn't very responsive and thus, what could be minor expenses to you without damage are become more major expenses due to subsequent damage. In addition, it's an uncomfortable living situation. Some of these issues can potentially pose a hazard to us even being here. How would you like to proceed?"

    I think I'd be looking for a new place since this is a recurrent theme.

    Else, I'd be blowing up Mary's phone. She may have a proxy to handle the maintenance, but technically, your contract is with HER. If it's not uncomfortable for her, she may not feel like it's a priority.

    Squeaky wheel and all that.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  20. #20
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    Dec. 11, 2006
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    Cheesehead in Loudoun Co, VA
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    Default

    Does "Mary" really know how much damage is done, or does she just think she knows?

    My Mr. Landlord loves to dismiss my concerns. He refuses to acknowledge that I once owned my own home and DO know the difference between insulation and the dryer lint that's blowing out of the very large gap in my attic wall. And directly on to the gas water heater. "Kevin" was supposed to call about fixing the gap a month ago.

    It's been 2 months since I reported the squirrels back in my ceiling. And yes, I DO know the difference between squirrels on the roof and squirrels in the ceiling playing soccer over my head in the wee hours of the morning. The cats aren't dummies, either. I know precisely where they're getting into the building but who'd think of asking me, and no, squirrels DO NOT squash themselves into tiny holes like mice. They chew great big holes in the siding where the power lines attach to the building. They also chew holes in the Great Stuff that Mr. Building Owner sprayed into the hole a year ago when I showed him where it was since Mr. Landlord failed to relay that vital bit of info.

    Anyway. Does "Mary" know exactly how much damage has been done to her property? Or is she just guessing/poo-pooing your description?
    I'm not arguing, I'm just explaining why I'm right
    Violence doesn't end violence. It extends it. Break the cycle.



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