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    Monday, August 18, 2008

    Up in Arms about Tenant's Rights

    Ok, so I'm not *literally* up in arms about something...but I am quite upset/frustrated about a situation with where I live/rent.

    A bit of background:
    I and my roommate rent a condo (2nd floor) from a private individual. We originally signed a lease agreement when we moved in, but when it expired, my roommate preferred that we go 'month to month'. We've now been in this condo for over 2 years (has it been 3 yrs? - possibly).

    We have a few issues with the condo at present.
    1) The air conditioner unit is QUITE old and it leaks coolant (in a slow leak).

    After complaining about the A/C unit not sufficiently cooling the place (it has never cooled my room, which is the master bedroom), we finally got the landlord to send someone out. He sent someone out a year ago, and at that time, it kinda worked better (he replaced the coolant and the filter, etc.) and recommended that the vent be fixed in my room since that was the problem why my room got no cool air. (The landlord said he'd do it - and never followed up).

    So this year, the landlord calls sometime on Friday (August 8th) and leaves a message on our home machine saying he'd like to have someone come out this weekend for the AC and please call him back. Well I got back late, so I didn't get the message unitl it was too late to return the call. (And my roommate didn't call him back since he addressed the message to me - I wrote him the letter saying he needs to fix some things).

    Next morning, I was busy doing things, and didn't feel like calling first thing when I got up. So when noon rolled around, and I was still in the middle of things (I think I was cleaning or something), he called again saying he wanted to schedule the AC guy for "7am tomorrow morning"...7am Sunday morning!!! And he wanted to know if that was too early! Too early? Uh, Yes! So then he offered 8am Sunday morning. Still too early we said. (By this time I had gotten Jill in on the conversation). Jill reminded me that it probably also would be beneficial if it was actually hot outside when the guy was working on the AC, so that he could see how the unit wasn't sufficiently cooling...and at 7 or 8 am in the morning, its still quite cool.

    At that point, when we told him that neither time would work (and I questioned what AC company, since I'm not used to having AC companies available on Sunday mornings...but I also work in commercial, not residential), he got all huffy and said "well, do you want me to get someone out there or not?". We said we do, but just not Sunday morning. So he said he'd try for Monday and call us back with a time. He set up an appointment for 3pm and called us to let us know. We said fine. At that point I planned to take a 1/2 day so I could be home when the AC guy (and my landlord) came over.

    On Monday the 11th, I went home early as planned. Good thing, cause my landlord called me just before I left work (he first calls our house landline, and then when he doesn't reach anyone, calls my work number - go figure, why he calls the house landline when its during normal work day hours!) to say that he wasn't going to make it in time for the AC guy, so he wanted to make sure that I'd be there. I told him yes, I was already planning on being there and was just about to leave work. He then said I'd have to pay the guy, since the AC guy would expect payment at the end of his visit, but then he'd repay me (when he showed up later). The AC guy showed up around when scheduled, fixed the AC unit (added coolant, replaced the filter, and fixed the vent to my room - so I FINALLY can get some cool air in there!) and I wrote him a check. About 5-10 minutes after he left, my landlord showed up. He had gotten the note the AC guy left, and I also reiterated what the guy had done to fix the unit. Then he wrote me a check to repay me for the check I wrote to the AC guy. (Yea!!!) I also mentioned that the AC guy highly recommended that the unit be upgraded...besides the many problems it has (like leaking coolant), its old and not energy efficient. My landlord said he's not going to do that until it completely breaks down and has to be replaced cause installing an new unit would 'involve doing structural work' to the condo to get it to fit, cause they're different shapes and more wires, etc. (Whatever!)

    Anyways, at least the AC now works so we can use it if/when we need to.

    So, on to an explanation of the 2nd item...

    2) There's a section of flooring in my bathroom, next to the shower, that is rotting away (caving in). I noticed the soft section upon moving in, so I made sure to write a letter and inform him of the problem. He did nothing about it. So, when I wrote my recent letter, I made sure mention that the problem is STILL there, and despite my best efforts to avoid the area, its getting worse. So as I'm on a 2nd floor, I'm obviously concerned about the integrity of the floor.

    At the time of the landlords visit on the 11th (when he repaid me for the AC guy's visit), I showed him the damaged section in the bathroom flooring. He said he was going out of town again, but would have someone come by soon to fix that.

    On the 12th, he called me at work to try to arrange when his handyman could come out...either the next day or the day after. And the handyman preferred to work evenings (after normal work hours). He conference called me in to the guy, and we eventually set up a time (between 6pm and 7pm) for Wednesday the 13th. Less than 24 hrs notice, but I managed to make it work so I would be there.

    The handyman arrived about a quarter to 7pm (just when I was in the middle of cutting up raw chicken, of course), and I showed him the damaged section of flooring. He said "yup, its definitely damaged" and caving in, and will need to be replaced, but he can't really see the extend of the damage until he pulls up the linoleum...which he wasn't authorized to do on this trip. It was just a 'see the damage' and 'get an estimate' of the work involved type of trip, apparently. He recommended that I get a piece of board (like plywood) to put over the area to distribute any weight more evenly. (He realized that while its all well and good to try to avoid the area, no one will remember ALL the time to avoid stepping there - which is so true!).

    After that visit, I didn't hear anything for a while.

    But then Saturday night, I get home from a Sewing Day at a friends house (after midnight) to find a message on the machine from my landlord. He wanted to have someone else come over to look at the damaged floor section on Sunday morning at 10am and to give him a call back if this was 'ok'. Well, since it was after midnight, I of COURSE did NOT call him back when I got the message. I went to bed. And in the morning, I sent him an email saying Sunday mornings do not work for either Jill or I as we both usually attend Church on Sundays. And I also told him I would be out most of the day (and that Jill was also gone).

    As I was just grabbing my last things to leave for church, I thought I heard the phone ring, but wasn't sure. (It's hard to hear the phone...or even the doorbell for that my bedroom). I was in a hurry to get to church (running late of course – hard to not be when I went to bed so late), so I left without checking to see if there was a message.

    I got home around 7pm on Sunday, and my roommate was home by then. She mentioned that the message was indeed from Fred, and she saw my email to the landlord on which I had copied her. I went into my room to set my stuff down, and went over to my bathroom…where I discovered that things were different than I had left them.

    The shower door was wide open, the bath mat (that covers the section of linoleum right next to the shower, including the damaged area) was pulled back towards the center of the floor, and the small fan that I have placed to blow into there for ventilation (cause its pretty enclosed and doesn’t ventilate that well), was moved. So I came out to tell my roommate, and she said that she had wondered if he had come in since the front door lock was different. Whenever she & I leave, we always lock the bottom lock before we close the door (so we pull shut an already locked door). Instead, the deadbolt was locked on the door – which we only do when someone is home (its easier to flip that when you’re inside). She said she didn’t put it past him that he let himself in while we were out when he couldn’t reach us.

    That just upsets us both since a) he needs to give us at least 24 hrs notice he wants access to the premises (which he didn’t…his original call/voice mail came after my roommate left on Saturday, which was sometime around 11am), b) we have the right to be present when he has access, and c) he is not allowed to enter the premises without our permission. (Jill is certain its illegal for him to do that – but we’re going to check up on the codes/find something to back up our claim that it was illegal before we send him an email telling him we don’t appreciate the less than 24 hr notice and letting himself in when he couldn’t reach us…and reminding him that its illegal to do so).

    That, in a nutshell, is why I’m upset!

    (Actually, writing this was very cathartic. So I am calming down at least. But I’m still upset enough to want to write him a strongly worded letter/email).

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