Cheap, lazy landlords

So I’ve been in the new duplex for a couple of months now, and like a good tenant I’ve been quiet, clean and on time with my rent. I also reserved my complaints after moving in, even though I had a few relatively minor issues. I’ve been both a renter and an owner before, so I sort of know both sides.

The landlords are OK. We haven’t actually met in person yet because they live 2.5 hours away and they’re fairly lazy. When I moved in, they had me coordinate with the previous tenant first to view the place while I evaluated, and then to do the same thing for the key transfer. True to my prediction, that latter process was pretty bumpy, since there was no one taking responsibility for anything, but in the end it was all pretty much good.

So recently I pay for my second month, and finally decide to mention a few things, which includes a pair of broken doorbells and a living room light switch that doesn’t seem to control anything (which, noting that my living room lacks light fixtures, inspired me to make a creative suggestion there). I do it in a friendly manner, i.e. over the phone in a casual way, as opposed to a laundry list mailed with the check.

His response? Oh, we live too far away and can’t be bothered for a little doorbell. Handy men charge hundreds of dollars for a single job, and that’s not significant enough. Besides, it’s just a pair of wires, and the hardware is cheap; why don’t you pop on over to the hardware store and deduct the cost from your rent? And regarding the switch, he simply said No, live with it.

The attitude irked me but all I said was that I wasn’t interested in fixing anything myself. It also reminded me of a time several years ago when I was in a similar but much worse situation, and that landlord actually had the gall to say “You’re just renters anyway”.

I want to keep things friendly, in case anything else happens to come up, but at the same time I want to preserve my self-respect. I guess ultimately the right thing to do is simply keep my mouth shut, since things could be much worse. No one visits me yet anyway so I guess I can live without the doorbell, and I have some decent floor lamps, but it’s the principle that is still sticking in my craw.

Edit: I know, I know, the thread title is redundant. But my last landlord was actually fantastic (although this was a first).

Contact a lawyer.

Well, it’s a duplex, so people can knock on your door fine, right?

My last apartment (I only lived there for a year) was worse. The landlord also lived hours away, but had hired another landlord (who also acts as a repair guy) to manage it for him. The landlord neglected to mention that our keys didn’t work with the deadbolt locks, only the regular ones. My first night there, I stumbled back from a party only to discover that the front door was locked, and I couldn’t get in, and nobody could hear me when I banged on it.

Then we learned something interesting about the place: somebody had been murdered there a few years earlier (well, the girl’s boyfriend, who shot her, apparently claimed that they were playing Russian Roulette on acid or something), and the landlord neglected to mention this. From then on we planned to use that as ammo for any landlord trouble. It was still a shitty apartment, though, and they never did fix those deadbolts (I was going to rekey it myself, because I’ve played with that stuff before, but instead I just disabled it so you couldn’t even lock it from the inside).

IANAL, yadda yadda.

Landlord-tenant rules differ a lot by state, but you’re usually ok hiring someone to make repairs and then deducting the bill from your rent. Do a google search to see if you can find the rules for your state, but given that your landlord mentioned a similar solution, a rule like that probably exists for you. That would cover the doorbell issue, but probably wouldn’t cover the light switch issue, since that’d probably mean installing a light fixture which goes beyond “repairs.”

Rimbo’s right in that you should really contact a lawyer before going down that sort of path, but it doesn’t really sound like you’re quite at that stage. Honestly, it does sound like a pretty minor problem. You might be better off just noting it for now and then, if you need to have any other work done later, you can mention it with a “Oh, as long as you’re gonna send someone over, can you take care of this too?”

Not sure if a lawyer could do anything for barstein. Granted, I could be wrong.

Your landlords must be either rich, or your apartment can be rented out at a drop of a hat because I can’t imagine myself, or other landlords around where I live giving that additude to thier tenants.

Start documenting. Conversations, dates, receipts, anything. They’re small things now, but in a year, when you have 30 small things that aren’t getting taken care of, you’ll be glad you did.

When I was in college, I had my own apartment. One day, over Christmas break, a water main broke in the laundry room next door and flooded my apartment. The result was carpet, drywall and doorframes that had to be torn out and replaced. The process took about a month, during which my apartment was alternatively soaking wet (they tried drying out the carpet first) and then a construction zone with no carpet and drywall dust everywhere. This was in January no less. I moved back in with my mom while they sorted things out. Lo and behold, I move back in at the end of January and the landlord is like “Where’s my rent money for January?!”. The guy actually expected me to pay rent on an apartment that was unliveable for the entire month and was pissed when I told him no way. Later that year I broke my lease a month early, and he kept my security deposit despite having refunded it to other people I knew who moved out a month or two early. I think being in that business really does give you the mindset that “they’re only renters” and that makes it OK to screw people over.

At least in Maine, if something like that happened making an apartment unlivable, you do have to pay rent. However, that’s because the landlord has to put you up in a hotel or something along those lines until the apartment is livable again.

Switches that don’t do anything aren’t really an active problem, especially in an older house with screwy wiring.

There’s not really an easy solution to these sorts of maintainence problems with smaller lessors whom probably are just sending all your rental money into the mortgage payments on the property. That’s the advantage of having an apartment in a large complex managed by a large company - little maintainence issues might be a pain to get resolved but they’re just a drop in the bucket. Little guys will try to do all the work themselves.

If i were you, chalk this up to experience, and just go around fixing it up and deducting it from your rent. Spending a little of your own money on a rental property can go a long way to building up a good reputation for buying down the road, or leasing a better home.

And if they’re just “that sort” of owner, make your payments ontime, try not to have any more dealings with them than can be helped, and leave at the end of lease.

I guess the attitude i had is “not be an ass” and/or “not be as cheap as are they”; if i could spend 5-20$ on something to fix it, i would. I wasn’t going to call for a couple of loose screws or whatever.

In California, you can assrape your landlord if she so much as looks at you wrong.

My wife found this out the hard way in small claims court.

And by “look at you wrong,” that’s literally what started the whole mess. Apparently, the tenant didn’t like the way my wife looked at her once. Said she felt “threatened.”

The reason you contact a lawyer is to find out what your rights are as a tenant. You hopefully never need to go to court over anything, but you do need to know where you stand legally, in case it gets to that point. To me, this is just part of the fact-finding phase of forming a plan for how to deal with a situation.

The light-switch seems common in older houses (I have rented a lot in my life) and, unless I was purchasing the property, I wouldn’t really both complaining. From where I am from it is really rare to have a light in your living room anyway, in fact I can’t think of a single rental property in 7 odd years (and almost as many properties) that had a light in the living room. Guess that is the style in my area that you purchase your own living room lighting.

Regarding the doorbell: Don’t they have wireless doorbells for not too expensive. You can deduct it directly from your next months rent and just include a photocopy of the receipt. Would only take an hour or less to hang it up outside your door. I would definitely be mad if he expected me to fix a big issue, but I spend more time wiring up my entertainment system when I move then it would take me to hang a wireless button on my door frame.

I’d go ahead and fix the doorbell myself. Just make sure you deduct about $50 a hour for your time to repair it.

Soon as they say “fix it yourself and deduct it from the rent”? take off £50 an hour labour, charge at least an hour, say you paid someone to do it and thought it was the going rate.

[edit]or basically what Patrick said

Tell them that you fixed the doorbell, and noticed some other things that needed rewiring. After many hours of labor and the cost of parts, they’re going to have to deduct from next month’s rent as well to cover it all. Also, tell them that there’s an unexplained knocking noise in one of your walls, and ask if it’d be ok to tear it down to fix it.

The LR floor lamps are working out great so far so I can forget about that. The wireless doorbell - I had actually bought a pair of them during the move-in weekend, and hated them, so as advised I’m just going to install a wired one myself. Hadn’t given serious consideration to adding a labor fee until now, loving that idea in particular. Excellent advice all around, guys.

Before you do or pay for ANYTHING:

Drag out the rental agreement/contracts you signed before you moved in. What do they say regarding repairs?

I have a new situation that I could use some input on. Same duplex.

For the first month or two living there I wheeled my bicycle into the kitchen every night after returning home. Later I got sick of looking at it and moved it into a mostly-enclosed enclosure, securing it to a thick wood post with several strong locks and covering the opening of the enclosure with a tarp.

This worked great for months until late last night or early this morning when someone ventured into the enclosure and slashed my detachable saddle bags (I guess they missed the zippers) and didn’t steel the bungie cords that were in there, or anything else.

I immediately decided that was no longer a good spot and am going to keep it inside again. I wrote my landlord and asked for permission to install a hook to the ceiling or high up on a wall, and he replied via a voice message and said no. “I’m afraid that you’ll lose your nice heating situation if you do that. Besides, there is a lockable storage unit outside.” He went on to explain that it was my own fault I was vandalized, since he had warned me about not keeping important stuff under that enclosure for this very reason (but had granted permission anyway, when I explained my strategy). He actually sounded pissed off in his message, but then again he was calling from the hospital where he is preparing for back surgery, so who knows.

Well, the lockable “storage unit” is actually a smallish closet in my carport and I’m already storing a bunch of boxes in there. Even if it were empty, I seriously doubt I could manage to cram an adult-sized bicycle inside.

So I tried to be diplomatic with my (written, again) response and explained that the closet is actually no good and that I couldn’t see how drilling 2-3 inches into a ceiling joist could possibly impact the flow of air and heat in the house, and that I really don’t want to keep the bike on my kitchen floor any more, but that I would respect his wishes anyway.

Is he completely full of shit? I’m thinking either he somehow didn’t have a clear picture of what I actually wanted to do, or that he was groggy from pain meds, or that he’s being a curmudgeon again, or all of the above. He and his wife seem to take this cantankerous tone whenever they have to deal with their property in any way.

Maybe he doesn’t think you are capable of drilling a single hole and hitting the joist on the first shot? Maybe he isn’t keen on having a hole in his ceiling that will inevitably have to be patched and painted, and depending on the ceiling surface type and texture, may not match the rest of the ceiling?

Giving him the benefit of the doubt and looking from an owner’s perspective, those would be my first guesses.

I’ll echo what has been said before, what does your rental contract say? It should have a clause specifically for repairs.

Good to see that you’re keeping everything in writing.

When I was the Assistant Manager of an apartment complex, we specifically requested in the lease that our tenants not install or attach anything to the ceiling. We also had specific clauses for everything, and fixed maximum prices, in black and white, for any repairs that needed to be done after a tenant moved. We did walkthroughs at the beginning and end of each lease that the tenant had to sign, with an area for comments. We informed them that if they didn’t sign, they couldn’t dispute any charges. We covered our asses, in summation.

Question: Did you make note, and notify your landlord of anything that needed to be repaired when you moved in?

And, finally, a word of advice to everyone. When you move in and out of an apartment, take pictures of the entire place before moving anything in and after moving everything out, notify the landlord of anything that needs to be fixed (in writing of course), and make sure that you get a copy of anything and everything. Note all conversations with the landlord as well. Dates, times, and what was discussed. I can guarantee that if the landlords are smart, they do the same thing. It’ll cover your ass if you get into a legal battle with them. Landlords don’t expect their tenants to keep those kinds of records.

I don’t have the contract here but recall that its wording was pretty fuzzy at best. But repairs are no longer at issue (unless installing a ceiling hook somehow falls under that category?).

I don’t think cosmetics are a huge priority, noting their reluctance to perform an inspection after the former tenant moved out and before I moved in, or any since. They were practically phobic about getting involved with that transition. I’ve lived here since April and still haven’t met either landlord, a fact which occasionally has me a little paranoid. Incidentally, I photographed and even videotaped the place minutes after getting the keys from the former tenant.

I suppose if it’s truly because he’s worried I’ll screw up, I wouldn’t put money on him admitting that or his considering having a paid professional do the work (after observing how he handled the disrepairs described up-thread).