Friday, September 18, 2009

What Do You Do???

Okay, so we've been renting this house for 14 years. It is a single-family home. It is a whopping 950 square feet. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom. It was built in 1945. Having said that, let me add that when we first started renting we only paid $500 a month. We are now getting ready to pay $600 - my ever-so-charming landlord told me of the rent-increase on the day that we got robbed. He even felt the need to interrupt my story of the robberty to tell me.

But I digress...

With my new-found need to get out of this house, I've been looking at other rentals and even some that were for sale and I've come to one very clear conclusion...THIS HOUSE IS NO DEAL!!! For what we have been paying in rent, yes. But the utilities on this house have robbed us BLIND. Our utility bill always seemed high to me but I just took it for granted and would just sigh and think "Oh, well, what can I do?" Well I did something. I called the town and got a free energy audit done today. It was quite a pleasant experience. Two very nice gentlemen came here and examined the house from top to bottom. Literally. They were in the attic, they were in the crawl space. They explained to me that my ceiling fans were spinning the wrong way to actually be helpful in the summer months and that I needed to change to the new CFL light bulbs in my lamps to save on electric. The bottom line is that WE (as in the renters who actually LIVE in the home) are doing everything right. Our thermostat is set where it should be, we're not running extension chords all over the place and most of our appliances are less than 5 years old and are energy efficient. So what's the problem?

The house itself.

There is not ONE STITCH of insulation in the whole place. There is newspaper in the walls. Every drop of heat or air that I use is going out the roof, the floors AND the walls!!! We figured out that over 14 years, on average, we have over-paid for our utilities by at least $100 a month (and that's being conservative). So doing the math...(save it, Cathleen!) we figured out that at twelve months in a year times fourteen years times $100 a month comes out to $16,800 that WE had to pay EXTRA because there was no insulation in this house. When we rented it, we were never told that there was no insulation. So where does that leave us? Where do we stand? What are our rights? Seriously, I'm asking because I have no idea!

I know the landlord will not put in the insulation if we ask him to because he is cheap. We have learned over the years to just fix things ourselves ans not even involve him because he is nasty when it comes to repairs and refuses to accept responsibility for a house that is 60 years old. Anything that goes wrong is our fault. When our heating and air unit died, he yelled at me. YELLED! He told me it was MY fault that it died. So when the repair men came, I asked them what I did wrong. They laughed and showed me how the entire unit was RUSTED! Um..Not my fault. When a plumbing line cracked and had to be replaced, we were without a toilet for the better part of two weeks. When we complained, we were told to "use a bucket outside!" Oh, and did I mention it was in the winter? We stayed at a hotel one night because I could not stand it and when we handed the landlord the bill he said he would not pay for more than one night. By LAW, a landlord has to supply plumbing. He did not. We should have fought him more on that one.

So my friends in the blogging world, what do I do? Who do I contact? Before I go to this man and ask for insulation, I need the law behind me. I need to have all of the facts so that I know that I am in the right for what I am asking for. The dream would be to get some compensation for the excessive amount of money we have been forced to spend due to his negligence but again, I don't think that is going to happen. So I am open to suggestions.

Anyone? Anyone?


A.Marie said...

Okay, here is my thoughts on the subject: By law, he was definitely in the wrong on the plumbing issue.

I found this link that you might be interested in:

As far as the insulation issue, I found this link:

You might have to copy and paste them in order to view them!

I hope this helps!! Before Hubby and I bought the house we are in now, we rented for 9 years. I loved the house and the location, and the landlord was a great guy, but that house had very little insulation also. We froze all winter long!

Unknown said...

there has to be some slum-lord laws...

VetTech said...

Newspaper in the walls...that HAS to be illegal. But honestly, there are so many houses on the rental market right now...maybe its time to consider a move?

Mommy Bear said...

I would seriously consider talking to a lawyer. I am not too good with all the landlord laws but all that just doesn't seem right. Good luck and I wish I was more help.

Unknown said...

There have got to be laws out there for this type thing. Checking with a lawyer is a good idea.

Jackie said...

Good luck and wow I know it is very frustrating.

But, I am going to be honest with you. I have been on both ends of this stick.

For years we rented and for a while, in a desperate attempt to not lose our home in Maine we were landlords also.

A lot would depend on the state you live in and your state laws. But, I really think you are going to find that in most cases, unless it is a tenement you are not going to have much luck.

First, unless your landlord is has a great deal of money you have to consider the cost of a lawyer.

Because it would probably be very difficult to find one to take your case pro-bono with no hope of a large settlement.

If your landlord does have a great deal of money, then most likely he is also incorporated and his real estate holdings are owned by the corporation and not him personally.

Also if he does have enough money to interest a lawyer in suing him, then he most likely has enough money to keep you tied up in the system for a long long time!!

I know it is very frustrating that so many people get away with things like this. But, unfortunately for the majority of us Americans, the laws have been very cleverly made to protect the rich.

I think your best alternative is to simply save the time, money and stress and find a new place.

Now what I would do is take pictures and document everything in great detail. And if he tries to sue you for breaking a lease, you will have documentation to prove in a court that the house was indeed unsafe and that he refused to make the needed repairs.

Also, if he files on your credit, you can use this same information to write into all of the credit agencies explaining why you broke this particular contract and didn't pay up!!

The only other thing I can possibly think of is to call out the Fire Marshall. If he finds the house unsafe then your landlord has to deal with the city and not you.

However, we once remodeled our own home and we used old news paper for insulation. If used and done properly it actually works fantastic as insulation and you are recycling too!!

But, I just don't think a Fire Marshall would find it safe. So if you really want to fight I would start with your local Fire Marshall.

Good luck!!

Mom said...

You find a nice new place to live and move on with your lives...

Yes, you can fight him tooth and nail. Depending on the state you are in, you have various rights.

If you choose to fight, start with a good rental lawyer.

Frugal Vicki said...

I don't have any legal advice, but I would pull out that rental agreement and read it top to bottom before you talk to him so he can't backpedal or make you hesitate etc.

Really though, (and excuse my censored language here) I say don't let the a-hole anymore of your money, get the f out of there and find a new place!

Frugal Vicki said...

Oh, and P.S. Which way ARE the fans supposed to be spinning?

A Lil Enchanted said...

Hi Stace... hopefully the energy auditors left you written report. I just don't know though if the battle would be worth all of the time, effort, stress and money it might cost you to take it to court. I think I would start looking for another home... and ask a lot of questions to your possible new landlord... about insulation, repairs etc. I'm sure they will ask for your references... why not ask for references from them as well... maybe ask the previous tenet about any issues they had while living in whatever new place you are considering.

I hope it all works out well for you.

A Lil Enchanted,

Maria @ Conversations with Moms said...

You definitely need to get out of there. He sounds like a jerk. You don't want to be giving your money month after month to a jerk.

BEFORE you do, I would find out about your rights. Find out if your State has a rental board commission. I know in Canada where I'm from, the rental board commission usually takes care of these things. They even have their own court and it's free.

In either case, find out the laws in your state.

Good luck.

Frugal Vicki said...

I have to tell you, after your email last night (and let's be honest, a drink or two), my hubby and I sat here staring at our fan. i wish I had a camera at that moment.

Unknown said...

Jackie gave you some good advice up above. Also, have others have pointed out, the laws vary from state to state - sometimes significantly so. Most states, I believe, require that a landlord have "adequate" notice. What constitutes adequate varies. For example, a plumbing issue needs immediate attention; perhaps 24 hours is enough notice. Other, less essential problems, may required two weeks from notice until the problem is addressed or even 30 days.

I know this is after the fact, but I'll share my experience. When I rented, I wrote the rental contract. I put in the contract that once the landlord received notice, if repairs were not made within a certain amount of time, I would deduct money from the next rental check. Other than immediate needs, he was given 30 days in which to address problems.

He also left a refrigerator in the yard, promising to move it "right away." I was worried about safety issues - children in the neighborhood and such. It took months before I finally wrote a separate letter, saying that if the refrigerator was not moved by such and such a date, that I would consider that he had either abandoned it and I would have it removed as abandoned property (billing him if there were any costs involved) or I would consider a gift to me and begin using it as my own. The refrigerator was promptly removed.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

PS to the previous comment:

Some areas have small claims courts. A lawyer is not necessary in those. You might bring an action asking to reimbursed for all hotel expenses, meals, etc. related to displacement due to plumbing problems.

The fire marshal idea is a terrific one also.

Just my little ol' personal opinions.

Nani said...

first off - does this man not know you are italian and from NY??!!?? he should not be messing w/y'all-

I know things are tight but w/the way the economy is right now I see sooo many signs for rent to own - w/3 bedrms 2 baths for $800 around town - girl is it worth the trouble to deal w/this man and the headache???