Renter's Rights/Escalation

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by idiomie, Oct 5, 2020.

  1. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    oh my god i hate my apartment

    The Backstory
    I moved cross country in the summer of 2018, allegedly to help my grandmother sort her affairs, but multiple family members have confirmed that it was intentionally done to separate me from my fiance/now-wife. I agreed to stay with my grandmother for a year, returning home/to my parents and going back to college in exchange for permission to take a gap year. (I'd actually already withdrawn for a year at this point, so permission was a little bit of a moot point, this was more about whether my family would be willing to support me financially finishing my degree iirc)

    I love my grandmother but living with her was horrible. I don't think most of it was intentional, but she was very upset by how I wanted to treat us living together like roommates and would fight her about trying to do things like set a curfew for me.

    This all came to a head when I was having lebesgue and then-boyfriend visit me for a week, where she tried to massively overcharge me, and I think about a month out from the visit the three of us hatched a plan to use it as a way to move me into my own place.

    The place we live now was the first place I could find that made these requirements:
    1) would let me move in with no prior rental history and no references (because i wasn't calling my family up for this)
    2) was a two bedroom (it was originally going to be the three of us living there)
    3) would approve the lease for ALL THREE of us, when i was the only one with any income at the time
    4) was affordable for one income (we got it on a rent sale that's been mostly grandfathered into the new lease; i'd estimate that it's currently $100/mo below market price to move to a comparable apartment)
    5) was pet friendly

    There are other things I like about living here now that are dealbreakers for moving (the kitchen is tiny and I complain about it so much and YET it is one of the biggest size kitchens you can get for a 2br/1ba apartment around here), but those are the big reasons why I picked this place over anywhere else

    the PROBLEMS
    so upon move in, when doing the customary checking everything over so you don't pay for damages that predate you thing, we learned that the sliding glass door is broken. by it getting jammed open (about 8ish inches) in december. they didn't fix this until february, and this is something that took me harassing them nearly every day over.

    so the first thing we learned is that things are a little run down, and more importantly that management is almost completely unresponsive

    the air conditioner doesn't work. it does cool slightly? but even with the air conditioner on high, and four strategically placed fans, the apartment is awful. i think it needs to be cleaned, but i don't know, they won't send someone to look at it, and regular maintenence has just shrugged because it "still works"

    there is mildew problem in the bathroom and i suspect mold SOMEWHERE. all our food starts rotting within 24 hours of being left on the counter. i'm talking like, you buy a loaf of bread at the store? you think, oh, this will last three or four days on the counter, maybe get a little dry. nope! if you open it it, it is moldy within 12 hours, no matter what. if you leave it unopened, it will last four or five days. it's weird! it's weird! we can't buy almost any bread products at this point, because everything goes bad so fast. at first i thought it was just because we're a two person household and i wasn't used to buying small enough? but if i make a sandwich for dinner, the loaf of bread should still be good to eat in the morning!

    the dishwasher Doesn't Work. it's had problems off and on since we moved in - i thought it was just old and needs to be replaced - but twice now it's had issues of backing up, refusing to drain properly, and leaking all over the kitchen. this last time was in July. they didn't fix it until mid August, almost a full month later. and by "fix," it only cleans every other or occasionally 2/3 loads - the second or third load it backs up, won't drain, etc.

    They told us this was our fault for "rinsing food down the sink the dishwasher drains in" which isn't true because we do all of our dishes in the other sink half. i've just given up, and we probably have to handwash about a third of our dishes? (lebesgue might need to chime in here, because i haven't done ANY dishes since my surgery)

    the "problem"

    in june, a local friend of ours lost her apartment because of covid. she moved in with us, temporarily. we did not put her on the lease, and did not tell the management company, because it was only meant to be a temporary thing, this friend had a history of overstaying her welcome dramatically, and you can't kick someone out who's on the lease

    this was technically a violation of our lease. i feel bad in that it's fucking us over right now, but also i'd do it again? i have zero guilt over this

    management NEVER comes to our apartments and checks up on things so it was fine, basically, until mid August, when the finally showed up to fix the dishwasher. they saw friend.

    okay fine. because they only ever give the minimum 24 hours required before entering the apartment (even when coming in for maintenence requests. they have never ONCE paid attention to any requests about timing), it's not like they haven't seen us with guests before

    then, about a week later, was Pest Control Day. last pest control day, they served us a notice that our apartment was "too dirty" for pest control to effectively to preventive work. (they were supposed to show up a week later and do a new pest control or we'd be fined but they never showed...)

    sure, okay - i enlisted friend in making sure the apartment was clean before pest control got there and (excuses excuses) she was still there when pest control showed up. we were also obviously mid cleaning

    no one said anything, and friend was already in the process of moving out, so we didn't think anything of it, until we got a notice on our door that there were "unauthorized persons" in our apartment and they had to be approved/added to the lease or the situation had to be "resolved" or we would face consequences for being in breach of our contract.

    we told them friend didn't live with us and was only around because she'd been helping us clean (which, the only two times she was "caught" on premises, that's what she was doing). friend accelerated move out plans, and was gone a week later. they never sent any follow up.

    what they DID do was add $50 to our monthly rent (starting last month) under the guise of an "administrative oversight" (we have cats, there's normally a pet fee, when we renewed our lease because the rent went up $50, they took the pet fee off; but this agreement was entirely verbal, other than the lease being signed as "pet fee: $0.00" which, again, they're claiming was a mistake on their part)

    this month they added another $60 onto our rent in "returned payment fees" because their system glitched and ran our rent charge three times against our bank. that's not going to be a recurring charge, but. still.

    also we found a cockroach, and even tho pest control said that it came from outside through the literal gap in our ac unit, they tried to charge us $40 for "making them come back for remediary pest services and not keeping the apartment clean and pest free"

    so, like. we're currently in the process of saving up to buy a house. we're on track, even with covid, to be hitting my benchmarks of 1) our finances are healthy enough and 2) we'll have a big enough down payment, to start house hunting early next summer. even if we take six months to close on something... i don't see us spending even next thanksgiving in this apartment.

    but the mold thing is starting to get excessive, and the fact that things like, adding the pet fee back into our rent as retaliation because they couldn't prove we had an unauthorized roommate, is starting to freak me out

    is moving to a new apartment instead of just waiting to move to a house a better idea?
    when should we get a lawyer involved if there's more escalation, and how much will the fact that we actually were in breach of our lease fuck us over on that?
    ....if we're just sticking it out until moving next year, is fighting the $60 this month even worth it? (since it's presumably a one time fuck up, and. i'm sick of having to call or email them every fucking day, and afraid that continuing to make noise is only making all of this worse at this point)
    • Witnessed x 3
  2. KingdomByTheSea

    KingdomByTheSea Well-Known Member

    Is there a tenant advocacy organization in your city/area? They might be able to intervene with your management company
    • Like x 1
  3. Astrodynamicist

    Astrodynamicist Adequate Potato Goblin

    I think it's worth at least looking into new apartments. I know moving is expensive and shitty even when there isn't a plague on, but... well...

    I'd at least see if there is something better available, if so what the budget delta would be, and then go from there. Even if you decide it's not worth it, or you/an advocacy org manages to wrestle them into decency until house time, having an idea of options helps. (But I acknowledge that apartment hunting costs a ton of spoons and time, and again sucks enough not during a plague.)

    You and your wife deserve better than this bullshit, and next summer is still quite a ways away (plus however long closing would take).

    Good luck, and hella witnessed.
  4. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    So there's the local legal aid org, which isn't specific to tenant advocacy, but they're probably our best bet? I don't know what the process of reaching out will entail or if they can even help us but like. Can't hurt to try, I guess?

    So I have been looking off and on at other apartments and what it mostly boils down to is that nowhere else is affordable on a single income. Lebesgue and I both currently have jobs, but after I was so sick for basically all of 2019 (and we still don't know why! I'm terrified of falling ill like that again), I try *really hard* to keep all of our expenses on one income.

    There are a couple I saw last night after posting this that are, sticker price, significantly more expensive than our current rent... But they include utilities, allegedly (contacted the leasing offices to check), that makes them closer to our current rent

    ALSO most rental properties are managed by the same leasing company around here (your options are either our leasing company, a different leasing company that technically doesn't operate in our city, or private landlord/tenant situations) so we'd have to move out of the city and into the "[city] metro area" to change management companies so that's. An additional consideration

    (I'm not trying to shut down your suggestions I'm just. Thinking out loud here in response, I guess? Sorry. I appreciate the response, really)
    • Informative x 2
  5. Astrodynamicist

    Astrodynamicist Adequate Potato Goblin

    Don't even worry about it! That's info I didn't have. And those things are definitely important considerations.

    (I haven't got anything else in my toolkit beyond "1. acquire data 2. ??? 3. profit" to offer so uh, *validates and sends good vibes*)
    • Like x 1
  6. NevermorePoe

    NevermorePoe Nevermore

    i don't know if this info is still usable, for the mold problem you could get a dehumidifier. They make them with built in pumps so they never need to be emptied as well, though those are more expensive. If you have access to a floor drain you could get one without a pump, many of them have a gravity fed drain, though you'd want to check to make sure of that. That can help with mold, and make you feel more comfortable even in hotter temperatures.
    • Agree x 1
  7. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    We don't have a floor drain, but we did finally get a dehumidifier this summer, which we keep in the living room. it's made a dent, but i s2g i think there's something already growing in the walls so like. it's not a fix, yanno? (there's a corner of the bathroom ceiling that 100% has mildew growing on it, and no matter how many times i sanitize it and delicately scrub, it grows back. but i've had them by twice to ask them to pretty please open up the walls and they won't and they told me it was because we aren't keeping the living space habitable and needed "to be running the bathroom vents 24/7" (which we were! fuckers) so i'm kinda like. okay then)

    also it recently occurred to me that i can freeze and refrigerate bread, so long as i plan on toasting it! (thawed bread used in sandwiches without toasting has Weird And Bad Texture, so i generally really don't like freezing/refrigerating bread, but if i toast it, it's actually okay) so i at least get to have more bread now lmao

    per some other advice, i've reached out to iowa legal aid to go over my options. atm i think i'm just building a case if they try anything else especially egregious (here defined mostly by "any further rent retaliation" but also if they try any more intimidation attempts re: contacting them about maintainence), because. change bad, i really really REALLY don't want to move until it's going to the new house (esp in the next like three months, when i'm recovering from foot surgeries, and so we would probably need to hire actual movers), and it really is "just a year"

    but i did make a concrete list of "what actions would be that's it, we're out" to help prevent boiled frog syndrome here, and i am also looking at rentals, and seeing if we can get anywhere, and hopefully that's a 6 month lease, maybe (the answer atm is no, because most places are not pet friendly, nevermind the lease duration. there are services we can access to like care for our cats for an interim period while sorting out housing that wouldn't be a surrender, iirc, but i'm only peripherally aware of those, so looking up that is also on my current to do list)
    • Like x 3
    • Informative x 2
  8. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    okay so an update for anyone watching/interested

    last month, we had an electrical fire in the wall. we didn't know it was an electrical fire until a few days later, after the work order was submitted (so the work order that was submitted didn't indicate that it was anything beyond "hey that wonky outlet i've been bugging you about for months* tripped the circuit breaker again only now it won't turn on again at all and the whole living room is off"). they did not follow up on this, for about two weeks. i reached out to iowa legal aid again, and iowa legal aid helped me draft a letter which told the office that they would repair the electrical wiring and bring it up to code in a timely manner, or i would bring in my own electrician and pay them, and garnish it out of my rent, per law (cited and everything).

    i called them and asked about the status of my work order and they said that there wasn't one and blamed me for "not submitting it correctly" until i forwarded them back the confirmation email of the work order. then they said they were only doing priority work orders and i explained that at the time of submitting the work order i hadn't fully understood the extent of the damage (and you can't edit or update work orders after making them (: ), but that the outlet in question was the result of an electrical fire in the wall. i gave them verbal notice and said i would be coming down to the office to deliver notice about an electrician for the apartment. after that (she watched me through the blinds) maintenance came, confirmed it was an electrical fire that needed an electrician, and called their own electrician in that day

    there hasn't been any retaliation tho i suspect that since i've done this when our lease ends we won't be allowed to renew. which is fine by me lol (the implied rejection hurts which is dumbbbb but that's rsd for you hahaha)

    ALSO our dishwasher broke a-fucking-gain THIS month and they brought in a DIFFERENT fucking guy on the maintenance team to look at it (so now every single guy on maintenance has been to our apartment to stare at this fucking dishwasher) and they have FINALLY thrown up their hands in disgust and admitted defeat and promised us a new dishwasher. ETA is currently sometime after new years which is like, less than ideal but okay. that's still like. a few months with a dishwasher that presumably works, rather than THIS one and i will take it. thank you.

    *this outlet was giving me nightmares. whoever did this outlet was NOT an electrician and should not have been allowed to do what they did. like i know how to change an outlet, okay, it's not that hard, but whoever did this was like hey, i've got a bright idea, what if i cut out all the slack because that's taking up too much room i guess, and then (poorly! really poorly!!!) splice the matching electrical wires together so i only have three i need to hook onto the outlet (no????) and THEN they like. cut the ground wayyyy too short. so they just fucking. literally just daisy chained that fucker. didn't even join that one properly, it was literally daisy chained

    me: this is not to code. no wonder i plug the vacuum in and the whole living room goes out. what the fuck
    maintenance: well how did you find out. maybe you did this
    me: .... wow fuck you guys
    • Witnessed x 6
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