October 19, 2015

Fix My Little, Pink Bathroom

Today, thanks to pressure from the city, my bathroom doesn’t look so much like a cross between a set from Saw and a burlesque show anymore.  The grout was stained and flaking, there was a poorly repaired hole in the ceiling, and the wooden windowsill in the shower was black with a questionable substance I didn’t really want to touch.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me start from the beginning.

I moved in Feb 4th, 2012.  I had seen the unit across the hall and was assured the one I’d be in was identical if mirrored.  Upon first walking in, I nearly dropped the box I was holding.  I’ll save you the pictorial lament, but I will tell you the place was not livable.  Had I known at the time that I could have vacated the rental agreement as a result, the last 4 years would have been different.  However, hindsight is a great teacher and I now have something in my pocket for the future.  Plus, despite the flaws, my 2 bedroom apartment has shabby charm, and it as cozy as any home could be.

When I signed my second lease 18 months later, my rent went up.  This area is up and coming, so I figured that played a part.  I work within walking distance, I can keep my 60+ pound dog, and there are some amenities I’m not likely to find in other inexpensive buildings.  Plus, with my bankruptcy, it would have been difficult to find a different place that offered the same options without a ridiculous deposit.  So, I went with it.  It was worth it.  

The landlord invests in properties, and frequently adds to his holdings. He also travels frequently, and employs private citizens for maintenance rather than a management company.  He’s a bit hard to get ahold of.  His voicemail is often full, and he’s not very good about responding to email or text messages.  Some of the tenants have resorted to calling his wife first when there is something that needs done.  She is none too pleased about this development.

Recently, there have been a string of items that are in need of repairs.  The lights in the hallways were burning out, and I was tired of using my own bulbs to replace them.  One of the residents had fallen through the wall in the stairwell, and the hole stayed partially fixed for three months, despite having brought it to the landlord's attention a half dozen times, using two two different methods..  We’d developed a sinkhole in the parking lot, and the garage building has a serious crack that appears to be spreading.  My worry is that once we get heavy snow, that building will come right down.  And those of you who know me understand the relationship I have with my car.  I was sure to let the landlord know of all these things before they could become larger, more expensive issues.

Yeah, I can see how I’d look like a pain in the ass for being a pest.  However, a landlord has responsibilities and these weren’t being met.  My actions, while possibly an annoyance, were not out of line.  I am not and never have been asking for upgrades.  I’m simply asking for maintenance.  My unit is clean, I have my bank cut a check for rent at least 5 days prior to the end of the month, I do the repairs I can myself, and I don’t cause trouble with the other residents.  I also have seniority in this building, having been a resident the longest.  I’m not asking for special treatment, or kudos for holding up my end of the lease as these are things that are expected.  As such, I expect reciprocal behavior from the man who cashes those rent checks.

In July of this year, I got a new lease to sign.  My rent was going up once again.  12% to be exact.  The reason for the hike was "increasing maintenance costs." I took issue with this when basic requirements like light in the common areas weren’t being met.  Finally, after bringing the garage and hole issues to his attention one more time and not hearing word one in response, I’d had enough.  I started making calls.  Two weeks of leaving messages on answering machines later, I got in touch with a city code inspector.  He came out to look at my unit, the common areas, and the garages.  He wasn’t able to look at the other units that I know have issues as I’m not the tenant.  But, he did encourage them to call and file a report.

By Friday of the same week, I had gotten a summation of the issues that the city was requiring be fixed.  The landlord and his mortgage company also got copies.  It might have come as a shock to the landlord as he had no warning as to what was happening.  But he couldn't have been unaware of what was on the list.  Many had been on there since I moved in.  I am not one to issue idle threats.  If one avenue is exhausted, rather than continue chasing waterfalls, I will find another.  In this case, it was a requirement to fix the problems with the teeth of the city behind it.

My landlord and I exchanged text messages on a couple occasions before coming to survey my unit regarding the repairs.  That was Monday, one business day after the report arrived in his mailbox.

As of last Wednesday, I’m happy to say that all repairs, save one, are complete.  I’m waiting on one more piece to fix a gap in a window.  Of all the items on the list, that is perhaps one of the smallest. 

I’m not going to say that this has been painless, or that I wasn’t nervous about taking the steps I did.  It wasn’t, and I was.  But, I made sure to have all my ducks in a row, know my rights and responsibilities, and reminded myself to do something that scares you everyday.

My apartment is not gorgeous, or luxurious, but it is at least up to code.

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