Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Here's a quick reality-based question for you all:

Let's say that the water heater in the house you rent starts leaking on Monday morning. It's producing a rust-filled puddle on the floor. At 8:15 A.M., you call your landlord, who tells you someone will be there to look at and possibly replace the water heater that day. Later in the day--let's say 11:03, because that's what it says on the phone where you made the call to get an update on the situation--you're told that the landlord himself will come at 8:30 that night. You protest that this will leave no time to replace the non-functioning water heater in time for the next morning's showers, but your landlord is unmoved. In fact, he tells the other occupant of your house, around 11:15, to shut off the water and gas to the water heater--ensuring that there will be no hot water of any kind in the house.

Let's say your landlord(s) come to the house at 8:30 P.M., as scheduled. They look at the water heater, determine that to the best of their non-plumber knowledge it needs to be replaced, and, when asked what you should do in the hot-waterless meantime, ask if you have a gym membership so you can shower there. (You don't. You're quite lazy, and getting a bit soft as you age.) Let's say your landlord goes to Home Depot around 9:00 and calls you twice, once to ask you to measure the water heater's height and diameter and again to ask you to turn off the gas (again), lest the house blow up. And let's say the landlord says he should be able to have the water heater replaced Tuesday.

Let's say Tuesday morning rolls around. You and your co-occupant both take freezing-cold showers, which are nothing compared to the suffering of Katrina victims but not really something you'd care to repeat, either. Let's say that after you call a few times looking for a status update, your landlord calls you at 1:30 (now 29 hours after you reported the problem) to tell you that he's discovered, landlord of rental properties that he is, that a permit is required before a water heater can be installed, and that this will delay the installation until tomorrow.

Let's say that at this point you ask your landlord if he has ever taken a cold shower. Let's say he says he doesn't know, and you tell him it sucks. A lot. He asks what you want him to do, and you tell him you want to be put in a hotel for the night so you can take a real shower. Let's say he tells you that isn't financially feasible, and proceeds to tell you you're blowing the situation out of proportion. Let's say he tells you he's been running around trying to resolve the situation, and you tell him that while you appreciate his efforts, the fact remains that you're left with no hot water. Let's say he tells you to boil water for a shower, and let's say you're so angry by this point that you fail to ask how he suggests this boiling water should be transported into the showerhead. Let's say that somewhere in this process, along with telling you you're unreasonable, he suggests that you terminate the lease today. Let's say you tell him all you want is to be able to take a hot shower in the morning, not to move. Let's say he merely repeats his statement that he can't believe you're blowing this out of proportion, tells you there should be a new water heater on Wednesday, and hangs up.

Are you a completely unreasonable person to expect that if your leased home does not meet the standards to which you agreed when you signed on--namely, that there would be hot water available at the turn of a faucet--you will be given other accomodation or otherwise compensated for your inconvenience?


when you think of garbage, think of kris said...

you should set the house on fire. it will be warm. guaranteed.

but if you happen to be out of matches, just knock a hundred bucks or two off the rent and call it even.

Victoria said...

It would probably be determined that he acted with due diligence even if the time to you is unreasonable. The terms of your lease would probably have to say something about providing alternative accomodation.

If you paid for the repairs yourself, you could deduct the amount from rent. Otherwise, it would probably be unlikely that you could deduct the value of your place without hot water for those hours...but that would likely be the only possible remedy.

Of course, I'm only playing with this as an issue-spotting hypothetical as I would never bring up legal terms without being a lawyer.

McKenzie said...

If it makes you feel any better, Jon and I have been laughing our asses off since reading of your predicament.

jessica said...

Richard, re-read the terms of your lease. As a former apartment manager, I can tell you that there is most likely something in there about repairs being made in a timely fashion and accomadations if repairs cannot be made immediately.

Give me us a call if it doesn't improve...Jesse is an attorney that specializes in lanlord-tenant. He can definitely tell you what to do.

BTW, you are NOT out of line in asking for a hotel. What was it a long time ago where he put you up in a hotel? Precedent, Richard...

Richard said...

Thanks for all your thoughts. For those of you who find this all hilarious, know that we haven't had hot water for 58 hours as I write this, and right now I have no idea if we're going to have a water heater before the night ends. But I did check the lease and see nothing about alternative accomodation as long as repairs are being made. As they say they've ordered the water heater, they'll say repairs are being made. When? That we don't know yet.

And the precedent was different--they made us leave because they thought there was mold in the house and didn't want to be sued for negligence in leaving us in such an environment. The landlord actually brought that up when I asked about a hotel, and said it proved that he would put us in a hotel if he thought the situation warranted it. Perhaps if he saw what I look like after not shaving for a few days he'd understand.

Victoria said...

You're probably entering more unreasonable territory now, but as long as they show it's being work on....You'd have to weigh the cost-benefit analysis of bringing suit.

I hope that it's fixed very soon!