February 26, 2009 8:03 PM Subscribe
Two nights running with no power or hot water. What's a tenant to do?
posted by ricochet biscuit to law & government (12 answers total)
I live in a residential highrise in a large Canadian city. The power for the building went out at about 2:00 am this morning; twenty hours later (I type these words at 10:00 pm or so) no word on when it will be restored. The superintendent shrugs and says they are trying to get a generator, but "they will probably not be able to turn it on because people will complain about the noise."
The building changed hands a few years ago and the new owners, a numbered company, are a somewhat shady lot in my view. Last summer, a couple of months apart, letters from both the gas company and the electric supplier appeared taped to the front door of the building stating the owner was in arrears and unless they were paid by the eighteenth (or whatever) of the month, the building would be cut off; both times service continued uninterrupted, so I suppose someone intervened.
Twice in three years my rent cheque has been lost: once in 2006, a note appeared on my door a few days into the month notifying me I had not paid. I declared that I had and sure enough it turned up. Last month, two weeks after my rent cheque had been cashed, two strangers declaring themselves to be the owners knocked on my door saying I had not paid. I again declared that I had and that the money had already been withdrawn from my account. They took my phone number, promised to look into it, and then continued down the hall, knocking on most if not all doors on my floor (for what it's worth, these seem to be the actual owners, as I have since seen them in the office on the main floor, but they presented no ID when they turned up at my door and demanded money).
Tonight I returned home after a business trip. Jet lagged and tired, I was looking forward to a hot shower, a warm meal, and maybe watching a DVD. The cab pulled up in front of a darkened building, and the latest in a series of revolving door superintendents, standing out front told me the power was off and there was no firm idea of when it would be back on, so "welcome home." I trudged up eight flights of stairs by the light of my cell phone (no emergency lights in the stairwells) to find that there was no hot water, no heat, and I had a fridge full of room temperature food. I collected some supplies and set off to my office to microwave some gradually thawing food.
On the way down through the darkened lobby, I encountered some bylaw enforcement officers, so the city is on the case. The bylaw dudes were talking to the new super, now on his fourth day, and were less than happy to hear that with no emergency lighting in the stairwells, tenants had put candles on each landing. Yes, a whole bunch of unattended open flames in a building with no working fire alarm system (I assume) apparently does not fit in with the fire code.
Friends have offered to put me up, and indeed I work in the hospitality industry, so I can probably go snag a free room, so I am not worried about that, but I am wondering what recourse I have for a refrigerator full of spoiled food and two nights and counting with no heat or hot water or power. When the lights come on again, should I go grocery shopping, save the receipt, and deduct the amount from my next rent cheque? When the temperature is right around the freezing mark and the landlord has reneged on the agreement to provide heat, is there any option that tenants have, save to move away?