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March 29, 2011 8:32 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with the (possibly benignly neglectful, possibly dickish) behaviour of my ex-landlords? My phone is ringing quite a lot these days.

I devoted an AskMe to the antics of my erstwhile landlords, the Shady Brothers, once before (when the heat went out in our building in the depths of an Ottawa February) and my co-habitant Wendy BD also asked one when they were treating our hospitalized neighbour across the hall shabbily (by giving away his cat, in fact).

We moved away a year ago. In Ontario, you typically pay first and last month's rent on a rental unit. I did so five years earlier but the landlords claimed they had no record of this, so at my own expense I had my bank dig up a copy of the cashed cheque. (When pressed, they admitted that they knew I had paid first and last, but wanted me to show proof.) I then pressed them for the interest on the deposit, which took about ten months for them to pony up.

So: we are now 400 km away, halfway across the province, and well clear of the Shady Brothers. I thought. Lately I have been getting a lot of odd voicemails on my cell phone -- messages like, "Brian, I am downstairs," and "Hey, Joe, we're here," At the same time, I started getting apparent prank calls from the rental office of the building we used to live in: my phone would ring but when I answered, there would be no one there.

It was not until I managed to get someone calling my phone last week that I sorted out what had happened. A woman asked for Brian, I asked what number she had dialed, and she told me 0-0-4-8. We talked for a moment and I realized she was standing in the lobby of my old building.

A call to the landlords revealed that yes, they had replaced the old buzzers in that building (where you pressed the buzzer marked 803 to reach apartment 803, for example) with a newer system where you dial a code and it rings the tenant's phone.

Trouble is, of course, that they have used my cell phone as the number for one or possibly two apartments. And as I am now long distance from there, it costs me a bit of money every time I answer the phone to tell callers they have not reached the apartments of their friends Brian or Joe. Of course, I could just not answer at all, but no reason to have Brian and Joe wondering where the hell their friends are and why they keep insisting they came by and buzzed but there was nobody home.

Calls come at all hours -- 1:15 AM being the latest call, and my phone company says they have no way to block a number. They suggested I either change my number or else just turn the ringer off at night. (Incidentally, a bit of Googling revealed that this phone carrier has apparently told customers who are being stalked and harassed to just not answer the phone when they do not know who is calling -- useful!)

So, a brief talk with one of the Shady Brothers late last week resulted in promises of getting this fixed right away, but I am still getting calls as of this morning (two in the last hour). Thing is, these are jokers who have left tenants shivering in the dark for a week, lost track of rent cheques that have already been cashed and tried to get second rents out of tenants, given away the pets of hospitalized tenants to avoid the hassle of feeding them, avoided repairs for years on end, posted notices saying that if you are stuck in the elevator on the weekend, you should settle in and the service guy will come on Monday morning... I have zero reason to believe they will fix this any time soon.

I am keeping track of all the calls -- as they are on my cell phone, the times, dates and durations are all there. Any suggestions for how to proceed?
posted by ricochet biscuit to Law & Government (38 answers total)
 
Not a legal recourse, but a sanity-boost: if your phone can't do it already at the handset-level, you can probably call your mobile provider and block calls from '0048', especially if you explain why.
posted by rokusan at 8:40 AM on March 29, 2011


Wait until someone else calls for Brian and Joe, explain the problem, and ask them to give you Brian or Joe's number. Get Brian and Joe in on this. Maybe getting two more people to complain to the Shady Brothers will help expedite the process. In the meantime, Brian and Joe can put a post-it on the buzzer box saying "for Brian and Joe, please call 555-555-5555; buzzer is a POS."

Judging by the experiences of friends of mine, failure-to-update-buzzer-box is a pretty common occurrence. My hopes for a quick resolution of your problem are...not high. It seems like every phone-wired box I see has a note on it. Good luck.
posted by phunniemee at 8:42 AM on March 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


Tell everybody who calls to go fuck themselves. The complaints back at the old building should get it fixed right quick.
posted by rhizome at 8:43 AM on March 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yes, get Brian/Joe's number and pressure the Shady Bros from both ends. Brian/Joe probably want a working door buzzer as much as you want your phone to quit ringing.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:46 AM on March 29, 2011


As I mentioned, the phone company claims to be unable to block numbers and suggests I get a new number.

I considered contacting Brian and Joe, but I do not even have a last name for these guys -- indeed, for all I know, "Joe" might be "Jo" and a woman. I am sure they would like to be able to be contacted by visitors. To this end, I am not inclined towards random vandalism and thus inconvenience 100 tenants instead of just me.

I will be back in the old city for business in a couple of weeks, and if the problem is still ongoing then, I can let myself in by dialing 0048 to ring my cell and then pressing 9 on the cell to buzz myself in. Maybe showing up at the office will help the situation?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:54 AM on March 29, 2011


Do you know what apartment numbers Brian and/or Jo(e) live at? Maybe let yourself into the building, knock on their doors, explain the situation (and demonstrate if needed), and then all three of you go down and tell the landlords to sort that shit out. All they need to do is re-program the buzzer so make them do it then and there.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some phones let you choose ringers depending on the person. If you have that ability on your phone, set this one to a silent ring until they fix it.
posted by cashman at 8:58 AM on March 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Make a cell-phone ring tone that is nothing but quiet. Assign it to incoming calls from the number of the buzzer system. Ignore problem until it goes away.
posted by Authorized User at 8:59 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why does it matter if you have last names for Brian and Joe? You have their friends calling you non-stop, so see if you can either get one of them to give you Brian/Joe's phone number so you can chat with them about what's going on, or ask the friends to please pass along the message to Brian and Joe that the landlord hasn't changed their buzzer number.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:00 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, unfortunately, you need to make this an inconvenience for as many people (who aren't you) as possible. Right now, it's mostly a pain in your ass, and partially Brian and Joe and their friends. You need to shift the ass-pain to MOSTLY Brian and Joe (sorry guys), who in turn, have the most leverage to get your former landlords to do something about it. At the very least, they can put up a post-it or tell their friends to call them directly.

Telling people who call where to stick it is the most direct method. Assigning a totally silent ringtone is more passive, and will take longer to have an effect.
posted by supercres at 9:03 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every time you get a call from the building call the Shady Brothers regardless of the time of day. "thought you would like to know someone waiting to be let into the building."


Is there a way to have the calls from that number forwarded to the Shady Brothers.

Get a new number.
posted by tman99 at 9:05 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


The next time that someone calls you, tell them the situation, and ask them for the full name, apartment number and phone number of the person that they are trying to reach.

Call that person, and be nice, but let them know that this has to stop, and that if they can't make it stop you are going to misdirect their visitors until it does, e.g. "Hey pizza dude, sorry about that, that was a fake order from someone pulling a prank. We don't ever order pizza for real - please never take our orders and never deliver here again." and "No, he moved away after he got into trouble." Be nice about it, but be honest - "I'm left with no other choice than to make it worth your while to get this changed." Then do it, and I best you stop getting these calls immediately. I also like calling the Shady Brothers all the time as suggested.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 9:12 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey there, I live in Ottawa and would be willing to slip a note under the door for the tenants if you want.
posted by KathyK at 9:16 AM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have an office number for the Shady Brothers which gets answered maybe half the time during Monday to Friday business hours. I could change my outgoing voice mail message to directives to call the Shady Brothers, but they are in Montreal.

I have asked people who have buzzed Brian/Joe to inform them as well, but that has not had any effect so far.

And turning the ringer off or changing my number is not really solving the problem, is it? I have the problem of being called frequently; they have the corollary problem, whether they know it or not yet, of not having people get through to them. These are the problems I am trying to fix.

I am going for the next best route at this point: calling the guy who actually does maintenance on the building who, historically, would sometimes get things done. If I leave it to the Shady Brothers, I have little doubt they will be dithering about it for months. I don't know if they are criminals or incompetent, but I suppose there is no reason they cannot be both.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:26 AM on March 29, 2011


Yes, the maintenance guy might be a good pressure point. Call him (and leave messages with the Shadies) every single time someone calls you regardless of the hour. Make your problem the problem of everyone who manages the building, and make your voice the voice they don't want to hear every time they check their voice mail.
posted by rhizome at 9:35 AM on March 29, 2011


You could go the silent cell ring route and add something to your voice mail outgoing message that explains to Brian/Joe's friends that you are not Brian/Joe and that the buzzer is messed up.
posted by freezer cake at 9:38 AM on March 29, 2011


The maintenance guy said with an audible shrug, "Oh, yeah, the guys who set it up used an old phone list." I gather I am not the first ex-tenant to call about this. He says he is on it, which gives me some hope it might get fixed; as I say, he was always reasonably good about getting stuff done.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:49 AM on March 29, 2011


Do you know what apartment numbers Brian and/or Jo(e) live at? Maybe let yourself into the building, knock on their doors, explain the situation (and demonstrate if needed), and then all three of you go down and tell the landlords to sort that shit out. All they need to do is re-program the buzzer so make them do it then and there.

The landlords live 90 minutes away, and you make it sound so easy...
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:51 AM on March 29, 2011


Indirect approach: find out who regulates them and give that organization a call.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:56 AM on March 29, 2011


Prepare an invoice. If you think it's worth the time, itemize the actual call cost, as well as your time cost, at a reasonable rate. Send it to the shady brothers. I doubt they will pay it, but it sounds like they listen to paper based on your experience with the check.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:08 AM on March 29, 2011


You could call your former landlord's office so often that it makes a mockery of having a phone, each time politely asking when they will get the buzzer issue fixed.
posted by General Tonic at 10:22 AM on March 29, 2011


Indirect approach: find out who regulates them and give that organization a call.

That is a very good question. So far as I can tell, the Landlord and Tenant Board is the governing body here. During the Great Freeze-out of 2009 when I called the LTB concerning a building of a hundred tenants with no heat, power or hot water when it was twenty below zero, they chose to play "Who's on First" with me:

Me: "I'm calling because my apartment currently has no heat and..."

LTB: "No, that cannot be right. The landlord must provide heat."

Me: "I understand, but right now there is no heat and power so..."

LTB: "They have to provide heat and power, sir."

Me: "Let's say they were not. How would we oblige them to do so?"

LTB: "It is not a question of obliging them. They know they have to do it."

Me: "But if they weren't, how would you..."

LTB: "It would be against the law for them not to do that, sir."

Me: "Well then they are breaking the law, because the temp..."

LTB: "No sir, landlords are aware they must provide heat and power."


... and so forth. And that was when I was a tenant, living there and paying rent. I cannot imagine the LTB being notably more helpful when I am no longer a tenant. So far as I can tell, there is no registry of bad landlords online.

Anybody have any suggestions for whom to call?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:36 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


More of a temporary solution, but perhaps you could use google voice as an answering service? This way you'll get an email or sms whenever someone leaves a message which enables you to filter out the noise. More details here.

On a nokia phone I've owned, I've been able to block certain types of calls to the handset , so that might be a possibility.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:36 AM on March 29, 2011


The maintenance guy said with an audible shrug, "Oh, yeah, the guys who set it up used an old phone list." I gather I am not the first ex-tenant to call about this. He says he is on it, which gives me some hope it might get fixed; as I say, he was always reasonably good about getting stuff done.
This is good, now don't let up. Call him every time and for extra added emphasis, tell him you are going to call him every single time it happens, day or night, filling his voicemail up with hour-long messages if he's dumb enough to shunt you to voicemail every time. If he's a maintenance guy he likely cannot turn his ringer off, so his wife and kids will get to experience this issue for themselves if he wants to be lazy. "It's up to you, dude."
posted by rhizome at 11:14 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


My evil brain says you need to track down the personal cell number of the landlord or whoever is responsible for fixing this, then give them a nice polite phone call every time the buzzer calls you -especially if it's 2am. Just be all polite and let them know that the buzzer at address XXX is currently calling you, you're concerned that the person who lives there isn't getting buzzed, and you're trying to be a good samaritan and passing the knowledge on to the one person you know who knows how to contact them.

A simpler fix would be to set up call forwarding such that anything from that number goes straight to the landlord's cell number instead. Unfortunately, either solution is going to require a little detective work to get this cell number though.
posted by cgg at 11:16 AM on March 29, 2011


This is good, now don't let up. Call him every time and for extra added emphasis, tell him you are going to call him every single time it happens, day or night, filling his voicemail up with hour-long messages if he's dumb enough to shunt you to voicemail every time. If he's a maintenance guy he likely cannot turn his ringer off, so his wife and kids will get to experience this issue for themselves if he wants to be lazy. "It's up to you, dude."

Actually, the maintenance guy is a standup guy who seems a little pained to be working for assholes. I prefer to call the people ultimately responsible: the Shady Brothers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:20 AM on March 29, 2011


Also, I imagine a cease and desist letter of some sort from a lawyer would be one approach. You can send copies to the Shady Bros, Inc. as well as anyone else in contact with them who has some say in fixing this problem.

I have friends who had this problem when they moved out of their old apartment. Unfortunately, it was never fully resolved. They still get the occasional call, though they haven't had one for two years now.
posted by zizzle at 11:25 AM on March 29, 2011


Actually, the maintenance guy is a standup guy who seems a little pained to be working for assholes. I prefer to call the people ultimately responsible: the Shady Brothers.

Hey, that's cool. It's just that he just so happens to be the only person even marginally capable of effecting change here. It's not your responsibility to reduce his workload if things need to be fixed. The building is broken, it's calling you all the time. Either he fixes it or he gives you the number of someone who can (like the landlords). Ask him how many years he would like to be receiving calls from you at all hours. Explain that it's nothing personal and it will end as soon as he or someone else fixes it.

You would be well-advised to avoid a runaround here. It is very easy for the maintenance guy to play piggy-in-the-middle, stand-up as he may be. Are you willing to endure this for a few more months while the buck gets passed outside of his control? When I've been in this situation I've been driven to start trying to turn the maintenance guy against his bosses. "They told you it was going to be fixed? Does that mean your boss is lying to you? How do you feel about that?" Have a nice conversation with him about the position both of you have been placed. This works especially well at 2:30AM. I'm not afraid to be ruthless when it comes to BS annoyances that can be easily fixed by the person I'm talking to.
posted by rhizome at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2011


Actually, the maintenance guy is a standup guy who seems a little pained to be working for assholes. I prefer to call the people ultimately responsible: the Shady Brothers.

Yeah, but as you yourself said, they aren't doing anything. You're asking for help and then pooh-poohing every suggestion. The plain fact is, you're going to have to escalate, and that means either dealing with people who have been helpful, or being a bit of a pain to people who have been somewhat helpful. Or getting a new number.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:02 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]



Yeah, but as you yourself said, they aren't doing anything. .


Remember, last week I was in touch with the owners. I talked to the maintenance guy -- who I think can and will actually do something -- barely three hours ago. When I lived there, he was actually the only employee who was not a twat in every aspect. I am inclined to give him a day or two's grace before I start antagonizing him.

You're asking for help and then pooh-poohing every suggestion.

Nah; I am pooh-poohing the ones that ignore the info in the question, the ones that suggest I tell uninvolved third parties who are just trying to visit their friends to fuck themselves, the now-deleted one that suggested I have someone go by and attack the new intercom with a hammer so that no one in the building can know when their pizza delivery or taxi (or whatever) arrives. I think the owners of the building are (a) incompetent or (b) criminals or (c) both. I am happy to inconvenience them. I am not sure what is gained by pissing off everyone who has the misfortune to still live there or innocent people who have been routed to my phone through the incompetence of the Shady Brothers.

Zizzle's suggestion of a lawyer sending a cease and desist letter seems constructive; I have contacted a lawyer (and mefite) who offered to help me out with these jokers once before.

If there were some way I could warn future prospective tenants away from living there, I would happily do so. In the mean time, I see no profit in being an asshole to random passersby because of the slumlords I used to have a business relationship with still being slumlords.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2011


(And for what it's worth, my voice mail greeting now tells callers that if they are standing in the lobby trying to reach Joe or Brian, the buzzers do not work but here is the number and extension for the Shady Brothers so you can ask them why.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:58 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have the problem of being called frequently; they have the corollary problem, whether they know it or not yet, of not having people get through to them. These are the problems I am trying to fix....

(And for what it's worth, my voice mail greeting now tells callers that if they are standing in the lobby trying to reach Joe or Brian, the buzzers do not work but here is the number and extension for the Shady Brothers so you can ask them why.)


I think your hatred of the Shady Brothers is clouding your judgment here. Your voicemail, right now, does not solve either of the two problems you have identified. You want to solve that problem. You also want to stick it to the Shady Brothers, but you don't actually have a way to do that here. You can help Joe and Brian and yourself.

You have a direct line to Joe and Brian through the maintenance man. Ask him to cover the buzzers to Joe and Brian's apartments so they can't be pushed, along with a note with Joe and Brian's cell numbers. Then change your voicemail to say, "Joe can be reached at NUMBER and Brian is OTHER NUMBER."

To figure out where Joe and Brian live, ask the maintenance man to go down to the buzzers and press them all until your phone rings.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:14 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd change my voicemail to say "Shady Bros Rental Corp has not enabled the capability for you to buzz your friends. Call Shady Bros at 222-555-1212 for assistance." And, I'd recommend to my friends that they call that number to remind the Shadys of the problem.

I would also feign ignorance of the origin of calls, and report every middle-of-the-night call to my phone carrier as harassment.
posted by theora55 at 1:20 PM on March 29, 2011


I think you might be over complicating the situation a little, involving lawyers, phone carriers, changing your voicemail and logging calls. You are letting your negative feelings about your old residence cloud your judgment.

Understandably, these visitors may not feel comfortable passing on their friend's contact details to a disembodied stranger's voice. Next time someone buzzes and gets you, explain the situation and ask that they pass on your number to Brian or Joe or better yet ask them to get Brian and Joe to buzz their own apartment and speak with you. Get their contact details and have them contact the real estate agent to resolve the situation.

I would hope that three people hassling the real estate agent on a regular basis would be a critical mass to getting this situation resolved.

If there were some way I could warn future prospective tenants away from living there, I would happily do so.

I strongly advise against doing so. As bad as the situation sounds, this could lead to a civil defamation lawsuit with you as the defendant.
posted by smithsmith at 1:34 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everything smithsmith said, EXCEPT THIS:

(If there were some way I could warn future prospective tenants away from living there, I would happily do so.)

"I strongly advise against doing so. As bad as the situation sounds, this could lead to a civil defamation lawsuit with you as the defendant."


Bad reviews are EXACTLY what Yelp is for, and plenty of apartment building are reviewed there! If your building is not on Yelp (or similar) go ahead and name the address plus Shady Bros. Real Estate Company as owners... review away!!
posted by jbenben at 1:51 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you might be over complicating the situation a little, involving lawyers, phone carriers, changing your voicemail and logging calls.

I disagree; right now I have asked both the property owner and the maintenance guy once each to change it. The first I have little confidence in; the second, much (and for what it is worth, there have been no buzzer calls all afternoon since I asked him, so maybe it is done already, huzzah huzzah). The phone company was the first stop and was immediately discarded because they claimed to be unable to do it; the keeping track off the calls is due diligence in case they do not fix the problem and it becomes an issue. I can't very well tell some official body that I got called a lot, but I do not know when.

Understandably, these visitors may not feel comfortable passing on their friend's contact details to a disembodied stranger's voice. Next time someone buzzes and gets you, explain the situation and ask that they pass on your number to Brian or Joe or better yet ask them to get Brian and Joe to buzz their own apartment and speak with you. Get their contact details and have them contact the real estate agent to resolve the situation.

That is precisely it: I wondered at all the answers above from those who suggested I ask uninvolved people to give me full names and addresses and phone numbers of the people they thought they were contacting. Brian and Joe have no fault in this, but they have been inconvenienced too. If were them and I moved into a new place and suddenly started getting calls from the previous tenants who had been telling my friends to go fuck themselves for daring to visit me, I would be unimpressed.

Explaining the situation to those who hit the buzzer is again easier said than done: the people on the far end are speaking and listening to a crappy $1.99 Radio Shack speaker so we each sound to the other more or less like the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon. I am not even 100% sure of the names Brian and Joe, and there may well have been a third name today (and the building is composed entirely of studio and minuscule 1-bedroom apartments).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:05 PM on March 29, 2011


I think you're doing the right things. Unlike others, I don't think being aggressively hostile to bystanders likely isn't the solution.

Assigning silent ring will alleviate the inconvenience.


Be sure to document the calls, then file a request with the Ontario LTB for costs. I think you'll want to fill out the T6 A because this is a maintenance issue.

Note that it will cost you time and $25 but I don't see why you couldn't file at your local office even if the apartment is in Ottawa instead of Toronto. The clerk on duty may tell you otherwise, of course. Filing a complaint is a multivisit process. Check out the website for more info.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 2:50 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The second call to the maintenance guy seemed to do it. I went past my old place yesterday and dialed 0048, and I got the voice mail on Brian's cell phone.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:22 AM on April 13, 2011


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