How do I get my landlord to repair my apartment complex's appliances?
September 12, 2008 10:39 AM   Subscribe

The superintendent of my building has been dragging her feet for months on getting the building's washer and dryers repaired. In my lease, it says that the landlord is responsible for the upkeep of these items. The management company that actually owns the building and pays the super's salary is also not being responsive. Now what?

I have lived at my current apartment for about three-and-a-half months. When apartment shopping, my roommate and I chose this place partly because of the accessible washers and dryers. Since we've moved in, they've only been half-working. There are two washers and two dryers. One of the washers takes your money, but doesn't run. One of the dryers only dries clothes completely if half-full, the other only dries clothes completely if a quarter to a third full and you are only drying things like light t-shirts and underwear.

I have complained repeatedly about this the superintendent of the property. I've shown her the baskets of half-soggy clothing taken directly out of the dryer. She's agreed that's unacceptable--and then when I check up on whether repairs are happening, she claims nobody else in the building is having problems. Finally, after two months of this, she claimed she got a repair guy to replace a part in one of the dryers. It still doesn't work. There is a live-in repairman who is supposed to be taking care of these problems, but he's been pretty all around unhelpful (like claiming we should not be trying to dry loads larger than what would fit in a milk crate in ANY dryer).

I've compensated by hanging up half of my loads on clotheslines I set up on my balcony. The super told me I couldn't do this because it was an "eyesore" and suggested I go to Target and buy indoor clothes racks that are shorter than the windows so nobody can see me drying my clothes from the outside.

I'm sick of dealing with her. I would like to address the people that employ her, but they've provided no contact information outside an address to send the checks to. I've gone there and had no luck getting anyone to talk to.

What should my next steps be? The public law landlord-tenant websites seem to only address major, life-threatening repairs, not "luxury" items like washers and dryers. And yet, the landlord's responsibility for their upkeep is laid out in my lease. Do I send a registered letter to the management company? Start legal action? It seems ridiculous to have to go this far just to get a stupid washer and dryer replaced.
posted by schroedinger to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Location? In California (at least in San Francisco), you can withhold some or all of your rent until the terms of the lease are met, as long as you notify (in writing -- keep a copy!) the management/landlord of the reason. That should get a reaction. (YMMV.)
posted by trip and a half at 10:46 AM on September 12, 2008

Do you feel like going to small claims court over this? The landlord won't do anything without being forced to do so. So, force him, or do your laundry elsewhere.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 10:48 AM on September 12, 2008

Oh, and don't withhold rent unless you want to have eviction proceedings started.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 10:49 AM on September 12, 2008

The problem is that you are just one voice, which is easy to ignore. Get the whole building complaining repeatedly about the laundry situation and you may have more luck. Start urging your neighbors to speak up - write a form letter and distribute to each apartment, which they can sign and deliver. Right now you're a whisper, what you need is some very loud voices.
posted by meerkatty at 10:55 AM on September 12, 2008

Don't withhold rent -- in California this is only legitimate for violations of the implied warranty of habitability (which non-functioning washing machines are not), and even in that circumstance runs the risk of eviction proceedings (almost certainly not worth it). Small claims or calling a city official (different depending on where you are) is the next step.
posted by j.edwards at 10:56 AM on September 12, 2008

The next step up the ladder after caretaker and management company is the owner.
posted by rokusan at 10:57 AM on September 12, 2008

Certified letter. "The lease which you have with me says that you (through your manager) are responsible for the upkeep of the washers and dryers. This is not a matter of being briefly broken and then repaired; they have malfunctioned in _______ ways since _date_. This is a violation of the terms of the lease. Please address this problem promptly or I will be forced to take further action."
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:57 AM on September 12, 2008

Also, is there a number to call for maintenance on the machines themselves? Again, I can only speak for San Francisco, but here you would be within your legal rights to call that number, arrange and pay for the repairs yourself, and deduct the expense from your rent payment, as long as you have documented everything, including requests to the landlord to address the problem.
posted by trip and a half at 10:59 AM on September 12, 2008

Are you cleaning the lint trap on the dryers before you use them?
posted by 517 at 11:02 AM on September 12, 2008

Response by poster: Crap, forgot to include location. I'm in Baltimore, Maryland. Yes, I do clean out the lint traps.
posted by schroedinger at 11:04 AM on September 12, 2008

I had this same problem, including them saying I was "trying to dry too much." The only thing that worked was getting my neighbors in on it, then sending a letter to the landlord stating "Myself, Mr. A, Mr. B, and Ms. C are all experiencing the same issues. Please resolve this ASAP." CC the super.
posted by Liosliath at 12:01 PM on September 12, 2008

You can threaten to contact your city. Many cities have departments that set rules for rental properties, and some will enforce regulations if you make a complaint.

I once had a similar problem to yours, going on for months. I simply threatened to get the city involved. Next day, a repairman showed up. )You can, of course, follow through on your threat, if need be.) No landlord wants to have to deal with a city inspector.
posted by scottso17 at 12:49 PM on September 12, 2008

City inspector. (I am a landlord.) Start with the certified letter enumerating your understanding of the lease and any applicable state law. Make sure you set a specific date and if they want to change it get it in writing. If they don't perform, call the city.

Generally you are entitled to have all equipment that is in the apartment when you lease it remain in good working order.
posted by dhartung at 2:10 PM on September 12, 2008

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