Yet Another Landlord Horror Story
January 26, 2010 10:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm stuck in a ridiculous situation with the apartment I rent with my wife in Indianapolis, and would appreciate a little advice.

Here's the backstory:

My wife was here before me -- roughly, the Christmas before this one -- and had a pretty smooth ride. I joined her some time around March '09, and we both continued to have a relatively smooth ride, until maybe 3 months ago. Some context on our renting situation: it's a big ol' house in Indianapolis's downtown area, that our landlord presumably bought and decided to rent out. There are about 12 people living here, in maybe 9 different apartment "areas" (I wouldn't call them apartments, because it's just split up parts of a house). Our landlord may or may not live in the attic, nobody is sure, but either way, he's not here very often. The house is also pretty old, almost certainly doesn't meet health and fire code, and needs a whole fuckload of work to make it liveable. Regardless, there are 12 people living here. And guess what: we're all on verbal contracts: no leases, no paperwork, no nothing except a verbal agreement that we'll pay rent when it's due. I have no idea how that affects both us and him, law- and rights-wise, but I'd like to!

It was a pretty nice set-up in the short term. My wife had almost nothing when she came here looking for somewhere to stay, and it was perfect then. But it's more than a year later now, we're both back on our feet and comfortable, and we're dealing with some ridiculous things.

- His daughter also lives here. She says she can't go to school, because she's allergic to the H1N1 vaccination, and the school won't let her attend without it. She says she's home-schooled. What I see: a girl that's always wondering around the house bored, has no friends, and almost certainly is not receiving any kind of schooling. She's a nice kid, but I do not want someone else's kid's welfare to be my problem.
- There is a heating unit above our bedroom. Sometimes, for reasons unknown, it starts vibrating up there. Those vibrations come right through to our apartment: the windows shake (because they're old and draughty), the light fixtures shake (because they're old and shoddily attached), and hell, sometimes even the walls and floors shake too. Usually, when it's happening, it happens in 5-6 minute bursts every 20 minutes or so (like a heating unit trying to maintain a constant temp, i guess). Last night, it came on just as we were going to bed around 12:30am, vibrated intermittently until 3:30am, and from that point, was on constantly until about 5:30am. Needless to say, neither of us slept, we were both extremely pissed, and that's the straw that broke the camel's back.
- Speaking of heating, we don't have any! Not reliable heating, anyway. Our landlord gave us some shit about flexi-duct being used in our part of the house, which doesn't conduct heat too well. I believe him, but he has yet to offer a solution. Meanwhile, we have a space heater on quite literally 24/7, which is a) still not enough, especially at night, b) making me glad we don't have to pay utilities, c) a fire hazard (this is already a replacement after the first one caught light).
- I mentioned the windows, right? Old, vibrate-y, draughty, not helpful in this weather.
- We don't currently have a sink in our bathroom. It got irreparably-by-Draino clogged up some months ago. Our landlord eventually decided he'd fix it about 3 weeks ago, came over and tore it apart, and has left it like that since. Needless to say, it is not even approaching fixed, and he hasn't mentioned any intention to come back to it.
- Shower, low water pressure, takes forever to get hot. Typical winter-tie problems, but made more annoying by everything else, and the fact that we also have to brush our teeth and shave in that shower.
- For our laundry, there are two washers in the basement that the whole house (at least 12 people, remember) shares. One of them is big, one of them is tiny. Guess which one broke about two weeks ago? Yep, big one. Hasn't been fixed, hasn't even been mentioned. Meanwhile, trying to do laundry is a pain in the ass. As of a few days ago, the lightbulb down there was also bust, so we're all doing this in the dark, too.
- His dogs. This deserves more than a bullet point.

Our landlord's dogs are the fucking worst. They're big, dumb, puppy boxers. He often leaves them outside in the yard from early morning (sometimes as early as 6am) until late at night, regardless of the weather. I've seen them stuck out there in blistering heat, and in blizzards, and there's very little shelter. (One time in Summer, one of them was actually locked away in a cage, in direct sunlight, all day, with no food or water. He didn't do that, though.) Their only shelter? Balcony outside our bedroom window. So at all hours, we have big, rambunctious, playful dogs. Outside our bedroom window. Oh, they also bark all day. We know neighbours have complained about that before, and in response, one of them has a bark collar now, but it's not always on the dog, and I would argue that it does not work. Evidenced by the dog's continued constant barking. I would also argue that it's kind of inhumane, but I don't care one bit about those dogs.

They're also incredibly destructive. They get into the trash and tear it up (a mess I've had to clear up multiple times), they managed to get hold of another tenant's thumb drive recently, chewed it to bits, and left it outside our door. Yesterday, they also decided to chew right through the ethernet cable I use for internet access. (Only one I had, will be insisting landlord replaces it, rely on internet for my work, wireless is terribly unreliable because of a router almost as old as I am, etc.)

Obviously, we'd have left a long time ago if we could: we don't even have a lease, they only ask for one week's notice, and I don't think they have much legal right to even insist on that. But there are some difficulties with that: until very recently, we haven't been able to afford to move elsewhere. This is a pretty sweet set-up, where we're paying around $100 less than a similarly-sized proper-with-a-lease apartment, and we don't pay utilities or internet. Regardless, we're willing to pay the $100 on top. But my wife is trying to get a job in a different city, so we're hoping to leave the city within a few months. It seems impractical to get stuck in a lease we don't even want. We also have two dogs of our own (that hate the landlord's dogs) that very few apartment owners allow. Practically speaking, we'd prefer to stay here. We're happy to deal with most of the stuff that's wrong in this house, but right now, it's unliveable. So:

What's the best course of action? I've drafted a letter to my landlord asking if we can negotiate a lower rent until we have a living arrangement that's satisfactory to a reasonable degree. If he doesn't go for it, what do we do then? We CAN just leave, but we'd rather not, so our negotiating power is limited. IS the letter even a good idea? Given the renting arrangement, what are our rights? And what are our landlord's? I'd also like to report him to the relevant authorities, if there are any give the arrangement, for the treatment of his dogs, of his kid, and of his tenants. Is that wise?
posted by nostrich to Home & Garden (56 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Something else I forgot to mention. The current batch of tenants are just fine, but every now and then, he lets a real crazy move in. Like the heroin-addict that tried to burn the house down when the landlord tried to evict him. We caught all the burners on with a lit candle set in the middle of them in one of the kitchens late one night. Police came over and arrested the guy. Or how about the gay guy with serious boundary issues that, for some ungodly reason, they made the "house manager" and gave him keys to every apartment in the house. He was also evicted. The current "house manager" is a horribly overweight woman, unemployed, terrible personal hygiene, incredibly lazy, and doesn't even live in the house (there's a carriage house at the back of the yard that houses three people).
posted by nostrich at 10:18 AM on January 26, 2010

Um, are you joking me? Leave. Really, there is nothing else to say.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 10:22 AM on January 26, 2010 [10 favorites]

This is a pretty sweet set-up

You're making that classic compromise between cash and livability. If the livability side of the equation has changed, then you'll need to balance that with more cash. I'm sorry to be blunt about it, but that's the reality for 99.99999% of humanity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

Why are you even living there? My suggestion: move. There are all kinds of laws being broken by both the landlord and the tenants. It's surprising that the city hasn't fined the landlord and told the tenants to find new places to live. You do not want to be caught in that mess when it goes down. Get out while you can.
posted by camworld at 10:24 AM on January 26, 2010

Move out. MOVE. OUT.
posted by contessa at 10:24 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

If $100/month were the difference between these living conditions and ones even slightly better/more legal, I wouldn't even bat an eye at moving. Seriously?
posted by scarykarrey at 10:26 AM on January 26, 2010

What's the best course of action?
I think a letter would be pointless.
Move and pay the $100 more that you say you are willing to pay. You seemingly hate everything about this place.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:27 AM on January 26, 2010

Just move. The cash you are saving is not worth the hassel of trying to fix these problems. Likely, the landlord doesn't even have the capacity to fix them.
posted by kimdog at 10:27 AM on January 26, 2010

Move to a real apartment.
posted by Billegible at 10:30 AM on January 26, 2010

I'm with the rest. Pay the $100 more and get into a decent place. This sounds like a house of horrors.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:31 AM on January 26, 2010

You're living in a death trap. This is the kind of living situation you see on the news in "fatal house fire" stories. At least get yourself an oil filled electric radiator, they're a lot safer than space heaters.

You can try the letter, sure, but I bet your landlord isn't going to be responsive. While it shouldn't happen like this, what you have is a standard illegal rental set up, where your rent is cheap and your place is dangerous and crappy. That's the kind of landlord he is, and I bet he won't/can't change. I have mixed feelings about this, because I don't like the idea that people have to live in shitty/dangerous places for lack of money, so if you decided to push it legally I wouldn't tell you you're wrong, but really it's just going to end with you needing to find a new place in this case. I'm sure you could find a shorter lease for the time until you move though.

One thing though, how much money are you wasting by having the inefficient space heater heating? I bet it's a lot.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:36 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

You either move to a place that will let you stay short-term, or suck it up. It sounds like the fun of cheap "adventure renting" has worn off. The danger would not appeal to me.
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on January 26, 2010

Is that wise?

Nothing stated anywhere in your lenghty question is wise. Nothing your landlord is doing is wise. Nothing your housemates are doing is wise. Nothing you are doing is wise. Nothing you are contemplating is wise.
posted by The World Famous at 10:41 AM on January 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

This sounds so ridiculous that I'm sure you must know it. Can't you find a sublet if you don't want some place permanent?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:44 AM on January 26, 2010

Theora55 mentioned that you should find a place that will let you stay short-term, and I couldn't agree more. I once found a place that, with a little talking, let me sign a 9-month lease rather than the typical year. Granted, that may be a little more long-term than you're planning on being in the area, but still, I've heard of leases on decent places for as little as 6 months at a time. use that free internet while you have it and do some research, although I've found it to be more effective in situations like this to actually speak to prospective landlords face-to-face, explain your anticipated time frame, and find out who's willing to work with you.
posted by lucky25 at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2010

Response by poster: Clarification for all the people telling me to leave: we are hoping to leave the city within a month or two, it's going to be a huge, expensive pain to move, and then move again (we're not THAT comfortable), probably breaking a lease. It also needs to be somewhere that will let us have two dogs, which based on the apartment-hunting we've done so far, is easier said than done, and severely limits our options. I know the best option is to leave, but that's not a practical option here, it's a last resort.

I'm also interested in how we can make sure nobody else moves into this place after us, and that our landlord faces justice in some way. Guidance on that front would be appreciate, too.

crabintheocean: no idea, don't care! We don't pay the electric.
posted by nostrich at 10:48 AM on January 26, 2010

How difficult will it be to have to move on short notice when all of the inhabitants are told to leave immediately when local authorities find out that the landlord is running an illegal rooming house when someone tips them off? Probably a lot more of a hassle than trying to find friends/family to temporarily take your dogs while you find a short-term lease.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:51 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sometimes getting out of a shitty living situation is like breaking up a shitty relationship -- for every reason you can think of now to leave, a dozen more will become blisteringly obvious to you once you're out and can actually handle looking at the situation objectively.

Do you have local friends or family you can stay with for a few weeks? Have you looked into short-term sublets or some equivalent? Do you know someone who can watch the dogs temporarily while you figure out what you're doing?

This isn't just a quality-of-life issue, it's a safety issue, particularly in regards to fire. For the sake of yourself, your wife and your pets, I'd urge you to get out of that situation as quickly as you can.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:52 AM on January 26, 2010

Wow. Seriously? GTFO and FAST.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 10:52 AM on January 26, 2010

Move. There is no other answer.

You really think a letter is going to help? This is someone who doesn't care about his child's schooling or his pet's safety. He rents to people who don't give a crap either.

Even if you get lower rent you'll still be living in a dump - it'll just be a cheaper dump. You're wife could afford that place on her own. It's a year later and there are two of you. You can pool resources and move somewhere that's not a dump.

Move to a real apartment with a real lease.
posted by 26.2 at 10:54 AM on January 26, 2010

I'm also interested in how we can make sure nobody else moves into this place after us, and that our landlord faces justice in some way. Guidance on that front would be appreciate, too.

Other than taking legal action against your landlord for something concrete and substantial, if you're leaving in a month or two, anyway, I would cut your losses and go. I'm not really sure you have other options, other than burning the place to the ground and salting the earth. I would just move on. Sometimes you can't save the world.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on January 26, 2010

Move out. If you can possibly afford it, go to an extended stay motel for a while if you have to. This sounds dangerous and dodgy.
posted by pointystick at 11:00 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Subletting temporarily is a good idea. We'll be looking into that.
posted by nostrich at 11:01 AM on January 26, 2010

Clarification for all the people telling me to leave: we are hoping to leave the city within a month or two

Hoping to leave? Does she have any realistic job prospects? Tough time to find a new job, you may get stuck where you are longer than you think. And if so, you should definitely do it somewhere other than the place you are living now.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:01 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm also interested in how we can make sure nobody else moves into this place after us, and that our landlord faces justice in some way. Guidance on that front would be appreciate, too.

So it's awesome that there was cheap housing when you, your wife and your dogs needed it, but you want the landlord to be punished for offering it. You'd like to continue living there, but at an even lower cost because no one else will take you and your dogs and your short-term lease needs. Therefore, you don't want to punish the landlord until after you no longer need cheap, dog-friendly housing? And of course, you don't care what happens to the other 10 people who live there. Have got that right?

I'm still encouraging you to move.
posted by 26.2 at 11:02 AM on January 26, 2010 [13 favorites]

I'm also interested in how we can make sure nobody else moves into this place after us, and that our landlord faces justice in some way. Guidance on that front would be appreciate, too.

I don't see why you feel the need to seek justice in this case. You got a cheap, convenient, flexible arrangement which proved helpful to you when you needed it. In the same way, others may feel perfectly comfortable with the arrangement in the future, and will be similarly willing to endure these inconvenient, or even somewhat dangerous, elements in exchange for an affordable roof over their heads. It's safer than having no home, which can actually be the alternative when flexible arrangements like this are not available to people who need them.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:09 AM on January 26, 2010

As you're presenting the situation, your choices are 1) put up with the crap until you leave, then call the city and report it, 2) leave now, then report it.

No, you will not get any of your demands met. Probably not ever, but definitely not in the timeframe you think you have remaining. You've got basically no legal asscovering, and if you try to force the landlord's hand, chances are you will either come home one day to passers-by picking through your stuff piled on the lawn, or your own hand will be forced when the city shows up and gives all the residents days, if that, to leave.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:10 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. That all sounds awful. I appreciate it took a long time for you to write this question out.

You and your family would be better served if you take that energy and put it towards finding a new home.

Look. I know how it is. I know that these things sneak up on you. I know you just accept this and that - and then suddenly it's too much. I hope you realized this too as you described the situation for us. Below, I say some things in a strong voice. I am worried for your safety. I want you to hear me. OK. Read on...

nostritch - Isn't this the sort of property we read about in the news after a horrible tragedy takes place and many occupants don't survive??

You all could die in this house at any moment for any reason. Or the place could flood and you would lose most of your possessions. Or some crazy person could steal from you. Or break in and assault you or your wife. The possibilities for a bad ending here are multiple and imminent - WHY ARE YOU TAKING THIS RISK??

You do not owe anybody notice. Just leave when you find a new place. Disengage from the drama of this environment swiftly and completely. I mean that.

You can find a short-term or month-to-month situation anywhere else. Probably for you and your pets. Go find that now. Spend your energy moving forward, not trying to fix this mess!

You are making assumptions about finding a new place to live, but you have not yet made it possible to find a new place if you haven't called numbers or seen new housing. You really don't know what is out there, or what sort of lease you might be able to negotiate until you show up and talk to people. Go out there, see apartments, and try!

Don't let your fears about money or change keep you or your family in this situation one second longer.

Good luck.

PS. If you really really really can not find housing that allows your pets, please consider giving them temporarily to a friend. Or a foster program for animals. Or maybe a shelter.

If there is a fire while you and your wife are at work - the dogs probably won't make it anyway. Even if your dogs don't end up living with you, living in a safe environment will be the best thing for them and a huge improvement over where they are right now.

In other words, don't make excuses or bargain with Fate - just take positive right action and move forward through this situation into a better one.

Again, good luck!
posted by jbenben at 11:16 AM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Move. Pony up the cash to be safe. Moving twice isn't really a pain in the ass at all if your safety and sanity is on the line. I have certainly done it.
Call CPS for the daughter. She deserves school and care. Even if you don't personally care. And call animal control to get those dogs out of there. They have no choice in the matter, and like the daughter, can't move on their own.Those calls, anonymous from a payphone, are the right thing to do, even if you don't care about them. They are living things and suffering, from the sounds of it.
posted by oflinkey at 11:17 AM on January 26, 2010

From the Indiana Attorney General's FAQs (edited for clarity):
Indiana has very few laws on tenant/landlord relations; no state agency deals with complaints or direct regulation. You can locate all tenant/landlord relations in the Indiana Code by visiting this website and entering the relevant Indiana Codes [(IC 32-7-1-1 through 11)- 7/1/99 HB 1653 (IC 33-4, 33-5, 33-10.5, 33-11.6) ] or you may call Legislative Services at (317)232-9856. The information you are seeking can most likely be answered by seeking legal counsel.
Here's the relevant section on tenant obligations and landlord obligations. One of the few things he is obligated to do under state law is to maintain the plumbing in the state it was when you moved in; but if he doesn't, all you can do is take him to court to recover your damages, which would be hard to quantify.

(I am not a lawyer, just a fellow Hoosier who weeps at the state of our landlord-tenant law.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:18 AM on January 26, 2010

Was this actually a question, or just an excuse to rant about your landlords? You know that you should move out, you just have to stop making excuses. I also think that it's bad karma to shut down the cheap housing but only after it's convinient for you. However, I would be worried about the daughter - her story is confusing though. Is she in college or something? Does she live in the house without a guardian (since you're not sure if the owner even lives there)? If she is under 16 you could report her to your local truancy officers who might be able to make a plan to get her back in school, and keep a closer eye on her father.
posted by fermezporte at 11:21 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Indianapolis has a lot of cheap housing, most of it far better then what you describe and some also available without a lease. You are going to face the same challenge whenever you decide to move to a different city, although anywhere worth going to is going to have a more competitive housing market with fewer dogs-ok-dirt-cheap options.

If you believe that the child is being neglected than you should call the Department of Child Services, the number for the Marion County office is 317-968-4300. You don't have to get involved, just call and them that the kid isn't in school and appears neglected.
posted by ChrisHartley at 11:24 AM on January 26, 2010

it's going to be a huge, expensive pain to move, and then move again (we're not THAT comfortable), probably breaking a lease.

I really think that once you get out of there, you're going to think to yourself "that was so WORTH IT."

Call local realtors, they sometimes know cool things about rentals you wouldn't normally find out about and might be able to get someone to let you sign a short term lease for a higher security deposit or whatever.

Yes, you'll wind up squandering some money. It'll be money well spent.

You're question makes me tense just reading it, I can't imagine trying to actually live in those circumstances. How the hell do you manage?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:29 AM on January 26, 2010

Move out and call the Department of Building Inspection. CPS, too.
posted by rhizome at 11:33 AM on January 26, 2010

Or how about the gay guy with serious boundary issue...

Fixed that for you. Notice how all the relevant information is still there.
posted by hermitosis at 11:40 AM on January 26, 2010 [12 favorites]

You really think a letter is going to help? This is someone who doesn't care about his child's schooling or his pet's safety.

Yes, this. Writing a letter to someone who doesn't even conduct his business in writing is going to get you nowhere.
I've never lived in your city, but I've got to think that it is large enough for there to be sublets or month-to-month places.

For God's sake, call someone about that poor girl. Obviously there is no law that you have to have H1N1 vaccine to go to public school; someone is lying to her to keep her isolated and the reason could be insidious.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:45 AM on January 26, 2010

it's going to be a huge, expensive pain to move, and then move again (we're not THAT comfortable), probably breaking a lease.

Pack up everything that you don't need immediately into one of those pod storage things. Store it. Move yourself into one of those extended stay efficiencies things business people use on long trips. They are furnished and have an equipped kitchen so you shouldn't need much beyond clothing. Alternately, find a motel that takes dogs (Motel 6 does). Live there for two months.

When you figure out where you are moving to in the long-term, direct your stored pods to be delivered there.

If you feel like it, report that the kid is not going to school and the dogs are being left out and that it is a big illegal mess over there to the appropriate authorities.
posted by mikepop at 11:46 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Let me edit and restate your question for you in a much more concise and clear way that fully captures every relevant element of the question:

My wife and I live in a horrible rental. We have no binding lease agreement and can move out at will with no penalty. It is pretty close to the worst imaginable living situation and includes significant danger of personal injury, property loss, and legal trouble. While we believe that we are getting a good deal, it is actually only $100 a month less than a rental that would have none of the problems of our current situation. We can afford the extra $100.

Should we move out as soon as we can possibly find alternative housing?

The answer, of course, is yes.

You also asked a secondary question, which can be rephrased as follows:

Should we take revenge against our current landlord?

The answer to that one depends on whether or not you consider revenge to be a worthy pursuit. Given that you have chosen to live with your wife in an overpriced shared-housing hell hole while owning multiple dogs and you feel the need to turn to strangers on the internet to figure out whether living in a shared-housing hell hole with multiple dogs is "wise," maybe you're the kind of person who does consider revenge to be a worthy pursuit. I, personally, don't think revenge ever works out very well. But to each his own.

(None of that is legal advice, and I'm not your lawyer.)
posted by The World Famous at 11:51 AM on January 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm not really sure you have other options

Oh, but you do. Bylaw services can easily be called, and they're right real good in shutting something down if they receive complaints. These things are easier and more straightforward to deal with than code violations, and have a more immediate impact.

Get a copy of the Land Use Bylaw and a zoning map, and figure out what land use district (or zoning district) you're in. Look at both the general regulations, and the specific regulations regarding the district or zone. Find ANYTHING that contravenes the bylaw.

Just a few things off the top of my head:

- What's the property zoned for? Single family? That's an easy shut down of the entire operation. This is your biggest weapon.

- Even 2 dogs in one residence is usually technically against bylaw but nobody ever calls them on it. Call them on it.

Oh, and MOVE OUT NOW. Move into a motel, get a sublet, house sit, break a lease, buy a fucking tent and live in the woods for a few months. All much safer than dying by getting burned by a smackhead. Call bylaw services with the violation, let them know you're an illegal tenant and afraid for your safety, and move out. Call a cop and tell them the same - and that you feel threatened by the landlord. Get them to come over while you pack up. They do this.

From your description it's not legal for the landlord to expect rent from you.

I'm a professional urban planner - if you need someone to look over the bylaw drop me a note at jsdaviso at google's email if you want. Tell me your address and the county/city you live in. For free, of course - I'm interested.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:53 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Regarding the girl: H1N1 vaccines are not mandatory in Indianapolis schools. Regular vaccines (whooping cough, polio, etc.) may be, but H1N1 hasn't been made mandatory in any school district in the United States. Recommended, yes. Mandatory, no. That said; there are kids with egg allergies that can't take vaccines, and there are traditional vaccines for that population that are manufactured differently...h1n1, as far as I know, still contain egg product.

Re homeschooling: I'm not there, so I can't speak to what's being done, and I don't know how old the child is, but according to Indiana statue, a child can be withdrawn from school as long as they can still meet "educational goals", which are defined by the IPS as being able to successfully pass assessment tests. My point being that unless you've reviewed her lesson plans, or know what her assessment level is, it's none of your business. Unless we are talking about a very young child being abandoned to wander the streets at will...just stay out of it.

The house sounds like a death-trap waiting to happen. Move or don't, but you can't do anything to force the landlord to fix anything without running the risk that you make yourself and all the other tenants homeless.

If the sink bugs you, fix it. I'm sure there's a hardware store nearby. Home Depot has a great "how to fix anything" book. It's wonderful, I've been using it for a decade. (Some stuff I call the pros, I don't touch electricity, nor climb into attics.)

Where you're living sounds more like a squat than an apartment. You can't pay squat prices and expect apartment living. Either make it better, learn to cope, or get out. Bitching only warms up the room for a short time.
posted by dejah420 at 11:57 AM on January 26, 2010

I've been in this kind of a situation.. it was kind of a understanding that the reason the rent was super cheap was.. we all were living in a dump, basically, and we put up with the annoyances because the rent was cheap. But it wasn't as bad as your place. I mean, it's annoying but couldn't you find a brief sublet on Craigslist? And if you do, don't unpack all your stuff when you move there (in fact, maybe get a storage unit and keep things you don't absolutely need in storage), that way when you do your move to the next city, you won't have to pack it all over. Also seems like one of those situations where it's going to be more trouble than it's worth to take legal action.. those no-lease verbal agreements are not going to work in your favor there. It seems like this is mostly a house for people who are kind of down on their luck and don't have a lot of better housing options? If you have enough money to find a better option then take it, if you want.
posted by citron at 12:11 PM on January 26, 2010

If you are only there for a month, there is no point in looking for long term solutions.
Make your selves more comfortable:
-Fix the sink yourself.
-Call animal control about the dogs. They are neglected and miserable. Anything will be better for the poor things.
-Disable the thingy making noise over your head somehow.
-Take your laundry to a laundromat.
Report the landlord to whatever housing authority exists in your city.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:17 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

A sublet for a place without a lease? Unless the landlord has a large deposit you didn't mention you don't have to give any notice. Just leave! Its all illegal anyway. He has no recourse.
posted by GregorWill at 12:57 PM on January 26, 2010

Most people in your situation are stuck in a lease they can't break, and that's what makes it a problem. Move as soon as you can, and in the meantime try to pretend you're camping or something.
posted by davejay at 1:04 PM on January 26, 2010

You have every right to be angry at your living conditions, but short of buying that house, you're not going to change the environment. You have to find a sublet or stick it out until your moving plans are more concrete. Good luck with this. Winter in a small city, with dogs, dwindles your list of potential apartments/houses to almost nothing. About one listing a day, if I'm doing this right.

As for your other problems:

- Laundry: You're going to have to go to the laundromat. Sorry. No way around this one.

- Bathroom sink: Get a snake and unplug it yourself. You can get a basic one for $10 or less. It's a lot of manual work if the clog goes deep, but it gets the job done, and done well. You're going to be using this throughout life, so it's definitely worth the investment.

- Shower: Same thing here. With weak water pressure, I've found that replacing the shower head can work wonders. It's not guaranteed, but shower heads are relatively cheap and easy to affix, so it's worth a shot. You just have to decide whether you think it's worth "upgrading" the property on your own dime.
posted by greenland at 1:17 PM on January 26, 2010

Wait? What? Therapy!

A few things here:
1. You live in a squat. You are getting what you pay for (not that it's ethical...)
2. If you can't or dont want to afford living in a legit apartment that allows pets, then you should not have pets. I feel for you here. I want a dog more than I want my left ovary, but I simply cannot afford proper dog-allowed houseing at this time, so I do not have a dog.
3. There's this website, Craislist, and they have all kinds of sublets and squats that you could live in in the one or two months you expect to still be in town.
4. You do realize that it can take you 1 - 2 months to find a suitable apartment in a new city thats available? If your set on getting out of town then why not just look for a new apartmetn in the new town now?
5. Report the girl and the landlord's dogs to authorities, anonymously.
6. Move out asap. You pretty much have no recourse to fix your current place. In case you didn't realize that after living without a bathroom sink for weeks...
posted by WeekendJen at 1:19 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Move, for crying out loud. The situation is a disaster waiting to happen. If you're worried about signing a long term lease, sublet. You're not breaking your current lease because the situation you describe is, in all probability illegal, and therefore, unenforceable.

And if you have any kind of human decency at all, you'll report that "landlord" to Child Protective Services (if his daughter is a minor), animal control, and the housing authorities.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:36 PM on January 26, 2010

I've lived in places a lot worse than the one you describe. I have no sympathy for you. You have made the classic compromise: Your rent is low and you don't pay utilities, and in exchange, you have to put up with all sorts of bizarre, ridiculous shit.

Craigslist is full of situations like yours. The effect that you can have on this one is negligible. Give some thought to whether you really care about justice, vs. whether you just want to feel better about your own naivete in ending up in this extremely common, run-of-the-mill, unsurprising, should-have-seen-it-coming arrangement.

There are lots of people who would be fine living where you're living. People who were recently homeless. People who were recently in prison. People who are escaping from domestic violence. It sounds like some of those people are, in fact, living in the building. That shouldn't surprise you because your building is the kind of place where such people live.

You can move, or you can continue to put up with it.
posted by bingo at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

Or how about the gay guy with serious boundary issue...

Fixed that for you. Notice how all the relevant information is still there.

Thank you. I noticed that too. I'd like to add another one:

The current "house manager" is a horribly overweight woman, unemployed, terrible personal hygiene, incredibly lazy, and doesn't even live in the house (there's a carriage house at the back of the yard that houses three people).

Laziness = bad in a house manager. Employment and weight have nothing to do with it.

nostrich, you sound like you live in a horrible place and you despise the people you live with. I don't blame you for not wanting to be there. But it strikes me as the height of tackiness to take advantage of low rent to squat in a dump and not realize that you made a choice to do so. If you don't like the consequences of your choice, get out.
posted by Salieri at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

The current "house manager" is a horribly overweight woman, unemployed, terrible personal hygiene, incredibly lazy, and doesn't even live in the house (there's a carriage house at the back of the yard that houses three people).

Fixed that for you too. I can't believe you're complaining about the physical attributes of your apartment manager when you live in a dog-overun firetrap. Frankly I kind of think you're enjoying this situation on some level and posted to vent.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, Salieri, we posted at the same time!
posted by crabintheocean at 2:19 PM on January 26, 2010

Ha! Great minds. :)

I should have removed the "personal hygiene" bit too. Really, WTF?
posted by Salieri at 2:23 PM on January 26, 2010

You're moving in a few months or a month? You sound unsure.

Agree that you're basically living in a squat. Fix the sink yourself if you want it fixed, and stop pretending that this is any sort of legit landlord situation. You're getting what you pay for.
posted by desuetude at 2:31 PM on January 26, 2010

If you're moving in a month anyway, start taking your laundry to a laundromat, buy an extra blanket so you don't have to keep the space heater running all night, insert ear plugs and suck it up. Moving for a month is not going to seem worth the time or trouble.

You can try to get things fixed, but it isn't going to happen, and you can try to get money off your rent, but it's going to take more time and trouble than it's worth for a month. This shit is what you get when you want to live in a place that charges cheap rent, asks no questions and has no lease. It's just a trade-off that some people are prepared to make -- you're not those people anymore, but you don't have to be for much longer.

As soon as you get the chance, move and don't look back.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:02 PM on January 26, 2010

Why do you want "revenge"? Wasn't it obvious what this place was like? Your wife was there for a year; you weren't scammed into living in a flop house. It was a cheap place with no lease; that's why the other 10 people are there as well. You're willing to live there when it works for you, but the second you don't need it you're willing to mess up everything for the other tenants and the landlord?

You don't have a lease. Just leave, what's wrong with you?
posted by spaltavian at 11:42 AM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm really curious how much you are paying for this set-up (honestly, not to snark). Would you mind sharing?
posted by crabintheocean at 1:06 PM on January 27, 2010

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