Trying to Talk to a Landlord, Episode 372
June 12, 2010 8:22 PM   Subscribe

How can we convince our property manager to fix our leaky roof and is our beloved complex disintegrating?

With apologies for the length; It's very nuanced.

We're halfway through repairs of our ceiling caused by a leaking roof that the manager of our fairly large apartment complex refuses to acknowledge. Maintenance staff described a similar event on a roof nearby where blocked drains led to six inches of standing water. Ducks were found swimming on the roof but there was no leak to the ceiling. This alone seems to prove an opening in our case, never mind the squirrel on the other side of our ceiling we taped for him.

Our manager was uninterested in the squirrel video and quickly changed the subject every time we came back to the likelihood of a hole in the roof. He says variously that a buddy who is very skilled at finding small openings will come to take a look and he insists there is no opening. No one has inspected the roof yet, he promised to let us know. He talks at length all around an issue in what feels like a desperate effort to make us forget what we're asking for. I find this maddening and would appreciate some guidance here as we really want to maintain a positive relationship. Even though the buildings are about 35 years old and management does things like spray-painting countertops rather than replace them, we love the setting and history of the complex (very earth-centered and classy until about five years ago) and feel we could stay here for some years as long as basic maintenance is done. Any thoughts here would be appreciated, too. Will things inevitably crumble around us or be torn down? As rents are reduced we're getting neighbors who are less interested in the aesthetics of the place. Is depreciation in this economy inevitable? Is there a pattern we should be aware of?

Can we ask for an addendum to our lease requiring alternative housing if another leak occurs? This one has already been more hassle than we could manage again. (Think scheduling, time, covering furniture, chemical smells, mold…) We can't imagine why our manager is resisting the simple step of checking out the roof unless it's some kind of power-thing, in which case we want something in place to protect ourselves. Going over the manager's head is not an option. Before any of this occurred we learned that the owner and manager have a very close relationship that closes ranks around any constructive criticism. The manager brings in tenants and keeps costs down, however short-sighted the results. So far associations have been ineffective and we've been cautioned against organizing. We don't have the energy for it right now, either. We've been here for one year but I was here alone about ten years ago before things changed and it was great.
posted by Pamelayne to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Never trust a landlord/manager who doesn't care about fixing a roof. It's like eating at a restaurant where the chef doesn't care that rats are eating everything in the pantry.
posted by ifandonlyif at 8:47 PM on June 12, 2010 [8 favorites]

(That is to say, that's the pattern to watch out for... certain maintenance can be deferred, a roof cannot.)
posted by ifandonlyif at 8:48 PM on June 12, 2010

If you were in Seattle I'd recommend the Seattle Solidarity Network.

They help people get the changes they need. Maybe there is something similar in your area? If not, you can copy their model and organize! I know you don't have the energy for it, but that is what it takes. Or finding out your landlord/tenant laws and getting them enforced.

He talks at length all around an issue in what feels like a desperate effort to make us forget what we're asking for. I find this maddening and would appreciate some guidance here as we really want to maintain a positive relationship

It doesn't sound like you have a positive relationship with these folks anyways. What relationship are you looking to maintain with these clown shoes while there continues to be a hole in your roof?
posted by Repression Jones at 11:54 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

LOL RJ. That's a dose of solidarity right there. Thank you.
posted by Pamelayne at 12:34 AM on June 13, 2010

Maybe talk to a lawyer? I'm pretty sure that landlords have a legal responsibility to fix stuff like this.
posted by delmoi at 1:44 AM on June 13, 2010

Yes, that's true. I'm realizing I should have tagged this with Human Relations as that seems to be the rub rub. We don't want to go on nuclear on his…talk but rather make it worth his while professionally AND personally. We know it's not our responsibility to bend over backwards but we like it here, mostly, and want to fix this one aspect that isn't working so well.
posted by Pamelayne at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2010

I work in property management and would advise you to look for another place to live. You've brought this important issue to their attention and they are sidestepping it. Since you seem to have had a good experience here in the past, that means something has changed. Maybe someone got a drug habit, or a serious illness, or has money problems in other areas and is diverting funds from your building to cover.

Whatever the reason, if a complex starts getting visibly worse and attracting lesser tenants who don't care about the aesthetics of the place it's just going to go into a downwards spiral.

Any energy you're using in trying to talk sense into the management you should be using to research and obtain better living arrangements elsewhere.
posted by Melsky at 7:25 AM on June 13, 2010

Stop having verbal conversations; start saving and documenting written correspondence. Also, look into what it legally takes to withold rent. I don't know the law where you are, but if this is a problem that is damaging your personal property and requiring you to spend money to fix, to have a dry and livable room, I think in some places, with a certain amount of prior warning, you can withold that cost from your rent.
posted by salvia at 1:44 PM on June 13, 2010

This really feels right; thanks. He has resisted our requests for email communications but we will insist. It brings tremendous relief to know we need not listen to him carry on in that way.
posted by Pamelayne at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2010

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