What to do when your building has no hot water?
November 6, 2013 12:25 PM   Subscribe

My building has had no hot water at all since yesterday morning and I'm wondering if there's anything I can do about it.

So my question is not about how to get the hot water back since I'm assuming there's nothing I can do about that except wait, but if there's any way to make my management actually accountable for this horrible situation. I live in Chicago, and have had MASSIVE problems of a similar kind since living here and I'm just fed up with not being able to do anything. The other problems I'm referring to which I won't go into here since that would be another complicated post were more localized -- not building wide. But now there is no hot water due to "a leak in the hot water tank". They've sent out a notice saying they are trying to solve it as soon as possible and "thank you for your patience", I've not heard anything since, and the water is still just short of ice cold. I can't take a shower and have had to boil water to do the dishes ( I cook all my meals at home), brush my teeth, wash my face and hands (the water is cold enough that it's uncomfortable to even wash your hands in). I'm not going to attempt to wash my hair with boiling water as I have long, thick, course, wavy hair, and that's too much. I think I heard somewhere that if a problem occurs with a basic amenity of your apartment you're allowed to deduct a certain amount of rent per day until it's fixed if you state it in writing that you will be doing so. Is this right? Does it depend on something that's said or not said in my lease? Any other advice? Because of the past dealing with this company I unfortunately can't assume this will even be fixed today. Thanks.
posted by Blitz to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
§ 13-196-420 Residential buildings – Cold and hot water lines.

§ 13-196-430 Residential buildings – Hot water to be furnished.

§ 5-12-110 Tenants Remedies:
(a) Noncompliance by Landlord. If there is material noncompliance by the landlord...the tenant under the rental agreement may deliver a written notice to the landlord specifying the acts and/or omissions constituting the material noncompliance and specifying that the rental agreement will terminate on a date not less than 14 days after receipt of the notice by the landlord, unless the material noncompliance is remedied by the landlord within the time period specified in the notice. If the material noncompliance is not remedied within the time period so specified in the notice, the rental agreement shall terminate, and the tenant shall deliver possession of the dwelling unit to the landlord within 30 days after the expiration of the time period specified in the notice. If possession shall not be so delivered, then the tenant's notice shall be deemed withdrawn and the lease shall remain in full force and effect. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent, security and interest recoverable by the tenant under Section 5-12-080.
Basically, if this goes on for two weeks after you've sent a written acknowledgment of the problem, you're legally allowed to break your lease and you have 30 days to move out. I recommend consulting a tenant's rights organization for more information.

IANAL disclaimer!
posted by fartbutt at 12:36 PM on November 6, 2013

And here's a tenant's rights group you can call. Give them a ring and see how they can help.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:39 PM on November 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks! I can't consult the tenant's rights organization here since it costs money that I don't have. I also don't want to move out -- I wish that were an option. Is it really all or nothing? I mean I either get out of my lease or do nothing at all?
posted by Blitz at 12:39 PM on November 6, 2013

Check this out - the blogger cites more of the code which states that you might be able to find substitute housing or expense the repair, but this isn't something I would personally pursue unless I had the help of an attorney.
posted by fartbutt at 12:43 PM on November 6, 2013

are you a college student? check to see if your campus has a legal clinic. many universities have a specific office for landlord-tenant issues.
posted by desjardins at 12:46 PM on November 6, 2013

You can contact the building management and ask about rent abatement. Propose a figure and see if they'll agree to it.

An alternative for the time being (I've BEEN in your situation) is to see if there's a gym in your building where you might shower, or even a vacant apartmemt that's not affected that might be opened to residents until the problem is fixed.

There may be a shower in your office at work (pretty common if there's a gym in the building.)

Another option would be to ask about getting a hotel room while you have no hot water.

If you know where the water heater is, you can turn it back on. Let it freaking leak. Not your problem!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:53 PM on November 6, 2013

Short-term: Can you find a gym with a $5 day pass, or maybe a little more?

Time in a steam room and a long hot shower might give you the strength to deal with your legal issues. Is there a Y near you?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:53 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

CARPLS or LAF are who you want for free and sliding scale services. ILAO is your best bet for self-help. Note that filing costs if you try to sue management are quite high, even in housing court, and if you have a steady income, you will not qualify for fee waivers.

Seriously, these are the big three for legal aid and self help resources in the Chicago area and they are very good at it. There is a help desk outside housing court for assistance in court, if you go that fair.

You might try Lawyers Committee for Better Housing if it's a large management company or a chronic problem with management not keeping conditions liveable. They also have self help resources, but ILAO is the most comprehensive.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:54 PM on November 6, 2013

Response by poster: Okay, so I guess this was bad timing as I just checked the hot water, and astonishingly, it's back on! I guess they actually take these things seriously when it's building wide and not just me. However, thanks for everyone's help, these answers probably actually pertain to the other problems I referred to so it was helpful to get me thinking about that. Thanks!
posted by Blitz at 1:17 PM on November 6, 2013

It's absolutely a violation of landlord-tenant law, but in the meantime, the gym suggestion is good, and also...bucket showers! My hot water went out for two days last year, and I heated a pot of water on the stove, used a sponge, and took a genuine bucket shower!

Good luck!
posted by kbennett289 at 4:35 PM on November 6, 2013

In the future, you can add boiling water to your bathtub in an extreme hygiene emergency situation. Been there.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:47 PM on November 6, 2013

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