Landlord dropped the ball, how can we get him to pick it back up?
May 25, 2014 1:17 PM   Subscribe

We are scheduled to move into a significantly renovated unit in less than a week; not one renovation has actually been done. What can we do?

(This is in Chicago)

Two months ago my SO and I signed a lease on an apartment, with a move-in date of May 31. The unit was pretty much a disaster--liveable, technically, but holes in the walls and floors, busted-up bathroom fixtures, missing tiles, etc. The landlord showed us what would be fixed, and showed us an identical unit that was being fixed at the time. We had no reason to doubt him, because we saw the actual work being done next door--workers and all!--and that would be a hell of a lot of effort for a con.

Well, my SO went there yesterday to measure doorways for the move (IN SIX DAYS) and not one thing has been touched. In two months. No renovations whatsoever, still cat-sized holes in the damn floor. I don't know whether it's outright fuckery, or bad management. The building engineer (a new employee, fwiw) seemed very surprised to hear we were moving in so soon, it was apparently the first he'd heard of it.

Yes, it was our fault for renting a unit that we wouldn't want as-is, our fault for not getting an itemized list in writing, and we will never ever again make that mistake, rest assured. We know that legally, we have no recourse. But either way, I have to call the management company to arrange a key pickup. Should I mention that we know about the absence of repairs and ask what his plans are? I don't want to threaten, I don't want out of the lease; I just want the apartment we were promised on the date which we were promised it. What is my best approach for achieving this, or as close to this as possible?

TL; DR, landlord has failed, either accidentally or possibly on purpose, to make substantial promised repairs before move-in. How can I approach him in a productive way so that we don't end up either homeless, or living in a shithole?

Bonus question: Landlords: we admit to a relative ignorance of renovation time. If you were making fixes to floors, walls, kitchen, and bath, but no plumbing or electrical changes, would you be able to get it done in 6 days??
posted by like_a_friend to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's entirely possible to get that sort of work done in time and done well. Doesn't mean that it will be done, but I'd not really worry about it more than just asking what's up until the landlord has actually failed to meet the agreed upon work by the time you move in.
posted by teishu at 1:22 PM on May 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Should I mention that we know about the absence of repairs and ask what his plans are?
Yes, oh yes, and STAT.
posted by seawallrunner at 1:28 PM on May 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

If they get off their butts and start immediately, yes it can be done in time. I'd speak up now tho.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:33 PM on May 25, 2014

Oh, and I am guessing this might have been a subcontractor issue. it happens.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2014

I don't want to threaten, I don't want out of the lease

Yes, yes you do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:39 PM on May 25, 2014 [30 favorites]

If circumstances line up perfectly the actual work could be done in 6 days.

The circumstances surrounding the renovations to the unit are virtually guaranteed not to line up perfectly.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:43 PM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would be worried, personally, and try to get out of the lease (which, at least in some cities, you can legally do if the apartment isn't ready for move in). Talk to the landlord ASAP and if they don't convince you that things are actually going to be taken care of, I would look for a different place...
posted by three_red_balloons at 1:56 PM on May 25, 2014

I just want to reiterate that in our area we do NOT have any legal right to get out of this lease, so long as the unit is technically liveable. (Which it is.) We also cannot afford to rent a different place without the security deposit money we've put down on the current place.

Unfortunately the management company is closed until Tuesday due to the holiday, so all we can do is spin our wheels.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:06 PM on May 25, 2014

No its not livable. Holes in the floor. And in the walls? Hasn't been painted? How can you know about issues like heat? You are in a super tenant friendly city. Call Metropolitan tenants orginization and follow their intructions. Trust me I've broken leases in Chicago for less.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

And you haven't even moved in yet. Is highly highly unlikely he'd actually try to legally enforce the lease especially as he doesn't even have to evict you.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:41 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Contact the Metropolitan Tenants' Organization. Let them tell you that you don't have a case before you decide you don't have a case.
posted by Etrigan at 2:45 PM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

The work that I envision from your description could be done--and done well--in six days, if it is just drywall patching, painting, and swapping out faucets. My regular contractors certainly could do it. But it usually takes an ungodly amount of time to get them in there and stuff screws up the scheduling all the time. For instance, it took less than one day for a 4 foot square replacement in the hardwood in my rental's dining room--including matching the finish and sealing (drying took the usual 24 hours), but it took me 3 months to find someone who would take on a tiny half-day job like that from the list of contractors people in the building regularly use.

But I think you're right to be concerned, especially since the building engineer--who would be coordinating all this or at least in the loop--did not know you were due to move in. This sounds like someone screwed something up with your unit. I would leave a message right away with the management company and follow-up Tuesday. Talk to someone at Met or CARPLS or go through the Illinois Legal Aid Online steps to find out your rights and remedies. You do have them, even for repairs that don't include heat or running water.

I'm assuming you have a May 31 move-out and a June 1 move-in and nowhere to be in between? If that's not the case, perhaps you an negotiate a new move-in or a cancellation of the lease. Maybe there's another unit in the building that's available or at another property they manage. If you have nowhere to go, and the repairs are not done before you move in, ask to convert to a month to month lease, or ask for a shorter term lease, and look to move on to a place with a more together management company.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:47 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah I would leave a voicemail saying you stopped by and were alarmed to see the work hadn't been done, and asking them to call you back to confirm it'll be finished before your move-in date. Then call whatever tenants' associations exist for Chicago and find out what your rights are, so that you're equipped when the management company calls you back.
posted by Susan PG at 2:51 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I would definitely call the landlord -- or, better yet, send an email: "Hi, this is like_a_friend. I was just talking with my SO about the apartment and he mentioned the repairs haven't been made. Based on our discussion when we visited the apartment, we agreed the apartment would be fixed and made safe before we moved into the unit. Could someone please give me a call just to confirm that the repairs to the walls and floors, the bathroom fixtures, the tiles, and so on will be done by June 1?"

If they tell you the repairs won't be made, I think you'll need to consider whether the apartment is safe and habitable. (IL has an implied warranty of habitability.) If you decide to move into the apartment, get a timetable for repairs in writing and be prepared to sue the landlord if he breaches the lease. NEVER WITHHOLD RENT without talking to an attorney.
posted by subgenius at 3:00 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Most landlords to have an emergency maintenance number. Call it and see what happens. You are about to become homeless if it's not livable. It is an emergency.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:32 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

You do not understand the term WARRANT OF HABITABILITY.

Look it up.

No, your unit is not legally habitable or legally rentable in the condition.


Send your landlord a DEMAND LETTER (another term you need to look up) telling him you need repairs or return of your deposit monies by the start date of your lease.

- The problem is, I would not recommend moving in to a repair rush job.

You might negotiate hotel fees and storage for the few days you will have to wait to move in IF the work gets completed.

But ultimately, you should proceed as if you will be going to small claims court to recover your deposit monies and expenses.

Good luck. Start documenting.
posted by jbenben at 4:02 PM on May 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

due respect, but you have not seen the conditions and you are mistating the law in Chicago with regard to repairs, even "cat sized holes" in the floor, with regard to habitable rental properties in the City of Chicago.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, time stamped pictures. Bring today's newspaper, maybe.
posted by Madamina at 5:09 PM on May 25, 2014

Don't call, don't email, go in person.

I don't want to threaten, I don't want out of the lease

Yes, yes you do.

Actually, sounds like you do want to live there, you just want to have the landlord live up to the agreement.

However, threatening (in the nicest possible way) to take back your deposit immediately may make things happen faster.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:19 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

You said you still wanted to move in, would that sentiment to live there still be true if after you move in the ceiling leaked water all over your computer and other belongings and the landlord just let it drip for a few weeks? Your landlord is giving you a big clue about the level or service you can expect for your money. Are you okay with that?
posted by saucysault at 5:56 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Actually, sounds like you do want to live there, you just want to have the landlord live up to the agreement.

Yes, we definitely consider the best possible outcome to be: all repairs are made and we move in as scheduled. The second best outcome would be: the most critical repairs are made, with a schedule to have additional repairs made on x, y, and z dates, and we move in as scheduled.

Per the advice above I think I'm going to draft a firm but friendly email saying pretty much exactly that. I will contact the MTO on Tuesday for advice on how to proceed if that email goes pear-shaped.

Obviously no, we're not comfortable with how this company apparently does business. Most likely, our relationship with them will be as brief as possible. (And in the meantime we are renters'-insured up to our teeth.) However, getting out of our lease before the move-date would require time and expenses that we simply cannot cover right now. We will do it if need be but it's definitely the nuclear option. On the off chance that this was a legitimate contractor/new employee/miscommunication or screw-up, though, we'd much much much rather give them a chance to make things right.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:07 PM on May 25, 2014

Nearly this exact scenario happened to me once many years ago (in St. Louis, not Chicago) and I just raised holy hell until stuff got fixed. I marched right in there and said, "This is not acceptable. This will be fixed. You will start fixing this now, as in, immediately after this conversation, if you expect to have my business. If you do not fix it I will NOT be moving in and I will NOT be paying for this apartment, which is not habitable according to local legal standards and you know it." IIRC I did wind up having to delay my move by a week but I was able to get the landlord to give me a discount on the first month's rent because of it.

Landlords of big complexes in general will be as lazy and assholish as you let them get away with. Don't let them get away with this.
posted by BlueJae at 10:59 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Oh, and just because you really need to move into this particular apartment ASAP doesn't mean the landlord has to know that when you're talking to them.)
posted by BlueJae at 11:00 PM on May 25, 2014

You do have recourse in any rented an apartment that was going to look like the one you saw. You don't have that, breach of contract. Done, don't move in unless done....I don't know where you are going to live but if you move in you accept....tell them that in writing.
posted by OhSusannah at 8:17 AM on May 27, 2014

UPDATE: through some kind of near-magic, all of the work was actually completed, and almost on time (they were doing the finishing work, putting appliances back and cleaning and such, as we moved in). We were unable to start moving stuff in a day or two early, which we had hoped for, but we were never promised that anyway.

One or two purely cosmetic things we have written permission to do ourselves and deduct from rent as we see fit, so we'll probably get around to those in a while, once we're settled. (We may not even deduct them as they are things we might want to take with us if we move in the future.)

What we did, for any future readers' reference:
• called/emailed and got spoken and written confirmation from the management that the unit would be move-in ready on the pre-arranged start date.
• were super duper awesomely friendly, but never so much as breathed that anything less than "done" would be okay.
• kept following up and dropping by the unit to confirm that work was being done.

Our decision to take this tack was based, largely, on their responses to us, which despite being frustrating and not what we wanted to hear, were never dishonest or defensive. There are many ways in which things could have gone get-a-lawyer-buddy pear-shaped, but in this case a measured but firm response really seems to have been the way to go.

TL; DR, not homeless, the place is great, would rent again, will hopefully live there for years. Thanks, AskMeFi!
posted by like_a_friend at 1:21 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

« Older Roller Hockey in Providence?   |   It's on the tip of someone's tongue Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.