I'm afraid of my new landlord
February 25, 2017 4:15 AM   Subscribe

Odd situation came up in which I thought I asked something reasonable, and now the landlord wants me to consider to dissolve the lease. I want to stay, but also how do I protect myself in the future and how do I best deal with this?

This is the first time I'm living on my own. Moved to a new city and found a condo rented by a couple, who seemed very nice. They kindly let me move in early because I had a safety issue with my Airbnb.

I moved in yesterday, did my inventory of the place and noted damaged items. We (the wife and I) have been texting back and forth about forms to fill out and General questions about the apartment. The landlords live 3 hours away.

She said her husband would be stopping by tomorrow to drop off a fire extinguisher and check on some small things. Because he was coming, I thought I would mention that one of the routers was smooshed into the wall, and that the bedroom light switch didn't work, and if they could look at that while he was here.

She immediately called me and asked if I had ever rented from a condo or apartment before (I have, for many years since college.) she said "this isn't a hotel, or Airbnb. There are some things we won't fix. Our last tenant only contacted us once. Maybe your expectations are too high for us and you should consider getting out of the lease. I don't want to be stressed or you to be stressed. You should be grateful you've found such a nice place with kind landlords like us" and etc.

I was surprised, since I was entirely silent for the entire conversation. She's a new mom so I wonder if she's stressed. But I didn't think it was unreasonable to ask about a bedroom light switch not working and the router being unusable, especially since her husband is coming sunday? This isn't a pattern of mine, but I JUST moved in and was hoping it could be addressed, that's all.

I'm calling her today. I don't want to leave, moving and finding a place was stressful enough.

My question: how should I frame this? I felt her comments were sort of condescending, but I feel like since she has the power, I should be ultra nice and not say anything. Also, how do I protect myself in the future? Can they just kick me out if they feel like I'm asking too much? I'll ask about the big issues I guess, but I'll have to handle the smaller things from now on. (But what would be a big issue vs small thing?)

They also need me to ask permission for a guest to stay longer than a week and now I'm afraid they're just going to tell me no when I do have a friend over for 1.5 weeks (only one friend who plans to visit in May) because I sort of feel like she hates me. I don't know if I have committed a terrible sin :(

For reference, this is the script I'm saying to her today: I've decided that I would like to stay with the lease. I have rented from apartments and condos for many years, which is why I didn't think asking about the light and router would be unreasonable as I had just been able to test them since I moved in two days ago and Husband was coming Sunday. I was surprised that you asked me to consider dissolving the lease after that. I don't plan on leaving the lease and in the future, I'll only ask about bigger issues. I want to start off on the right foot, so I appreciate the clear communication and being so accommodating with my early move in. I'm excited to start my time in City here.
posted by buttonedup to Home & Garden (47 answers total)
Do you have a signed lease and where is this taking place?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:22 AM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, what's in your lease? Why do they have the power?

Myself, I would be: "I'm sorry you feel that way, I have been in the rental market for quite some time now and think I have a reasonable expectation of the level of upkeep. The lease says you are responsible for xxx, and I notice that there is a light and a router not working. I obviously need to use the light in my bedroom and access wifi. I trust you will fix this as per the lease. If you prefer that I repair and deduct the costs from my rental, please let me know in writing. Otherwise, I expect you will fix the issues by x date. Thanks for your help!"

And then I would do some research about repair/deduct laws in your state.
posted by frumiousb at 4:26 AM on February 25, 2017 [22 favorites]

This sounds totally unreasonable on the landlords' part to me, but I don't know where you live. Don't let them steamroll you. Before you have the next conversation, research your local tenants' union; they'll likely have some 'know your rights' docs.

What you've asked is totally reasonable, and in any jurisdiction in which I've rented, would be their problem.
posted by pompomtom at 4:39 AM on February 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

(also: them having kids is not your problem. You're in a commercial relationship, which means obligations on each end.)
posted by pompomtom at 4:40 AM on February 25, 2017

I have signed a lease and am in maryland. But they live in Virginia, so I think the lease is under effect there.

My lease says: The Tenant agrees that the Premises, including any fixtures, appliances, and personal property described in this Lease or listed on the Schedules as part of the Premises, is in satisfactory operating and sanitary condition. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Tenant shall complete the list of exceptions provided by the Landlord(s) within five days of the Tenant’s occupancy (which I thought this included.)

Also says though: The Tenant and Landlord will inspect the dwelling unit for the purpose of making a written list of damages that exist at the commencement. This list is for information only, and Landlord/Agent shall not be obligated to make any repairs except as specified herein or as required by law.

But It says: Landlord/Agent is responsible for replacement of or repairs to structural elements of the building, major appliances (including washers and dryers) and electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems. Structural elements include, but are not limited to, the roof, floor and ceiling systems; bearing walls and partitions; columns, lintels, girders and load-bearing beams; foundation systems and footings; all interior stair-carriage systems;

So I guess they don't have to fix it? But I don't think it was necessary to say they'll dissolve the lease because I asked...

An update: the landlord emailed me just now and said they will "take a look at the light fixture and router for my sake." But now I'm afraid there's a catch
posted by buttonedup at 4:40 AM on February 25, 2017

The lease will be under Maryland law. Ordinarily the issue with the light switch is on the landlord and you should push back on that. Is the router from the isp? It's probably on you to fix that unless the place explicitly comes with wifi in the lease terms.
posted by JPD at 4:55 AM on February 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

She's telling you what type of landlords they'll be: totally hands-off and more personal than professional.

She's also telling you that she expects you to accept the place "as is" and never complain, regardless of what the lease says.

How would they know if you have a guest for 1.5 weeks?

I'd stay if you love the place, but would expect this initial interaction to set the tone for all further interactions.
posted by kapers at 4:56 AM on February 25, 2017 [24 favorites]

Leave and find a new place. They sound like they will not be very responsive landlords, and will not provide the level of service and communication that you expect. Living there will be anxiety-ridden as you worry about what will go wrong, how to fix it, etc. They probably won't renew the lease if one is signed.

There are plenty of rentals and life is too short to mess around with idiots. They told you they didn't want you. Find a new place.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 5:00 AM on February 25, 2017 [15 favorites]

You're asking about totally reasonable things. Don't let her bully you. Here is info on tenants rights from the Virginia Attorney General's office and from Maryland's Attorney General. Both state that in order for a landlord to evict you, the landlord has to go through the proper eviction procedure. So they can't just toss you out on your butt for asking about light switches.
posted by colfax at 5:03 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how they would find out someone was staying 1.5 weeks other than the water bill since they include that in the rent, but I'm paranoid that they'll try to find out and push me out.

@Geckwoistmeinauto what if my moving company is already on the way with my stuff to this address? My new company already paid for moving costs and that cost is now spent. I just don't have the funds (or people power, don't know anyone in this state) to move to another place.
posted by buttonedup at 5:04 AM on February 25, 2017

I have signed a lease and am in maryland. But they live in Virginia, so I think the lease is under effect there.
I don't think so. The relevant laws and regulations are the ones in the jurisdiction where your apartment is located.

My landlord is very much like this. He's an asshole, and he's kind of incompetent, and he's an inexperienced landlord who is in way over his head. Honestly, dealing with him is an enormous pain in the ass, and if I had to do it over again, I might take a chance to break the lease on day 1. One of his favorite tricks is to try to make me feel like my expectations are unreasonable. But they're not, and it doesn't sound like yours are, either. (When you say that the light switch in the bedroom doesn't work, does that mean that you can't turn the light on? This was an issue with my landlord. My garbage-person Donald-Trump-clone of a landlord tried to make me feel guilty for bothering him about the fact that my kitchen overhead light didn't work. He told me to change the lightbulbs. I said I had changed the lightbulbs, not being a moron, and it still didn't work. It took him two months to send someone to fix it.)

If you decide to stay, here is my advice:

1. Stop dealing with her over the phone. You need an email address which you can use to communicate with her. Keep copies of all of your communication.

2. Read your lease carefully. Look up the legal obligations of landlords and tenants in your jurisdiction. Knowing your rights will make you feel more confident about asserting yourself.

3. Keep your tone very professional and to-the-point. Don't apologize. No, seriously: don't apologize for bothering her. If she doesn't address your issues in a timely fashion, remind her that she has obligations to you under the terms of your lease and under local law. If she still doesn't address them, threaten to do whatever it is that tenants can do for recourse in your jurisdiction. (I threaten to get the repairs done and send Donald Trump, Jr. the bill. That usually works. In my old jurisdiction, I threatened to stop paying rent and put it in an escrow account until the problem was fixed. If there's a tenant's rights organization in your jurisdiction, they can help you figure out what you can legally do if your landlord refuses to make repairs.)

But seriously, if you can move out, I would. Dealing with my landlord is a source of stress in my life that I don't really need. On the other hand, things break in my apartment a lot, because my landlord is an asshole who bought shoddy fixtures and stuff, and you honestly may not need to talk to your landlord very much.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:14 AM on February 25, 2017 [17 favorites]

Every single moving company also has the ability to store things- at a cost. So you could take them up on the offer. You could suggest that you're up for that but that'll mean additional cost for you and you'd expect them to make sure this is cost neutral option for you ie pay for such costs...they'll say it was a misunderstanding. They feel bound by the lease...

And in any case it doesn't sound like you're keen to treat this like a negotiation. So on that basis get the guy to fix the light switch. Buy your own router, ask him to take theirs away or else ensure it is noted as damaged and unusually on the inventory you'll both agree on when he's there. Take lots of pictures of the place before he arrives, date and time stamped so you can prove this is the condition that's reflected on the inventory.

Enjoy living there. The good thing is that these people do not want to be contacted by you and that they live three hrs away. So don't give them another thought. If any of the major appliances listed in the lease give up the ghost talk to them. Water use can fluctuate for any reason - if questioned your story is - it was a hot week, you were showering more and changing your clothes more ie did more laundry.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:19 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've been a landlord. We never included wifi but a broken switch is something I'd've fixed right away. This isn't unreasonable.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:22 AM on February 25, 2017

Yeah, "just move" is much easier said than done. I don't blame you for wanting to work this out. You have a one year lease? It'll go by fast.

(On the other hand, the lion's share of your moving expenses is the fact that it was a long distance move. A local move is usually an order of magnitude cheaper. So if you did want to rescind the lease, or maybe switch to month to month to give yourself a little bit of time, it would be doable to move. You can find apartments even if you don't know anyone in town, that's what Craigslist and apartment brokers are for.)

I would not call her today unless she's asked you to. Just see how it goes tomorrow when you can talk to the guy face to face. Maybe you'll get along great and the ice will break. Either way you'll have a fuller picture of what the relationship is likely to be like.
posted by mama casserole at 5:23 AM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Last pop-in, it's a year long lease. I love the apartment and the location. She did ask for me to call her back in a day or so, but now her new email says to let her know by March 1st. There are things that need to be addressed in the email though that need a response today before he comes, so I figure I would just address the whole thing and say that I'm staying for the year.

They did tell me that they're trying to sell the condo and if that happens, will give me 90 days notice. So I guess I would have a chance to leave if they sell it and if things get weird. I guess I'll just have to adjust my expectations that the small things are my responsibility, the big things are theirs (and maybe I won't ask if a guest can stay longer than a week, unless they have eyes in the building. But I also don't want to get kicked out because of that, so I'll have to think about that.)
posted by buttonedup at 5:53 AM on February 25, 2017

Finding an apartment is only a source of stress until you move in. Staying in this apartment will be a continuous source of stress until the day you move out.
posted by thejoshu at 6:04 AM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

OMG, they are trying to sell the condo too??

Leave, leave, seriously leave. This is going to be a huge source of stress for you. I've lived in an apartment when the owner was trying to sell it before and I would never do it again. Particularly since your condo doesn't seem to be in pristine condition, it could take a lot of time before it actually sells and in the meantime you'll have realtors and potential buyers traipsing all over the apartment at all hours with barely 24 hours notice. Seriously this has red flags written all over it.
posted by peacheater at 6:09 AM on February 25, 2017 [40 favorites]

They did tell me that they're trying to sell the condo and if that happens, will give me 90 days notice.

Whoa. Is it on the market? Does your lease say anything about allowing access for showings? This could turn into a huge hassle for you if they want to show the place while you're living there.
posted by mama casserole at 6:10 AM on February 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Having lived in an apartment with truly abominable landlords I very much get the responses suggesting that you move now, and if that was more of an option that's what I'd be urging, too. It IS incredibly stressful to live in a place where everything that breaks becomes a weeks-long acrimonious back-and-forth with assholes who are happy to take your money but refuse to do their job. "Just move" is easier said than done, though, so I'll just hope that your meeting with whoever comes out to fix the light and router goes well, and that you do follow the advice to contact the tenants' union to figure out what your rights are (since you'll probably need to be referring to these rights not infrequently).

On top of that, though, I would also question what you said in your latest update: "They did tell me that they're trying to sell the condo and if that happens, will give me 90 days notice." When you do talk to your tenants' union, ask about this, too. When something similar happened to me in Chicago (not my 'bad landlords'), after the sale I still had until the end of my original lease to move - they didn't change the terms of my lease because they'd sold the property. I have ABSOLUTELY no idea if this was a law-governed requirement, or if these particular landlords were just nice - which is why I suggest asking your tenants' union about that part. Know what your actual rights are there.

(and on preview: either way, yes, if they're trying to sell it, the potential buyers traipsing through your home will be a huge pain)
posted by DingoMutt at 6:13 AM on February 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Some of this could depend on how the repairs go with the other landlord tomorrow. It's possible he will be easier to deal with and you can work with him in the future. I do not think you should call the woman again because those calls don't seem to be communicating well. Communicate via (only when necessary) texts or preferably email.
If the repairs tomorrow don't work and that owner is also hard to deal with, then you could inform them in writing that you will be getting the repairs completed and will bill them. Or if you then want to move, inform her of that in writing. But I'm really wondering if she will backtrack on that offer - it sounds like she was annoyed and said that to threaten you. Its possible she'll conveniently forget she told you that dissolving the lease is a possibility.
Do you have a friend who could be with you tomorrow to provide moral support?
ETA: don't tell them about your friend's visit. They both don't seem like landlords who will be agreeable to an extended visit and they don't seem like landlords who will notice an extra 3 days visit. I think if you're that anxious about disobeying that rule, your friend shouldn't stay for longer than a week.
posted by areaperson at 6:18 AM on February 25, 2017

They did tell me that they're trying to sell the condo and if that happens, will give me 90 days notice.
Do you have that in writing? That's another thing that you need to talk to the tenants' rights organization about. I once lived in an apartment that got sold, and the landlord leaned on me really heavily to get out quickly. They laid a massive guilt trip on me, and I ended up taking less time to look for a new apartment than I would have otherwise. I wish I had realized that I had rights and that my obligations to them were contractual and legal, rather than interpersonal. It really shouldn't have been my problem that their buyer wanted to move in immediately.

I probably sound like a terrible tenant. I haven't had problems with all my landlords, but I've been renting for 20 years, and I've had my share of both good and bad landlords.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:31 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is in the lease that it's 90 days notice. From what I can find in Maryland, this is ok. I don't think they would be obligated to let me finish out the entire lease if someone did buy it.
posted by buttonedup at 6:34 AM on February 25, 2017

As an aside: are you certain the light switch doesn't work? Sometimes they just control the power to an outlet, where you can plug in lamps, and it's possible you just don't have anything plugged into that outlet yet.

If there's a ceiling fixture or something that's obviously broken, then yeah, it's not remotely unreasonable to expect that to work when you move into the apartment.
posted by zachlipton at 6:35 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


It was talked over with my family and looking over moving costs, it just may be too expensive to move.

The light switch: There is no overhead light fixture in the room. The landlord told me before moving in that the switch controlled one of the outlets. Tried out every outlet, doesn't work. The outlets work, the switch does not lead to any of them. Because I expected the outlet to work with the switch as she said, I didn't think it would be unreasonable to ask about it. Perhaps i was wrong.
posted by buttonedup at 6:48 AM on February 25, 2017

If you can't afford to move then what are you going to do if you get kicked out in June? It will never be cheaper or more convenient to move than it is right now, with all your stuff already packed up and on a moving truck. As koahiatamadl said, your moving company can store your stuff temporarily and bring it to a different place. They haven't even dropped it off yet so it might not add much cost to do this. Ask them what your options are before you conclude it will be too expensive. Also ask your company if they would be willing to pay the additional cost or advance you the funds to pay for it.

I was all "a year will go by fast" upthread but that changed completely when I found out they're selling the place and will kick you out 3 months later. Walking over to your bedside lamp to turn it on instead of flipping a switch is a minuscule inconvenience compared to having people come tour your apartment on short notice. You've been handed a get-out-of-bad-lease-free card. Use it!
posted by mama casserole at 7:02 AM on February 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

I am not a lawyer, but I am a landlord. You hold all the cards here, and quite frankly they should be being nicer to you because as a tenant you can make their lives a living hell (I don't recommend this, I'm just saying).

So, a few things:
1. What your requested is reasonable. They should fix those things. Don't feel bad about asking.
2. Document, document, document. No longer call them on the phone. Only e-mail, you may need that later on. If you do talk on the phone or in person, follow up with an email that lists what was discussed.
3. Stop communicating with the wife if you can - is the husband more reasonable?
4. They are hands-off landlords, so they will never know that you have a visitor for 1.5 weeks.
5. They are hands-off landlords, so know your rights and be pushy with repairs. Know that they will try to squirm out of anything and plan accordingly (i.e. either don't care and do it yourself, or care and be a pain in their side - that's ok too).
6. Don't accept the jazz they are giving you. Shame on them for being jerks. This is on them.
7. If you feel insecure about your interactions with them, start brushing up on your local tenant laws. The lease is tied to the state that the property is in, not where the landlords live.
posted by Toddles at 7:03 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry again (I think this is important to address), the landlords told my father yesterday (who is here with me, thank goodness) that they don't plan on putting the place on the market for the next year. So I should not be concerned about the house being on the market for the next year.
posted by buttonedup at 7:19 AM on February 25, 2017

As a note, you need to get familiar with Maryland landlord/tenant laws. There are restrictions on what they can do, even if they tried to allow it in the lease.

With the rest, it sounds like you're high anxiety with the move and the bad Airbnb situation and she's not communicating well with you. Wait for the husband to arrive and talk things out in person rather than stressing.
posted by Candleman at 7:29 AM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

To address the issue of notifying them of guests staying more than a week, this is pretty standard in my SoCal experience, and is there to protect the landlord from visitors being able to claim your place as their legal residence. Most places actually forbid extended visitors for this reason but no, there's no immediate way for anyone to know unless they are checking in every day. It does sound alarming on its face, but this isn't really about who is staying with you.

In California, landlord/tenant laws are unambiguous and strongly favor the tenant so normally I'm an advocate for knowing your rights, sticking to your guns, and letting small claims court settle disputes. YMMV in Maryland, but you should know your rights anyway; as someone mentioned above, they can't just kick you out on a whim and a day's notice. And get everything in writing.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:37 AM on February 25, 2017

If you do want to move after the moving company puts your stuff in the condo, you can try acquiring cheap people power from metafiler or your city's subReddit

https://www.reddit.com/r/yourcityname probably works. Yeah, it will be strangers from the internet but the localized subredits like that are usually pretty decent. I'd feel comfortable enough asking my city-specific subreddit for moving help, with an offer off pizza. Take reasonable precautions of course.
posted by Jacen at 8:12 AM on February 25, 2017

I live in a college town and thus every management company is not super great because "college students, amirite?" My apartment management is great when emergencies happen but terrible about fixing small piddly shit. I'll ask about the piddly shit and they'll be all "okay, we'll look into it" and then forget (or "forget"). That's how management is when you ask them to do something they don't want to do. But when I've had emergencies, they took care of them, and as far as I'm concerned as long as I can get that done, I can deal with it for the other advantages of living there.

In this case, you asked to have a light fixed and their reaction was *gasp* "How dare you ask! GET THE FUCK OUT! We don't want you if you're going to *gasp* ask us things!" I get that if they live in another state, the last thing they want to do is drive to another state and fix your light switch, but JEEBUS, ripping you a new asshole for asking is not the correct thing to do here. If that's a fucking hardship for them, perhaps renting to people is not their ideal profession. And really, if they don't want to drive to Maryland, they should have some local handyman on retainer or something.

I have no idea on the legalities of paying someone on your own to fix the light switch and just not tell them you got it done and I probably shouldn't recommend that you do it, but....I'd be wondering if that's feasible.

What are these people going to do when you have a real emergency? I've had two floods in an apartment. What if your plumbing backs up? What if you're literally living in sewage and you can't possibly ignore it? Will these people just tell you to live in sewage? You cannot trust them to do the bare minimum of their job here. And that's why people are telling you to get out now--and that was even before this whole condo sale thing.

One way or another I do not think you will be living here long. Yes, I get it, you absolutely can't afford to move--but I think one way or another these people will be forcing you out soon because they are crazy. If I were you and absolutely could not move--I guess you will move in, but don't unpack your boxes and get comfortable.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

As devil's advocate, I will say nothing's more annoying than going over to a tenant's place to screw in a new lightbulb or deal with non-complaint complaints. Have you tried putting in a new lightbulb before telling your landlord your switch is broken? Is your router working? What's the problem with it being "smooshed" into a wall? Can you "unsmoosh" it easily by yourself?

That said, no, your landlord didn't deal with this the best way, which would have been to ask you these questions herself not to mention apologize for everything not working when you moved in, as it should.
posted by xammerboy at 8:48 AM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would see how things go when the husband comes by. It might be that the wife was just stressed and he will take care of things. Don't worry about getting back to the wife re the lease, since now that it is signed, the monkey is on their back to break it unless you tell them you want to do so. Which you can do in your own good time, should you so decide.

That said, I agree that the wife is telling you that she, at least, has problems with seeing this as a business relationship. Don't deal with her again, especially by phone. Instead, put everything in writing and refer to the lease terms when you do, e.g. "In accordance with clause XX, under which you are responsible for YY.."

And don't apologize or defend yourself. You are paying them good money for certain facilities and services, and they need to provide them.
posted by rpfields at 9:23 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

What? All this tension is around a switch that might've controlled one of the outlets but doesn't? (Did you even check both the top and bottom plugs? Sometimes it's just one or the other.) This is not the kind of thing you could "repair and deduct" because it doesn't impact the usability of the space at all. Especially as you knew about it before moving in. "In a room without an overhead fixture, I have to turn my lamp on and off myself using the lamp switch" doesn't come close to being a habitability issue, in my opinion. (Unless are overhead fixtures required by law now? I assume not, but...) And wireless internet isn't a utility that landlords are required to provide, at least several of mine haven't, so just contact an internet provider yourself and get your own router.

I personally agree with your landlord. It sounds like you want a higher level / different kind of rental than they are prepared to provide.
posted by salvia at 10:04 AM on February 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

I am unclear on the light switch thing. Is there a light it is supposed to control, and it doesn't? Or is there an outlet you guessed it controlled, but it's just an outlet?

Because sometimes light switches aren't actually connected to things (due to cheap bastard owners removing a fixture and not following through by installing a blank plate where the switch was).
posted by zippy at 10:08 AM on February 25, 2017

On review, I see your response. This is not the hill I would die on as a tenant.
posted by zippy at 10:09 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your description of the light switch problem is different than what I thought the problem was (no light.) I have lived in a lot of apartments and a switch that does nothing is more a quirk than a problem--- maybe worth casually asking about, definitely not worth demanding repair.

The router thing is also a non-issue. Good to document so you're not on the hook for damage, but certainly not a "fix this on day one" demand.

I'm not saying her reaction was professional, but now you know exactly what they expect. Sure, there are laws governing what they do, but it's not like you have the time, money, energy or expertise to be holding them to the laws for a year.

Truly, it does sound like she's right about this: you seem to expect a level of service that they aren't willing to provide and both parties are in for a year of stress.
posted by kapers at 10:15 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Following up (am I allowed to do this?)

Like I said, I didn't demand it to be fixed, but asked if it could be looked at since her husband was planning on coming Sunday anyways. I just don't understand her reaction. However, it's helpful to know that from her perspective, I could have seemed demanding or with too high expectations--but also that her response was not professional. The decision has been made to stay here and gamble. They seem to be responsive to bigger issues, and will contract someone here in Maryland if it's an emergency. Just spoke to the previous tenant, and she said they were pretty on the ball with bigger issues.

Thanks everyone for your help. I'll refer back to what was said here if something else happens.
posted by buttonedup at 10:22 AM on February 25, 2017

Take photos off EVERY square inch, WHILE a video is recording your efforts including a voice over of the "tour". These folks seem likely to be a pain so WHEN either side takes the other to court you can whip out the proof and say "well lookie here".
posted by Freedomboy at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also (following up on my answer) you weren't at all wrong to ask about the light switch or mention possible damage? to their networking gear the day before they visit to do maintenance. They could have just said "we'll take a look."

Instead, their response sounds weirdly aggressive. I feel like either I'm missing something here, or they are bonkers.
posted by zippy at 10:49 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just don't understand her reaction.

I think she was telling you as clearly as she could that things like this would not get repaired, before you were settled in, so you could decide if it works for you. It sounds like maybe she had a tenant with unreasonable expectations once?

I can see that you didn't think you were demanding it be fixed. From her perspective, asking that he "look at" it sounds like a request that he try to fix it.

But it is odd that she'd react the way she did. And even though I agree that this doesn't need fixed, I think her comments to you deserve some pushback. You don't want to let her bully you into silence.

I think in your shoes, I'd probably use a script like this:

"I wanted to follow up on your comment that maybe my standards are too high, because I'd like us to get off on the right foot with clear communication. I have rented from apartments and condos for many years, which is why I didn't think asking about the light and router would be unreasonable. I had just been able to test them and Husband was coming Sunday -- I thought maybe he could show me how they worked, or maybe it was just a blown fuse. I was surprised that you asked me to consider dissolving the lease after that. Previous landlords have encouraged me to contact them with maintenance issues to help prevent damage to the property. One thanked me for letting him know that the toilet was rocking back and forth because he said that the leak under the floor would've rotted out the floorboards. He said it was a $20 repair now vs. a $900 repair later. So, can you clarify, what kinds of things would you not want to know about? ...[Listen]...What would you decline to fix? ... Have you had other tenants make requests that you weren't able to fix?..."

I would try to get her on the defensive saying that yes, of course she'd want to know about little things (especially if they could become big things) and that of course she'd fix anything that was seriously impacting the safety or usability of the space. Hopefully you can end with something like "good, because I want us to have the kind of relationship where I can feel confident that if something major does go wrong, like a broken water heater, that you'll fix it promptly. And I want to be able to let you know what's going on with your property rather than having to decide for myself what could become a bigger problem if it isn't addressed vs what isn't a big deal."
posted by salvia at 11:24 AM on February 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would do salvia's script, except over email so you have their willingness to fix specific things in writing.
posted by delight at 11:48 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

"They kindly let me move in early because I had a safety issue with my Airbnb."

If they already bent over backward for you, so they may be a little miffed that instead of being appreciative, you jumped right into nitpicking. Letting you move in early probably save you a lot of money and hassle. They probably had to do extra work to get the place cleaned and ready for you earlier than expected. They could have pointed to the lease and said no, this is business, deal with your own problems.

You might consider thanking them for that kindness, if you haven't already, and do something nice to unruffle their feathers, for example a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine with a nice card.

Renting from private owners is a different experience from professionally managed buildings. You get a lower rent, less "service", and a nicer place. Both parties are placing a lot of trust in each other. It is to your benefit to have a cordial relationship.
posted by metaseeker at 12:04 PM on February 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

My mom is a small-time landlord and she is extremely hands-off. She makes that expectation known up-front. Basically, her deal is: I charge rent way below market, and in return, I expect you to treat this like your house. You do minor repairs and don't bug me about it. If something major needs to be taken care of (where "major" is defined as "costs over a month's rent", I think), you get three estimates and call me and we'll figure out how to split the cost, depending on what the situation is. I think this has happened once, when the house needed a new air conditioner.

She's had tenants in this house for the last almost-decade now and it's gone totally fine. I think she's had three families live there and each time someone was fixing to move out they found a friend who was eager to take the house because the rent is so low for the neighborhood, which is a pretty area with good schools. But the key is, she knows it's a big ask for renters, and she compensates her tenants accordingly. If they wanted a more "full-service" landlord experience she'd have to hire a property manager, and since she doesn't have to, she passes the savings on to them. It helps that all she pays for this property is the dirt-cheap property tax (it was her parents' house) so anything she makes off it is pure profit.

You don't mention whether your rent is below market, I don't think. But if it is, maybe the landlord assumes it's understood that you'll take care of some things yourself that a big complex would manage for you.
posted by potrzebie at 2:16 PM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

As an aside, when a light switch controls an outlet instead of a fixture, the outlet it controls is often installed upside-down for easy identification.

As another aside, I moved in June and thought my new place had a faulty outlet because neither the top or the bottom outlet worked when I plugged a lamp in.

It wasn't a bad outlet. It was a burnt-out light bulb.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also, it is often the case only one of the pair of outlets on a typical duplex outlet is switched. I have rooms where the top outlets are always on and the bottom outlets are switched. Did you try every outlet?
posted by ShooBoo at 5:05 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you do decide to move out, be sure not to do it before getting them to sign a Termination of Lease Agreement which explicitly states you are resolved of all responsibility. Otherwise you could move out and they could keep on charging you.
posted by fake at 5:27 AM on February 26, 2017

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