My landlord and safety
September 20, 2019 1:31 PM   Subscribe

What are reasonable expectations in this situation?

I am a petite woman (5'1, 100-odd pounds) who lives alone in a downtown apartment. The neighborhood is nice, but the specific corner that I live on is a little.... sketchy? I'm not sure of the right word. We have a lot of people, largely men, who just hang out outside of my building. They sit on the steps next door and try to talk to me or tell me I'm pretty or god knows what else whenever I walk by. We have a large homeless population, but the homeless people have been largely harmless. One entrance to the building is in an alleyway. There is no fence, so anyone can get in, and on a typical day there's a group of guys hanging out in the alley or behind the building doing... something? Not sure. Not weed; I could obviously smell that. They're just there and I'm always a little nervous when I walk by. We also have a lot cops around, people fighting, store downstairs got broken into once, large drunk crowd, etc etc.

The side door to the building doesn't always shut. I think the hinge is broken, so if you just let it close it SLAMS, but if you close it gently it doesn't click shut so literally anyone could stroll in. One day recently I walked in and the entire place smelled like urine. My landlord put up a sign saying you need to make sure the door clicks shut, but he has not actually fixed the door. The other tenants have largely ignored the sign, so the door has been left open multiple times since he put it up, and now he took the sign down and the door is still not fixed.

I've lived here two years. For the majority of that time, I've kept my bike in the stairway, out of the way, locked up. You can see it easily through the side door that doesn't always click shut. It has always been fine. Well, recently, I came downstairs and the seat, along with the metal part that the seat sits on, was gone. The back tire was bent, so the breaks are rubbing on it, and the two bolts for the front tire are gone, though the front tire is still there. TO BE FAIR, he had heating people here a ton over the winter because our heat broke (lol it's a joy living here) and they were doing work in the staircase, so they could have shoved it and bent the tire or (maybe?) caused the bolts to fall off? Not sure how that would have happened but anyway.

For what it's worth, the seat was literally torn and I don't think it could have possibly been worth anything. I feel like it was essentially vandalized.

The bike is fine. Obviously I'm not thrilled that I need it fixed, but it needed a tune up anyway and it's able to be fixed for a reasonable price. What concerns me is that either someone from the outside just let themselves in and fucked up my bike, or it was either someone who lives in the building OR a friend of theirs. None of these possibilities are great. We do have a tenant who literally just fucks shit up sometimes for no reason. They would turn off all the lights. My landlord put up signs basically saying lol plz don't and they ripped them up. He never figured out who it was and ended up replacing all of the light switches with outlets (???) so it's literally impossible to turn off the lights in the hall.

I guess I'm just wondering what I should reasonable expect from him here. To be fair, he has a nice bright light in the alley, something over the window so no one can break in (though nothing over the front door), and good lighting in the whole building. I also let these people in the other day who definitely did not live here, but I was leaving and they were literally at the door and what was I supposed to do? Try to stop them from getting in? They were two large men. Regardless, god knows who they were, and that was around when I noticed this, so I think I bear some responsibility here too. I'm also not always observant, so it could have been like this before and I just missed it.

Either way, I don't expect him to pay for it. I do expect him to fix the door so no one can get in. But like..... should I expect anything else? What kind of responsibility does a landlord have to make sure his tenants are safe? Because I know he has a tenant who literally will fuck shit up for the fun of it (i.e. the lights) that he never caught and could very well still be here. My friend was saying he should put up a fence so these people can't chill in the alley or behind the building, but is that really reasonable to ask? He's mad cheap so I doubt he'd do that.

I called him and he called me back at a time that I clearly told him on the message I was unavailable. He said nothing in the message about what happened, just said he was returning my call and that's it. I called him back when I was available, and he had left for the day. He has my number and I have his cell number, but we're only supposed to call his office, and he doesn't work there on weekends. He has not called me on his cell and his receptionist just told me he had gotten my message but said literally nothing about what happened or when I could expect to hear from him. So I can literally feel myself getting blown off.

He needs to fix the door--should I expect anyone else? It's a very conceivable possibility that this was done by someone who lives here or the friend of someone who lives here. I doubt he'd be able to figure out who it was, so I'm not sure if it's fair to expect him to do more than fix the door. Safety is absolutely more of a concern to me than my bike at this point.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Amy93 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
at the very minimum he needs to fix the door, and you need to push, and get other tenants to push, until it is fixed.

he has no responsibility to pay for your bike to get fixed. that's on you/your renter's insurance.

perhaps he could install security cameras in the alley, so if there every is an incident, police will have something to go on?

(fwiw, i lived in a building with a shitty door and we would regularly find people sleeping in our stairwells, and there was vandalism all the time. unfortunately, the leasing agency did not care unless we got super vocal about it.)
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:53 PM on September 20, 2019

No answer in this thread can be relied on to determine what your landlord has to do because laws vary by jurisdiction, but you can contact the free legal aid services in your area to see if you can consult with an attorney about serious habitability concerns in your building. An attorney can help you identify your rights, list your concerns in writing, and send a request to your landlord for repairs and remediation. It is often far more expensive to get sued for habitability violations than it is to fix them, and an attorney in your jurisdiction can help explain your specific options.
posted by katra at 2:12 PM on September 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

It sounds as if your landlord is getting the big stuff (heating/lights) fixed. He’s also trying to manage the door situation but clearly he could do more there. What exactly he is obliged to do is defined by local requirements. You can always ask for more but he can ignore those requests.

I get that there are aspects of the environment that make you feel uncomfortable at times but it doesn’t sound as if your landlord’s responsiveness is the main problem. You live in what seems to be an older building. Your neighbourhood is perhaps not objectively dangerous but still somewhere where vandalism and low level crime are not uncommon and where people linger in alleys. Your landlord can’t help with that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:36 PM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I know he can't change the surrounding neighborhood--I don't need to imply that he should. I also know he's addressing the big things. I was just wondering what I should expect him to do about it, besides fixing the door, because I genuinely have no idea what his responsibility is here. I do know now that the other bike that used to be next to mine was stolen. And mine was vandalized. Does he have any responsibility to try to figure out if it's a tenant, or would we need to report it to the police for that to happen or??

Sorry lol I'm just clueless because this is a totally new situation for me. Not trying to threadsit. I just want to be VERY CLEAR that I'm not asking him to change anything that happens outside of the building, because that's not his responsibility. I WOULD really love him to get people to stop loitering on the property because that makes me feel uneasy (and this is genuinely the first time I have ever felt uneasy living here--I grew up in the city and I'm not generally nervous about these things) but I don't know if that's possible or reasonable.

posted by Amy93 at 3:05 PM on September 20, 2019

You could also contact your city's health department, because property owners often do have responsibilities for their land, and land adjacent to their property. People don't typically just own buildings, and they typically have a variety of enforceable responsibilities related to the surrounding area, particularly if there are hazards, waste, or other nuisances on them.
posted by katra at 3:24 PM on September 20, 2019

Is the building layout reasonable to ask him to just permanently close/lock the alley door from the outside? So people could exit in emergencies (with an alarm) but not enter? He's probably not required to do so but also probably doesn't want to deal with problems in his building from non-tenants.

Calling the police non-emergency line is an option to find out what they'll take reports for / what they can do. I had a related issue to yours and got the number for a neighborhood resource officer who was a reasonable human being and very helpful. YMMV depending on the tone of policing in your area.

Also, your safety comes first, but it's totally within bounds to tell people trying to get in when you exit that no, they need to call the person they're meeting to let them in. You don't have to physically confront people to push back a bit and their response to this reasonable request might tell you a lot.
posted by momus_window at 4:19 PM on September 20, 2019

All of these responses and your considerations of the landlord's limitations are way too polite. You need to pitch a fucking fit about this. You could get assaulted, robbed, murdered. I'm not trying to scare you, but I'm trying to emphasize that a bright light over a window isn't fucking shit. Door fixed at a minimum, but I would also push for a fence. Start calling this guy's cell. Show up at the office. Start looking into local laws and tenant rights groups pronto. Talk to the other residents of the building. No, pushing back on big dudes trying to enter the building when you are 5 feet tall is not something you should put on yourself.
posted by unannihilated at 5:40 PM on September 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

pushing back on big dudes trying to enter the building when you are 5 feet tall is not something you should put on yourself

Letting people you don't know into the building will defeat just about any security measure put into place. You actually do have some responsibility here. Cost of urban life.

Unfortunately, even in the most strict of jurisdictions, you're not going to get a lot of traction on just general safety issues as a legal matter. You should definitely find out your rights, but they won't be a fixit. (Whether that should be the case or not, it is.) The side door is what I'd focus on. His responsiveness will probably depend on his perception of your value as a tenant--signs aren't good there so far. Do you know any of your neighbors? Getting multiple complaints may increase the pressure on him. But ultimately you may not be able to do much but move.
posted by praemunire at 6:14 PM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

You need to develop enough assertiveness to not let people into the building, and you should expect that from other tenants. Just smile, and suggest big dude call their friend in the building to be let in. Talk to other tenants, get others to contact the landlord about the door; functional locking door are an important requirement. Landlords and most business people call when it's convenient for them, keep calling.

Taking self-defense classes - whatever's available - is good exercise, and is said to help develop physical confidence. dunno, but might be worth trying.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 PM on September 20, 2019

Landlords get fined if they cops come too many times for this exact reason. So everytime you see a crime, like your bike being vandalized, call the cops.

Dont let people in the building.

The guys who are just hanging around in an alley are living a life of crime. Probably selling drugs but who knows, really. If its a public alley you can't stop them but if its not you can request a gate. I'd use the other door personally.
posted by fshgrl at 9:25 PM on September 20, 2019

pushing back on big dudes trying to enter the building when you are 5 feet tall is not something you should put on yourself

My point here was not that you should never push back on strangers entering the building (you should when it feels safe to do so) but more that fighting this shouldn't be all on the individual. The landlord is basically rolling out a welcome mat for people who want to commit various crimes.
posted by unannihilated at 6:57 AM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

The guys who are just hanging around in an alley are living a life of crime. Probably selling drugs but who knows, really. If its a public alley you can't stop them but if its not you can request a gate. I'd use the other door personally.

I don’t think we have enough information from the OP to casually label folks as criminals simply because they like to socialize outside. This doesn’t mean, of course, that they’re not intimidating to the OP, just that we don’t have any evidence that they are breaking the law.

That broken side door feels like a really big deal - that would make me uncomfortable, too. I just wanted to add that pictures or a video of the door may help to impress your seriousness to your landlord. In this kind of situation, emails often trump phone calls because they develop a clear, undeniable paper trail.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 9:20 AM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Um, guys? Are you really suggesting a small woman should confront two random dudes trying to slip into the building as she is leaving? So she closes the door and they can't get in-- then what? They are pissed off and follow her down the street harassing her. I just don't have enough faith in sketchy dudes to think they would be fine with her obstructing them like this.
posted by whistle pig at 9:25 AM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

[One deleted, please don’t get into back and forth with other commenters, and please bring it back to “what’s the landlords responsibility here”.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:27 PM on September 21, 2019

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