How can I murder my fridge in a way that rules out foul play?
June 30, 2007 9:06 AM   Subscribe

How can I murder my fridge in a way that rules out foul play?

It is old, ugly and falling apart. The door seal has been repaired with masking tape and two shelfs are broken. My property management company works very hard at not spending any money on the house - it took us yelling at them several times to get them to replace the broken heater last winter.

So the plan is to put the food in coolers and break the fridge. Obviously it would be bad if they looked at it and could tell we did it, so any ideas of how to pull off the perfect fridge murder?
posted by crawfishpopsicle to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You shouldn't need to! I feel your pain, but this is a dangerous plan. Screwing renters is part of the business model for neglectful managers like this - so if this plan backfires, you could be looking at the bill for a new fridge.

It would be more useful, and sadly, more time-consuming, to take extensive photographs of the fridge's condition, keep a log of the time you spend trying to get your landlords to do something about it, read up on renter rights in your area and make it clear that you aren't afraid of involving the BBB in this affair.

Even if you don't get a new fridge, you'll have at least built up an ample body of evidence for when you gotta take the owners to small claims court to get your deposit back.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:20 AM on June 30, 2007


I predict that if the motor on your fridge burns out that it will be long after the coolers get warm that it gets replaced. You don't say anything about the fridge not working, sounds like you just want a new fridge because it is ugly. Didn't you see what it looked like when you chose to rent the place?

I could tell you how to do this, and even point out a very obvious problem in your plan you have not thought of, but I'm not going to help you rip off your landlord. I know you feel justified in doing this because they were so slow to respond on the heater, but do you realize that the property mgt co won't actually be out any money for this? They will just bill your landlord for it and probably charge them extra to boot.
posted by yohko at 9:38 AM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Eattheweak,
You are probably right, but I really want to kill the fridge! If I don't get any good murder tips I will follow your suggestions. Thanks!

btw, if you are looking for a place in pdx, watch out for these guys
posted by crawfishpopsicle at 9:41 AM on June 30, 2007


Was the fridge like that when you moved into the house? Did they promise you that the fridge would be replaced?

I don't know how to break a fridge, but did they break a condition of your rental agreement? Perhaps that's leverage to get it replaced?
posted by 26.2 at 9:42 AM on June 30, 2007


yohko, crawfishpopsicle is not just saying that it's ugly. The door seal is duct taped together - meaning the door doesn't seal properly which would compromise the inside temperature, and the shelves are broken. It's hard to store food in a fridge with no (or few) shelves and a compromised seal.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:43 AM on June 30, 2007


He didn't just say it was ugly... broken shelves reduce it's capacity, and a damaged seal means they are paying more electricity to run it than they should.
posted by happyturtle at 9:47 AM on June 30, 2007


Call your local renter's advocate group, Tenant's Union, or whatever they have there. They'll know a good way to go about it. Alternatively you could tell the management company to take it away because you just bought a better one for $10 on Craigslist. Depending on your finances it may be the easier way.
posted by rhizome at 9:50 AM on June 30, 2007


Oh, and I'd have to say that it would look awfully suspicious if the fridge died and no food was ruined, Mr. Cooler.
posted by rhizome at 9:52 AM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here is how to do it.
posted by caddis at 9:53 AM on June 30, 2007


yohko,
You are right, the fridge does work. but, as I mentioned, the door seal is cracked and was "fixed" with masking tape. I'm sure this makes it much less efficient, not that a 25 year old fridge can be considered efficient. Also two of the shelfs are broken. It has served well during it's long life and it is now ready to be replaced with a new, clean, efficient fridge.

I am not trying to rip off anyone. This is a beautiful old house that has been totally neglected for years. Now that the neighborhood is becoming more desirable, they raised the rent on us. The value of the house has increased drastically over the last 5 years , but the owner bought the house in the 80s for nothing . They have done nothing to justify a rent increase (also the property tax is at a very very low $467.94/ year).

Any reasonable landlord would agree that a new fridge not much to ask in this situation. It is an old piece of crap!
posted by crawfishpopsicle at 9:57 AM on June 30, 2007


Does the fridge use a CFC refrigerant? Since it's old and poorly maintained, it may not have been converted over to a newer refrigerant. Check the back to see if anything says "R-11", "R-12", or Freon.

If it uses CFCs, then you may be able to remove the refrigerant by hiring someone to remove it safely. Once the refrigerant is gone, the fridge will not work at all. Complain to your landlord that it must've developed a slow leak.

Recharging the refrigerant may either be illegal or so expensive that the landlord will have to choose between retrofitting or replacement. Retrofitting is also pretty expensive, and you just might get it replaced.

This way, you get a new fridge and help save the environment.

Alternatively, depending on how much fridge space you need, you could find some college students looking to sell dorm fridges (the larger 3 cubic foot variety are best) and buy two. Keep one really cold as the 'freezer' and the other a little warmer as the fridge.
posted by jedicus at 10:00 AM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


The risk with your plan is that the property manager might not buy you a new fridge. They might simply replace it with an even uglier/nastier one than the one you've got now.
posted by amyms at 10:00 AM on June 30, 2007


they raised the rent on us

Did you just get the notice? If so, it is a good time to negotiate for a new fridge, or anything else you might want.

I'll relent on my position and point out that if someone's fridge breaks, it would be very suspicious for them to have all their food cold in coolers. Usually, you know the fridge is broken when it gets warm...
posted by yohko at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2007


Beware - amyms is right! When I lived in my old apartment the landlord was going to replace all the fridges because they were all about 25 years old and one had started on fire. When it came my turn to get a new fridge, he just gave me the nicest of the reject fridges that he had replaced previously. When I complained enough he did get me a new fridge, but it was way smaller and wasn't as cold as my old fridge.

So yeah, watch out. Your landlord sounds like he's the type to pull something like that too.
posted by christinetheslp at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2007


crawfish: does it keep a temperature below 40 degrees consistently? does it take 20-30 minutes for it cool down back to that temp once you've opened the door and put stuff in it?

You can make a health code argument that it is not acting as a refridgerator should if it can't stay cold enough. I would suggest getting an external digital thermometer at radio shack (like 20-30 bucks) that is used for 'out door temps' and stick the sensor inside it. I had a similar issue with a past landlord, but once I mentioned that I was actually using a thermometer and it isn't considered functional if the temps weren't consistently low enough.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2007


Option 1: "I was chipping away with an icepick trying to remove all the built-up ice in the freezer and I must have hit the refridgerant line, as there was this big cloud of gas that rushed out and now it doesn't work." This is actually a scenario that's not all that uncommon. If you have an environmental conscious it's not the best route as R-12 is pretty seriously bad stuff for the ozone layer (and why it's been strictly banned for a few decades.)

Option 2: Place it on its side and leave a door open, causing the compresser motor to run constantly while being starved of lubrication. Not sure if this would actually work, but if it did the failure method would offer extreme plausible deniability as compresser motor failures are fairly common. Of course, you put it back upright and tell them you already threw out all the rotted food.

I think leaning on them from the tenant rights angle is actually the best way though.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2007


Man, I didn't expect such reasonable answers, maybe it isn't the best idea- but it sure would have felt good, assuming we got a nice new fridge out of the deal!
posted by crawfishpopsicle at 11:29 AM on June 30, 2007


You could always do what my mom did when her landlord refused to buy her a new fridge: buy yourself a new one and store the old one somewhere until you move out. Sure, you're screwing over the next set of tenants and have to pay for the fridge, but you're guaranteed a new, energy efficient fridge with a warantee.
posted by blueskiesinside at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2007


FWIW, an old roommate of mine actually DID poke a hole in the freezer while chipping away at the layer of frost build-up in our cruddy old fridge. It made a LOUD pop and then gas started spewing from the hole. We called the management company immediately - Oh, they were so sorry, yes, the old fridge was a real clunker, we're sorry you had to deal with the ice build-up, oh, sure, sit tight, we'll take care of it. Bound to happen. Don't worry about it.

After two weeks of living out of a cooler and eating mostly canned goods, we had our brand spankin' new fridge.

The management company then deducted the cost of the new fridge from our security deposit when we moved a little over a year later. We'd poked a hole in the freezer, after all. Basically they said take it to court if you think you have a case.

Just keep badgering them, is my feeling. Make alot of noise - politely yet firmly. Talk to everybody in the office Be a very sweet, delightful, really annoying thorn in everybody's side. E-mails, phone calls, voicemails, the whole nine. Make the first phone call of your day to them EVERY day. They'll probably determine you're a crank and replace it just to shut you up. It may take some time, but the squeaky wheel ultimately gets more grease, I've found.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2007



The management company then deducted the cost of the new fridge from our security deposit when we moved a little over a year later. We'd poked a hole in the freezer, after all. Basically they said take it to court if you think you have a case.


That is why you always withhold the last months rent and just tell them to take it out of the security deposit. The damage you caused was the value of the old fridge, not the new one.
posted by caddis at 12:29 PM on June 30, 2007


I too want our fridge to die. We've lived here for 10 years and asking for a new fridge doesn't seem unreasonable. People who just moved into this building get new stoves and fridges. Seems like there should be some type of small reward for loyalty.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:34 PM on June 30, 2007


Not if you live in Chicago, you can't. Also, every lease I signed while living there has a specific clause written into it to this effect. (Scroll down to the "Security Deposit" section.) So, no, you can't always do that; would that you could.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:38 PM on June 30, 2007


(My last response is to caddis, fyi.)
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:39 PM on June 30, 2007


Now that the neighborhood is becoming more desirable, they raised the rent on us. The value of the house has increased drastically over the last 5 years , but the owner bought the house in the 80s for nothing . They have done nothing to justify a rent increase (also the property tax is at a very very low $467.94/ year).

What the owner bought it for is irrelevant. What they've done to justify the rent increase is risk buying property in an undesirable neighborhood, betting that it will become desirable. They've had their money tied up in that property for a couple decades now. They get to charge what the market will bear, within certain restrictions in place to protect tenants.

I'm on your side on the refrigerator thing (not killing it, but thinking it should be replaced) but I don't think you help your case with that kind of rhetoric. If they're violating your tenants' rights, then go after them full force on that. Portland should be a pretty tenant-friendly kind of town. But I think you'd be best served by sticking to the facts. You pay your rent, you deserve a safe and healthy place to live -- that's your end of the bargain here. They are not providing adequate conditions and are failing to hold up their end of the bargain.
posted by katemonster at 2:40 PM on June 30, 2007


The management company then deducted the cost of the new fridge from our security deposit when we moved a little over a year later. We'd poked a hole in the freezer, after all. Basically they said take it to court if you think you have a case.

You should have taken them to court. They were entitled to the cost of the fridge, less depreciation, not a new fridge. If the fridge was 8 years old and was expected to last 10 years, then you should have paid 20% towards the cost of the replacement fridge. This would apply to the OP as well, if the landlord insists on making you pay for a replacement.
posted by happyturtle at 4:46 PM on June 30, 2007


Thanks, happyturtle. That's good to know. And maybe this will be helpful to the OP, I don't know. If not, I apologize for the derail and feel free to ding me for it.

How does one determine the "expiration date", for lack of a better term, for a refrigerator? When we moved in, if I recall, the thing looked maybe 15 to 20 years old already judging by the color (goldenrod yellow) and the writing on the drawers, etc. This was in '93. We had no user manual, no warrantee, no nothing, clearly. Say the OP is dealing with a similar situation - older fridge, the seals are shot, the damn thing accumulates frost, it's just past it's prime, in general. The shelves are a joke. Say they do "accidentally" poke a hole in the freezer, or some other "tragedy" befalls this crap appliance. Say the management company says, "Sorry, no. You have to pay for the appliance because we think you broke it." If it's past it's expiration date - essentially worthless - does that mean the OP, though responsible for the damage, doesn't owe them a thing because the fridge had lasted longer than it was originally manufactured to last? I'm curious.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 5:17 PM on June 30, 2007


The problem is that if you don't know what you are doing when messing with a major appliance you can wind up burning down your place. And while I myself have on occasion been tempted to burn all my stuff and collect the insurance (moving blows), the concomitant arson and man slaughter charges probably wouldn't make up for the savings in packing hassles. I'd have to concur with the above advice and recommend a more pedestrian negotiation-based approach.
posted by frieze at 6:15 PM on June 30, 2007


As near as I can figure, all you need to do is get it horizontal for a while and then stand it back up and plug it in.
posted by Huplescat at 7:18 PM on June 30, 2007


Just to put everyone's minds at ease I took the day and throughly cleaned the fridge, made a decent attempt to fix the shelfs (duct tape doesn't hold forever, but it seems to work for now) and I went out and bought a little mini fridge to make a little more room in the ol' bugger. Doesn't help the efficiency, but what the hell, it's just the ozone!

Thanks talking me down, I am an honest person and I probably would have felt bad in the long run. The funny thing is, now that I did all that, it is making a funny noise. Maybe it took the hint and will just commit suicide. Maybe I inadvertently committed the perfect murder!
posted by crawfishpopsicle at 7:21 PM on June 30, 2007


Heh. Thanks for the update, crawfishpopsicle. That would be the perfect capper to this thread.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:20 PM on June 30, 2007


Be a good tenant. Tell the landlord you will buy a new fridge in lieu of the rent rise, or say you will pay an extra $5 or whatever in rent if they get you a nice new one.
But, to kill a fridge invisibly, I suggest sticking a pencil in the compressor fan, remove it when it dies.
Do it while you can monitor it in case it overheats/bursts into falme (not that this is likely) not while you are sleeping.
posted by bystander at 8:56 PM on June 30, 2007


Rhomboid writes "I was chipping away with an icepick trying to remove all the built-up ice in the freezer and I must have hit the refridgerant line, as there was this big cloud of gas that rushed out and now it doesn't work.' This is actually a scenario that's not all that uncommon. If you have an environmental conscious it's not the best route as R-12 is pretty seriously bad stuff for the ozone layer (and why it's been strictly banned for a few decades.)"

Do not do this, you will pay for either the repair or a new fridge even if the landlord believes you when you tell them the damage was accidental.

Huplescat writes "near as I can figure, all you need to do is get it horizontal for a while and then stand it back up and plug it in. "

This is unlikely to do much of anything.

Best way to disable a fridge without any chance of getting caught is to run it on an over voltage. Hook a Variac up to your stove outlet across the 220 hot legs. Hook the other side up to your fridge plug. Slowly run the variac up to about 150Vs. If it doesn't quit immediately a few days will burn the compressor up and that is unlikely to be repaired for a unit in this one's condition.
posted by Mitheral at 10:09 PM on June 30, 2007


Portland's title 29 only requires that hookups for a fridge be provided, and not the actual appliance. While your property management company would almost certainly replace a broken fridge anyway, they would figure out how to pass the cost on to you unless you were not planning on re-upping your lease.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:27 AM on July 1, 2007


In terms of figuring out how old it is - if it's harvest gold it's from the 70's.
posted by la petite marie at 8:26 AM on July 1, 2007


Somehow I can’t shake the suspicion that your fridge is a tool of Satan. My link was supposed to say:

“If the fridge is tilted, carried sideways, or transported on its side, the refrigeration oil that is always present in the bottom of the compressor case can flow into the high side lines. This will happen much more easily on an older fridge because chances are greater the refrigeration oil will flow past a worn piston or valve than a new one. If enough of it is present once the fridge is started up again, this oil can be pushed through the condenser and may saturate the gas dryer. When this happens the only way of repairing it is to blow out the capillary line and replace the gas dryer. Of course the refrigerant has to be evacuated in this process and later replaced. This is a hermetic system repair and has to be performed by qualified personnel. The procedure can become quite costly....”

So what happened? You be the judge.
posted by Huplescat at 6:30 PM on July 1, 2007


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