Oh, you want working windows? Yeah, it's gonna be a while.
August 4, 2008 7:08 PM   Subscribe

I moved into an apartment in a Victorian house last Friday and about 5 minutes after I start moving in I realize that the windows are in terrible shape. The wood frames have rotted, some windows don't open, some don't close. At least one had a broken frame like it broke when someone was trying to shit the window. A couple have cracked panes. Probably half of them are missing the locking mechanisms so I can't lock them.

When I initially went to view the apartment it was being lived in and the windows were covered with shades or curtains. The landlord made a point of telling me how he had just renovated or restored certain parts of the house (floor, kitchen, bathroom) within the last 3 year. But apparently omitted the part about the windows being complete crap.

Before you start telling me I should have know better or done a more thorough inspection before moving in, please don't, I realize that now and it won't help.

He was out of the country for a couple of weeks, returning yesterday, so I couldn't get a hold of him. I also didn't sign the lease he had emailed me previously in anticipation of doing it when he got back. He emails me today to say he's back and to let him know of any residual issues from the previous tenants. Of course I voiced my concerns about the windows (via email), especially relating to security (apt is on the first floor). And I asked him if he had plans to replace them.

My question is: do I have any legal grounds or a reasonable expectation that certain features of a rental apartment (in this case the windows) be at least operational and not falling apart? What can I say to him if he counters with "well, you should've been more thorough when you came to look at the place"? I'm in Melrose MA if it matters.

I guess I'm looking more for ammo for when I speak with him rather than advice on putting plastic sheeting on the windows for insulation and such.

Thank you.
posted by eatcake to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I also didn't sign the lease he had emailed me previously in anticipation of doing it when he got back.

You want ammo? You got it. I'm really surprised he had you move in to an apartment without a signed lease for it, but it's a huge mistake that will work in your advantage. Demand that the windows be fixed immediately citing concerns of heating/cooling issues and safety. If he balks tell him that seeing as you're under no lease agreement yet you're prepared to walk away.

And you know the deal, IANYL and you should probably contact one if you think he might cause you headaches.
posted by genial at 7:29 PM on August 4, 2008

You haven't signed the lease yet. You have no obligation to stay there. Negotiate with him, let him know what your expectations are. If he can't meet them, find someplace else to stay.

The legal aspect in terms of expectations would probably be a matter of local ordinance. You might want to check with the local government.
posted by HuronBob at 7:38 PM on August 4, 2008

Two things: he's gotta fix the windows, and you need to make sure you have a place to live. In most municipalities, rental units have to be kept in a certain condition, and there are all sorts of rules about what is allowed and what isn't. Go find out what those rules are in your area. I'm guessing that windows that open and close fall under that category. Second, don't threaten not to sign the lease unless you're ready to leave right now, and you know where you'll stay tonight. That one will initiate a fight. I'd suggest against it. If it were me, I'd get a copy of my area's rules for rental properties and I'd passive-aggresively delay in signing the lease and then see what he does.
posted by incessant at 8:18 PM on August 4, 2008

By taking possession of the apartment you have in effect entered into a contractually binding agreement even if you haven't physically signed your lease. Tenet laws vary, but you're likely to be considered "month-to-month" without a lease under local laws. You will at least owe notice (usually 30 days) or loose your deposit if you move out now.

Of course, your landlord may not know that.

First, talk to your landlord. Explain your concerns and see what he is going to do about it.

If you're unable to reach to an amiable agreement then it is time to take a look at the ordinances. There is probably a applicable section about security and safety. You probably have grounds for moving out without notice while being entitled to your deposit back.

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 11:27 PM on August 4, 2008

Window (sash) locks are pretty cheap. (I bought them for about $3 at Home Depot.) You could offer to buy/install in exchange for a break in your rent.

I will tell you, though, that I've rented a lot of old houses & apartments and it was pretty much just understood that windows were going to be kind of crappy & you have to put plastic over them in the winter. I doubt you'll get the landlord to do more than replace the broken panes of glass & buy latches.
posted by belladonna at 6:20 AM on August 5, 2008

2nd belladonna's 2nd paragraph. Sorry about that.
posted by kmennie at 7:28 AM on August 5, 2008

I would worry about lead paint.
posted by dasheekeejones at 10:55 AM on August 5, 2008

The only way you'll ever get a landlord to replace old windows is if they're paying the heating bills. Otherwise it's just not in their best interest to put up the capital investment just so you can save a few bucks down the line.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:20 PM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, so I spoke with him and as expected he's willing to repair or restore the windows to their original condition (as opposed to replacing them). His words were "Windows on a house this old were built to be repaired not replaced". So he'll replace the sashes, re-glaze the glass and "screw the broken parts of the wood frames to each other".

The heat is on him as part of the rent (up to $1200 for the duration of the lease) but even so I'm not sure I want to deal with single pane, semi-falling apart windows during the winter months in New England.
posted by eatcake at 7:20 PM on August 5, 2008

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