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  1. #1

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    Difficulties with Landlord...any advice?

    Hey guys, my friends and I could really use some advice, especially if anyone is a lawyer and/or works in real estate. I'll try to explain this clearly, but I apologize if it's confusing- I'm confused about it all a little myself.

    We are renting a house for the upcoming school year; we shopped around a little bit last school year before we found a landlord that we really liked (I'll call him Chris). When we happened to meet Chris, it seemed perfect. He had a really nice house for us, and right off the bat he sounded very accommodating; he promised to put in new carpeting (the old tenants ripped up what was there before), have the house cleaned professionally before we moved in, and promised to add in an additional bedroom so that all six of us could have our own rooms. And then when one of our group members had to drop out, he told us he would still give us the house for the price of six people, even though we were now a group of five.

    Up until we all went home for the summer, we got along wonderfully with Chris. He said he always looked forward to meeting with us because we always had a lot of questions for him, to make sure everything was done right by not only us, but by him as well. He seemed to recognize that and had been very accommodating of us-in our lease, he promised to split the master bedroom (there are five bedrooms already, but he didn't want any of us to have to have a walkthrough bedroom), to add a second bathroom in the basement (because it would be beneficial to him for renting to future tenants), to have it professionally cleaned before we move in, to have a second fridge installed, and that it would all be done by August 15th.

    Now, Chris is a bit older. He's having health problems, which has been an issue for him this summer. But he also seems to be prone to freak outs, and he's taken to yelling and cursing at one of my roommates whenever she calls him. He told her, Sarah (she's kind of been in charge of everything), to call once a week for regular updates, and so that's what she's been doing all summer. Every Saturday she calls him to see how things are going with the house. About a month ago the first freak out happened. Sarah called and left a message to make sure he got our first rent check (we all share a joint account for rent purposes), and also to tell him that she had a few other questions. He called her back and blew up at her about how rude it was to leave a voicemail about that kind of topic, that she was insulting him with her questions, that he was the best g*d damn landlord in the world and she better not fcuking forget it. Then he said that he didn't want to hear from her for at least a day and hung up on her. So she waited 24 hours to call and once again, he didn't pick up. So she left another message, explaining that she was very sorry to have unintentionally offended him and that she hoped they could talk soon to smooth things over. He called Sarah back not long after to berate her for being rude enough to apologize over voicemail, and hung up on her again.

    Sarah decided not to let it get to her, and she gave him some space before calling again, and until yesterday it seemed fine. Last week the construction plan for the master bedroom had been approved by the township and he was ready to get things going. Sarah called him yesterday and he freaked out again. He said she was stressing him out and he can't take it right now and he has health problems and she is making them worse. He also said he was having trouble getting the construction approved (even though just last week that was supposedly squared away), and he hung up on her again.

    It's August 7th, and nothing has even been started. All Chris has done is recarpet the house. Nothing has been cleaned, he ended up not liking the contractor that he hired to do the construction, and so now he apparently can't find anyone trustworthy. He ended up having to change the construction plans for the master bedroom, and had to go through the township to get them approved.

    Now not only are we all upset, we're worried. One of my roommates is moving in on the 19th, and we have no idea what kind of shape the house is in, because anytime Sarah asks, he goes off on her. I've offered to call him myself, but she doesn't want it to seem like we're gaining up on him. We have nowhere else to live because the on-campus housing is all full now, so we have to live there no matter what at this point.

    I guess what I'm wondering is, are we eligible for any kind of compensation? He hasn't lived up to anything he promised us himself, and put in the lease without any pushing from us. We've been paying rent for two months on a house we aren't living in yet (lease started in May) and he's done nothing, really. What can we do?

  2. #2

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    A couple thoughts.

    First, what state do you live in? Every state has different landlord/tenant laws.

    Second, since I gather you are a student, have you checked with the school's housing office? They probably have some ideas about how to deal with local landlords. If Chris is used to renting to students, the housing office may have experience with him or may be able to bring some pressure on him.

    Third, does your school have a law school? A lot of law schools have clinics and some deal specifically with landlord/tenant disputes. Even if they do not represent you, they might be able to give you some advice about how to deal with the landlord and enforce the provisions that appear, from what you say, to be in the lease.

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    You can cancel the lease and get your security back after the 15th. Course that won't give you a place to stay though. You can force a landlord to do repairs, but improvements I think are a different matter. Typically you can request improvements and even write them into a lease, but you don't start paying rent until after the improvements are made. There's no incentive for the landlord to do it otherwise. Personally I think if you cancel the lease, you'll be out the rent bc the house was off the market during that time and technically available for you to live in whether you chose to or not. You could hire a professional cleaning service and charge that back to him via reduced rent, but you'd have to give him the chance to have that done by the 15th since technically he hasn't breached anything yet.

    I don't think you could hire someone to do the improvements and charge that back. You could try to renegotiate the lease with one less bed and bath, but if he doesn't agree, you're back to canceling the lease and moving elsewhere.

    In the future, I recommend not renting a place until all the improvements you want have been made. I've also found things tend to work better dealing with a rental company than an owner. Just better boundaries and more professionalism ime.

    Hope it works out.

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    Thank you for the responses.

    reckless, I'm from CT but I go to school in PA. I went to an off-campus housing seminar that was hosted by the school housing department, and everything they went over, we had already discussed with Chris. From what I know, Chris rented to students a long time ago and had a horrible experience with them. So we've been trying not to push him too much because we want to show that college students indeed, can be good tenants. But I have considered getting in touch with the housing department for advice as well, and I know them quite well since I was n RA last year. But unfortunately, my school does not have a law school. One of my roommates said he knows a law student who specializes in real estate and is planning to talk to him, so I will be waiting to hear what he has to say.

    agalisgv, we wanted to start the lease in August after all the repairs and such were done, since our deadline is supposed to be the 15th. We also wanted to do that so we'd have time to build up money for rent instead of paying for a house we aren't living in yet. But when we said that, he said he'd just go rent to someone else, because it wouldn't be hard at all to find someone else to rent to.

    The second bathroom isn't my biggest concern-it would have made things easier, but it's not the end of the world. Nor is the master bedroom (which I am supposed to split with another girl); I've had roommates before and I can do it again. It's just he offered and insisted on putting it in the lease; now I expect him to live up to his word. I expect him to act more professionally with his tenants, but maybe I shouldn't.

    And thanks, I hope it does as well. I want it to be a good year and to get along with my landlord, since I'll be having to deal with him for the next year.
    Last edited by lmarie086; 08-08-2011 at 05:46 AM.

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    Imarie, aside from the legal and financial issues, and the fact that you might not easily find another place - I'd be concerned from renting from this man. Regardless of whether or not he's had problems with previous tenants, his behaviour is extremely unprofessional to say the least and possibly a sign of severe stress or mental health issues. He's already told you he has health issues and that is a clue, one normally doesn't share that with clients/renters unless it a pretty friendly relationship - especially not while having a temper tantrum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    Imarie, aside from the legal and financial issues, and the fact that you might not easily find another place - I'd be concerned from renting from this man. Regardless of whether or not he's had problems with previous tenants, his behaviour is extremely unprofessional to say the least and possibly a sign of severe stress or mental health issues. He's already told you he has health issues and that is a clue, one normally doesn't share that with clients/renters unless it a pretty friendly relationship - especially not while having a temper tantrum.
    Imarie indicated that "Chris" is an older person. The implication was in the posts that he is perhaps elderly. An elderly person having health problems is not a sign of mental issues, nor is an elderly person being forthright about the existence of health problems a sign of mental issues.

    I rented in a small college town on more than one occasion (and I know Imarie didn't say how big of a town this is). Retired people who own property to rent in small college towns do not consider themselves professionals or feel obligated to show up in a suit with a briefcase and act like a leasing agent. As for the suggestion that renting from leasing agents is so much better...it is and it isn't. But one thing is for sure: the rent is more expensive because the property managers are taking their share. And that is certainly a consideration for students.

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    Even if your school doesn't have a law school, if another school near yours in PA does, you can use their law clinic. But see what comes out after your friend talks to his law student friend.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    As for the suggestion that renting from leasing agents is so much better...it is and it isn't. But one thing is for sure: the rent is more expensive because the property managers are taking their share. And that is certainly a consideration for students.
    This. I rent from an individual, and for $650/month I get a 2-bedroom aprtment, with full-sized washer/dryer in the 2nd bedroom, a huge fully enclosed back porch all to myself, AC for every room, all kitchen appliences accounted for (including the microwave), wall-to-wall carpeting, and offstreet parking with an assigned parking space. I may even have free Internet soon, too.

    I just signed my 11th (12-month) lease, and my landlord told me he's not going to increase my rent after this last increase because he wants to keep his rents under market value. There are a lot of rental properties in my area that are owned by entities from outside the Albany area (namely NYC), and so the rents tend to be higher due to that. Every time someone proposes a plan for new apartment housing, the rents are always in the 4-figure range, and not everybody in this area can afford that. So, the prospect of no further increases was good to hear. Now let's see if he holds to that come July 2012.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Karina1974 View Post
    This. I rent from an individual, and for $650/month I get a 2-bedroom aprtment, with full-sized washer/dryer in the 2nd bedroom, a huge fully enclosed back porch all to myself, AC for every room, all kitchen appliences accounted for (including the microwave), wall-to-wall carpeting, and offstreet parking with an assigned parking space. I may even have free Internet soon, too.

    I just signed my 11th (12-month) lease, and my landlord told me he's not going to increase my rent after this last increase because he wants to keep his rents under market value. There are a lot of rental properties in my area that are owned by entities from outside the Albany area (namely NYC), and so the rents tend to be higher due to that. Every time someone proposes a plan for new apartment housing, the rents are always in the 4-figure range, and not everybody in this area can afford that. So, the prospect of no further increases was good to hear. Now let's see if he holds to that come July 2012.
    We rent from an individual. We pay $600 for a two bedroom in a duplex. We have our own laundry room and the use of two garages (one attached and one in back). Our landlady is the last person anyone would consider "professional" (she tells me about her struggles with her five year old and such things--I assume someone here would accuse her of severe stress and mental health issues), but things are taken care of and done quickly (we just got a brand new washer last month, delivered less than 36 hrs after the other one went out). We actually like her a lot. She even waters our plants and feeds our rabbit when we are out of town. And before anyone informs me that our rent is that cheap because we live in a small suburban Nebraska town, the apartments down the street are $625 for a two bedroom, have a communal coin laundry room, and charge an extra $115 for a garage. Duplexes around here generally rent for $900 or more.

  10. #10

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    Chris sounds scary to me, regardless of age or physical health. Shouting and cursing at someone who asks a a simple question (did you receive our check?) is a sign of someone unhinged. Especially after he encouraged contact and requests before. I would want to get out of there. I know that doesn't solve your housing problem.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    Imarie indicated that "Chris" is an older person. The implication was in the posts that he is perhaps elderly. An elderly person having health problems is not a sign of mental issues, nor is an elderly person being forthright about the existence of health problems a sign of mental issues.
    I think a person who screams at tenants when they call to inquire about agreed upon progress on a rental property and berates them for leaving a voicemail about a business transaction certainly could be a sign of mental issues, no matter what the age.
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    I don't know anything any more than anyone else about this situation but I wonder if he's stressed over all he promised in the lease - maybe he found out it wasn't going to be as affordable as he originally thought. I've had a number of contractors in my home over the last few years and it can be an expensive nightmare.
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    Quote Originally Posted by milanessa View Post
    I don't know anything any more than anyone else about this situation but I wonder if he's stressed over all he promised in the lease - maybe he found out it wasn't going to be as affordable as he originally thought. I've had a number of contractors in my home over the last few years and it can be an expensive nightmare.
    It does seem like an unbelievable amount of work that he promised.
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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    You can force a landlord to do repairs, but improvements I think are a different matter. Typically you can request improvements and even write them into a lease, but you don't start paying rent until after the improvements are made. There's no incentive for the landlord to do it otherwise.
    This. Making the house livable (carpet, cleaning) is one thing, but making the house over for you is another. And the timetable for the improvements sounds a bit too ambitious, especially if plans need to be approved by the local gov't. And putting in a second bathroom can get very expensive. Perhaps your landlord is discovering this and is going through all of this in order to get out of it, including acting crazy so that you'll stop calling/requesting. Or he could just be a nutcase.

    Perhaps I'm reading wrong, but it sounds like your original reason for needing an extra bedroom no longer exists - it's only 5 of you b/c 1 roommate backed out. So why does the master bedroom need to be split?

    In any event, I think the lesson from this is to rent a house that meets your needs off the bat, b/c you can't expect the owner to make major construction changes, esp in a tight timeframe. And there is also the risk that the construction will not be done in a suitable manner, or could damage something else (wiring, etc) that could cause problems, and you'll be stuck living there and paying rent while trying to get things fixed, which the landlord may or may not do b/c those things weren't specifically written in the lease.

    Do you actually have a written lease agreement? If so, read it thoroughly and see what it says about the landlord's obligations, and lease termination. If you can find another house to rent, and you want to terminate the lease, go ahead, but you should weigh the costs of termination against the 'cost' of living there for a year.

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    He wanted to split the master bedroom, that was in fact his idea. There are five existing bedrooms already, but he was quite adamant that none of us have to be in the walkthrough bedroom. In light of everything we have just decided that two of us (myself included) will just split the room and use the walkthrough for our desks. One of the times we met with him, he had a contractor with him and we walked through the house, and the contractor said not only should it be simple enough to do the changes Chris wanted, but it wouldn't break the bank either.

    We were surprised too, at all that he wanted to do for us, but like I said, it was his idea. I'd love to get out of it, but if I do then I have nowhere else to live; it's too late to get my RA job back, and not only is regular on-campus housing full now, it is too expensive. I was just trying really hard to save both myself and my parents some money

    Chris had one of the nicer properties that we looked at, for a lower price than other landlords, and the house is in walking distance to campus. Issues with Chris and his part of the lease aside, it's an ideal house for us. My group is coming to terms with the fact that Chris probably just isn't able to do what he said he would, and we should've actually checked with the township ourselves before we took his promises for granted. He assured us that he'd take care of anything like that.

    It's just a sorry situation, but we've certainly learned from it. I guess what I'm wondering now is if we'd be up for any kind of compensation?

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    I'm not quite understanding what you want to be compensated for. It seems like you are saying you would have rented this house whether the changes were made or not. What are you out financially then?

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    Quote Originally Posted by lmarie086 View Post
    I guess what I'm wondering now is if we'd be up for any kind of compensation?
    Unless you were charged extra for the improvements (and that was specifically written into the lease), no.

    You may be able to terminate the lease, based on the lease terms, but if you want to live there, than all you can do is pay your contract rent and live with the situation.

    The landlord is the one responsible for checking with the township and taking care of all things necessary. But as others have said, it's never a good idea to sign a lease based on what *might* get done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genevieve View Post
    I think a person who screams at tenants when they call to inquire about agreed upon progress on a rental property and berates them for leaving a voicemail about a business transaction certainly could be a sign of mental issues, no matter what the age.
    Or it could just be an insensitive person. And "screaming" could be an exaggeration of speaking loudly and not being entirely cooperative or rational. I have found over the years that that word often is.

    If he has experienced some health issues recently, an irrational response could be due to stress or even medication. The wrong asthma medication used to turn my normally calm and soft spoken grandfather into a person who yelled and swore. When he was in a nursing home and not really able to tell them what to avoid giving him, their doctor would sometimes prescribe the wrong medication or doses and we would notice very quickly.

    We don't have to declare everyone mentally ill all the time.

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    No, he didn't charge us extra. We were just curious if we'd be able to lower the rent per month since he doesn't sound like he will be able to do the construction, but I do understand it if we aren't since that wasn't actually included in the rent.

    Thank you all for your responses and helping me make sense of this. I do appreciate it

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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma
    Or it could just be an insensitive person. And "screaming" could be an exaggeration of speaking loudly and not being entirely cooperative or rational. I have found over the years that that word often is.

    If he has experienced some health issues recently, an irrational response could be due to stress or even medication. The wrong asthma medication used to turn my normally calm and soft spoken grandfather into a person who yelled and swore. When he was in a nursing home and not really able to tell them what to avoid giving him, their doctor would sometimes prescribe the wrong medication or doses and we would notice very quickly.

    We don't have to declare everyone mentally ill all the time.
    I agree with you on not declaring people mentally ill at the drop of a hat. But what's been described here is a guy swearing at a tenant, lashing out when someone leaves a voicemail about an agreed upon business transaction, and cutting off all communication avenues with customers. That's not someone being "forthright about the existence of health issues". As I posted, it could be an indication of someone experiencing mental issues, which I don't equate with having a mental illness.

    Regardless of whether the landlord was actually screaming or it was the friend's impression, the content of the conversation (as related, because that's all we have to go on) was certainly unacceptable from a professional standpoint, as was cutting off conversation.

    I don't know that lmarie and her friends have any financial recourse about this, and to be honest, I can just picture the calls and how they could be seen as very annoying, even if agreed upon. but the guy seems to have bitten off more than he can chew, for sure, and he's not coping well. Swearing at tenants before they even move in isn't one of those "I'm blunt and oversensitive people sometimes take it the wrong way" situations
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