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Some Landlords Just Aren’t Good Lords Over Their Land

, , , , , , , | Legal | December 1, 2021

Ages ago, before the Internet and cell phones, I shared an apartment with three of my buddies near the university we attended. When we first looked at the place, there were some obvious issues with the building itself and with the particular apartment we were looking at. We were assured that everything would be taken care of. Yes, we were naive.

The building supposedly was “secure” in that it had a lobby separated from the interior of the building by a locked door that could be opened by key or by a button in each apartment. There was a phone in the lobby that would ring the phone in an apartment if you entered the apartment number. The door worked as advertised except there was a missing glass panel in the lobby where, by ducking through the opening, you could get into the secured area. The phone also worked, but the phone numbers it rang were never updated, so entering our apartment number rang some poor folks who happened to have the number of whoever lived there years ago.

The first winter, we discovered that the fans on two of the three electric heaters didn’t work. We reported it to the superintendent (who lived across the hall from us) but it was never fixed. Eventually, we got them to work ourselves, but they were really noisy.  

The toilet tank leaked into the bowl which would then eventually flush after about an hour and repeat. Yeah, reported and not fixed, so I figured out how to replace the seal on my own.  

There was some damage to the walls and inside doors; one area looked like the previous tenants had a dartboard and were very bad at darts. That also was reported and then never fixed. There was cracked glass in some windows, there were doors that didn’t close properly, etc., etc. Always the same thing: reported and never fixed.

After about a year, the building was sold to a different company. This had no effect on any repairs.

Oh, remember that superintendent? One day, I came home from class and there was a big lock over their door handle and an eviction notice stapled to their door. I happened to have parked in front of the main window into their apartment, and the next morning I noticed it was broken and their stuff was all gone from their apartment. I guess they did a “midnight move”. This led to some confusion for a while as that is where we were supposed to drop off the rent.

Eventually, we all graduated and moved out. A while went by, and we were informed that we were not getting our security deposit back “because of the damage you did to the apartment”. Fortunately, we had documented everything, and the one guy who was still living nearby managed to get them to issue checks to each of us for our part of the security deposit.

And — drum roll — the checks were returned when we deposited them because the checking account had been closed — for quite some time as it turned out. Oh, well, they would issue new ones… if we stopped by their offices in person. They were open Monday through Friday, eight to five. As the individual amount was only just over $100, it was not worth it to take time off from work and drive there from my current living location, which I would guess was their plan all along.

A few years later, I read about the companies that had owned the building while I lived there. They had a scheme where they would sell their buildings to each other every so often which “reset the clock” on repairs that the city housing inspectors had ordered. From talking with other people who had lived in their other buildings, apparently ours was better than most, which is hard to believe. At least the city eventually caught on and changed things so their scheme didn’t work.

The last time I was in that neighborhood, the building was still there, and I was tempted to peek in the lobby and see if that glass panel was ever replaced.

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