Author Topic: Weird Situation with Our Landlord  (Read 3356 times)

marble_faun

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Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« on: June 25, 2018, 03:33:23 PM »
Hello all!

I would appreciate outside advice and opinions on a situation.

Background:

For several years my husband and I have rented a crummy, small apartment. The upside is that it is cheap for our area, within walking or biking distance of almost everywhere we need to go. Also, utilities are included.

We are on a month-to-month lease, in an area that is becoming more expensive.  We have considered moving but figure the rent would go up at least 50% (if not 100%) for anything comparable (especially for a place that allows dogs).

The landlord does not like dogs, but he let us adopt one anyway, without charging any extra fees.

The landlord prides himself on offering affordable housing in our area.  But to make it work, he puts off maintenance and just lets things generally decay around here. He often talks about about his finances being in shambles and the pressure he is under to sell rather than keep the place going.


The situation:

About a year ago the landlord approached me about our use of air conditioning. He asked if I would mind running it every other day in the summer, rather than every day, due to the expense.

I work from home for the most part, while other tenants are gone, so I use A/C more than they do. And summer here gets hot. Plus our utilities are included, with no clause in the lease about restricted A/C use. So I wasn't willing to say I just wouldn't use it for half the summer.

At the same time, I appreciated the good rent deal we were getting, so we volunteered to raise our own rent by $50/month, just to avoid being pestered about the landlord's bills. We are still paying well below market rates. When we consider all the money we have saved by living here, it's a small drop in the bucket and seemed worth it to maintain goodwill. I considered it a "thank you" to him for allowing the dog.

Now... this year he came to me AGAIN, saying the same thing.  He asked us for a one-time payment of $150 to cover electricity for the summer. I was a bit annoyed to be bothered with this after we had voluntarily raised our own rent!  But I talked it over with my husband. We weighed the situation and decided to pay what he asked. Again, it's very little in the grand scheme here. Also, it's not in our interest to have the landlord financially implode. Someone else could buy the place and jack up the rent and not pay for utilities at all.

I agreed to give him the sum he requested.

Even so, he now takes an accusatory, pestering tone with us. The other day he actually followed me from the house (as I had left for a short walk) to "catch" me running the A/C with no one there, so that he could complain about it to me.  I thought he would be happy to have us fork over the money and would leave us alone. But we are being surveilled and nit-picked despite paying him what he wanted.

Anyway, have I set up a terrible dynamic here?  In my shoes, would you have done anything differently?  If he asks about this again next summer, should we pay again? 

I guess I'm looking for outside perspectives on this.  I've mentioned the "voluntarily raising our own rent" thing to a few people, and they thought I was crazy.

wbranch

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2018, 04:22:10 PM »
I'm a landlord and work in supportive housing. I live in Canada so the law might be diffirent for where you live, for us it's the Resenditial Tenancies Act. Under the RTA as long as you are abiding by the term of the lease, you are not obligated to pay any additional cost for utilities since the rent is all inclusive. The RTA here (and I suspect it is similar where you live) is strongly geared towards tenants and their righta, where as for landlords it is geared more to their responsibilities. My suggestion would be for you to not pay your landlord the additional fees next time he ask and reference the terms of your lease that utilities are all included, I would add that due the fact the landlord is responsible for prompt payment of utilities, that you ensure him you will not excessively consume the utilities(ex leaving water running, leaving lights on, running A/C when no one is home etc). Lastly, assuming you have a similar governing act for landlords and tenants, the landlord's request is not enforceable and it is extremely unlikely the landlord has any cause for applying to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an eviction, nor would the board ever grant an eviction. You can really stay put for as long as you like, the only way your landlord could have you evicted from your place is if they sold the property and the purchaser issues for a notice with intention to move into the property for personal use. I hope this helps and make you feel more at ease regarding your situation, feel free to PM me if you have any further questions.


Sent from my SM-G920W8 using Tapatalk

The OP said they are on a month to month rental, which in the US means their landlord could give them a move-out notice and they would have to start looking for a new place in as little as 30 days. Could be longer in some states. So they could reference their lease and not pay extra, but better start shopping for a new rental soon after that.


To the OP, I think if you want to stay there you will likely have to keep paying the $150 extra or more a summer. It would be good to get in writing. Maybe even get a new lease that covers 24-36 months with some rent increases to keep getting the good deal you have. Your friends may think you are crazy, but how much is their rent compared to yours?

ender

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2018, 04:26:29 PM »
Why not just ask to pay utilities yourself?

Goldielocks

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2018, 04:37:33 PM »
It is actually pretty common for rental agreements here to separate utility payment from rent, especially when the utility is a shared bill with the landlord.  This is set up at the start of the rent.

It looks like rent "plus 1/3 of the utilities", and the utility bill is shown and paid for separately.  Sometimes it is "Rent plus $150 towards utilities, utilities adjusted on an annual basis".  Or whatever basis is needed.

At the end of the day, it sounds like you want to stay in your place, and you would like the A/C run.  Why not just ask your landlord to show you the electric bill?  Put a watt meter (kill a watt) on the A/C and pay just for that each summer at an agreed up on cents per watt rate?  This last way, you can control how much you spend and the landlord can stop nagging.  You may even turn if off more pro-actively if you can see the direct costs each day.

I know that this may not be what the law requires, as you did not agree up front, but sometimes the best solution is one that works for everyone moving forward.


marble_faun

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2018, 05:03:31 PM »
Thanks for all the responses so far!

Why not just ask to pay utilities yourself?

Heat! The heat bill here is probably quite high in the winter, and I'd rather let him deal with it than tack it on to what we already pay. We haven't been asked for extra payments on heat because we don't use it any more than anyone else (I don't think). He asks that everyone keep it on all the time to avoid having the pipes freeze. 

He will do things like turn all the hot water way down so that our showers are cold after a couple minutes.



Will consider monitoring our own A/C use next year if this comes up again!

One worry is that he has figured out that we will pay and will keep asking us for money rather than risk alienating other tenants by raising their rent.  So it might be nice to know the actual dollar figure of our A/C use.

Goldielocks

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2018, 05:27:35 PM »
Some libraries rent out the energy meters, I bought mine and find it very handy to figure out something like this.   Why not get a meter now and check it out over a week of use so you have an estimate?

Pizzabrewer

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2018, 06:00:12 PM »
I agree with wbranch. I assume you are saving far more than the $150 versus market rents?  Seems like a cheap price to pay to hang on to the unit.

Zamboni

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2018, 06:47:32 PM »
Your landlord sounds like a PITA. When you see him coming outside, politely say "I'm sorry, but I'm in a big rush . . . great to see you!" and make your escape. Install one of those video doorbells and don't answer if it is him.

Keep those boundaries firm.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2018, 06:48:27 AM »
First of all, how old is your ac unit? The older it is, the more it costs to run. If it is old, why don't you consider buying a new one. They usually come with a tag saying how much energy it uses and you can present that to your landlord as evidence on how much the unit costs per month. You could call the power company too to confirm costs. Considering your rent is low, it might be best to work with the landlord even though he is a pain in the butt. Maybe he is suffering some financial issues and this ac thing running all the time is just getting under his skin knowing he has to pay the bill even though he is being compensated.

affordablehousing

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2018, 11:39:04 AM »
I think you just need to eat it, whatever he asks. Or... he could just say your rent doubled and good luck. There are no rules here, nothing written down, this is the case of most "affordable housing" in the US, just shitty apartments with scumbag landlords. You're at the whim of their interpretation of both changing expenses on the property side, and on their own personal expense side. Keep a level head, compare the inclusive rent you pay to another market situation, and if you're still ahead, you're still ahead. Just remember all the thousands of dollars you're saving every year.


Stimpy

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2018, 01:11:44 PM »
Sounds like your landlord is in over his head, not your fault, completely his fault for not understanding how to run a business with all utilities included.  (Also sounds like the bills are catching up to him!)

It all depends on the law.  Legally speaking, if your still following the terms of your lease (Which are still in place even with Month to Month) your golden.   If he is cutting utilities to you in any way it's a law suit and he WILL be on the losing end.  Also not sure any ones brought up harassment, but if he's following you around just to accuse you of having the AC on, that sounds like harassing behavior, and you might not be the only one.

If he isn't threatening or cutting utilities and again you're following the lease, then all he can do is eventually kick you out if you refuse to pay more.   And from the sounds of it, he might anyway cause he is hurting for money.  And note it might not be related to utility costs, but to some other, unseen bill, loan that has him screwed.  Your just the sucker.

I would recommend, pay for now, keep it civil and look for somewhere else to rent.   Yea it sucks but this sounds like this could end badly, and I'd hate for you to be at the end of the bad.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 01:14:50 PM by stimepy »

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2018, 02:02:03 PM »
Everything is state specific. In my state, even month to month, you can't be booted just because the landlord wants to.  The landlord also can't unreasonably raise the rent or utility charges.  What is reasonable is up to a judge.  Reasonable doesn't mean market rates.  It means in comparison to what you are paying.  You can't go from charging someone $500 to $1500 for example.

Zamboni

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2018, 02:46:28 PM »
You can't go from charging someone $500 to $1500 for example.

You are correct that it varies by state. This exact thing is happening in my state and it has been in the papers several times. In the most recent one I read, the landlord was "renovating" the apartments (paint, ceiling fans, etc.), and all month-to-month tenants had the option to move to one of the double-priced, "renovated" units, or vacate the premises entirely within 30 days. Here, in a month-to-month lease, tenants have very few rights.

Gondolin

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2018, 05:10:27 PM »
If the rent is so good that you are willing to allow your landlord to extort additional sums from you in excess of the legal covenant that exists between you and the landlord, the least you can do is get all such agreements in writing, signed by both parties and marked as official addenda to your lease agreement.


joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2018, 05:19:55 PM »
It's possible it's different in Canada then the States. I know in Canada...

(And tenancy acts and regulations differ province to province, too.)

OP, definitely first read carefully through the laws relating to your rental situation. Your region may also have an agency to help you understand how its details apply in your situation. Only after you're familiar with those, decide what you will and won't do going forward.

marble_faun

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2018, 09:11:20 PM »
I think you just need to eat it, whatever he asks. Or... he could just say your rent doubled and good luck. There are no rules here, nothing written down, this is the case of most "affordable housing" in the US, just shitty apartments with scumbag landlords. You're at the whim of their interpretation of both changing expenses on the property side, and on their own personal expense side. Keep a level head, compare the inclusive rent you pay to another market situation, and if you're still ahead, you're still ahead. Just remember all the thousands of dollars you're saving every year.

So true. This matches how we think of the situation.  And at least with month-to-month, if his requests start to outweigh money saved, we can be gone right away.


Sounds like your landlord is in over his head, not your fault, completely his fault for not understanding how to run a business with all utilities included.  (Also sounds like the bills are catching up to him!)

It all depends on the law.  Legally speaking, if your still following the terms of your lease (Which are still in place even with Month to Month) your golden.   If he is cutting utilities to you in any way it's a law suit and he WILL be on the losing end.  Also not sure any ones brought up harassment, but if he's following you around just to accuse you of having the AC on, that sounds like harassing behavior, and you might not be the only one.

If he isn't threatening or cutting utilities and again you're following the lease, then all he can do is eventually kick you out if you refuse to pay more.   And from the sounds of it, he might anyway cause he is hurting for money.  And note it might not be related to utility costs, but to some other, unseen bill, loan that has him screwed.  Your just the sucker.

I would recommend, pay for now, keep it civil and look for somewhere else to rent.   Yea it sucks but this sounds like this could end badly, and I'd hate for you to be at the end of the bad.

He does annoy me a bit, because I dislike the feeling of being monitored and scolded, but he's harmless. I think he is intimidated by my husband, which is why he comes to me with these requests and complaints.

I do feel bad for him, as he seems to have a good heart underneath it all, but he should have chosen an occupation other than landlording.

I think we will keep our eyes on the rental market in case something better comes up.  Just to make sure costs aren't outweighing benefits.


If the rent is so good that you are willing to allow your landlord to extort additional sums from you in excess of the legal covenant that exists between you and the landlord, the least you can do is get all such agreements in writing, signed by both parties and marked as official addenda to your lease agreement.

This is something I'm curious about. I had him draw up a new lease when we raised our rent, just to make it official. But is there some particular benefit to having other, more ad hoc contributions in writing? Is this to have documentation for any possible legal action, or are there other benefits I'm not thinking of?


Thank you again to all for your help!

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2018, 09:18:53 PM »
...is there some particular benefit to having other, more ad hoc contributions in writing? Is this to have documentation for any possible legal action, or are there other benefits I'm not thinking of?

Your region's laws will lay out what's critical to have in writing, at what stages in the game, and why. It can be very costly to not have things in writing. That's not always a big deal -like you note, a skookum deal may well pay for any difference anyway. Where I live, what's written can result in thousands upon thousands in costs to either party.

Wayward

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2018, 10:19:30 AM »
Next time you are approached by your landlord, I would calmly point out that you already voluntarily increased your rent $50 per month ($600 per year) and paid $150 for A/C during the summer, which more than covers your share of the bill.  Then, I would suggest stating you do not appreciate being pestered when you have gone above and beyond the terms of your lease agreement.  Finally, I would calmly ask if he would like to schedule a sitdown with you and your husband to discuss the terms of your lease agreement in order to resolve this issue.

In the end, I donít really feel this is about utilities.  It could be that he is just stressed about his own situation and is sublimating it onto you, but in any case, you need to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.  Make it clear that any interaction must be respectful, otherwise you cannot continue the interaction.

It may not hurt to ask for an updated contract in writing and/or keep an eye out for a new place ;)   

Jon Bon

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2018, 12:14:47 PM »
Really it just sounds like the landlord is a bit of a nut. Crazy comes in all shapes and sizes!

Yeah I would try for the sitdown and or get a new lease. Quite Enjoyment is a real thing you know?

I feel you are being more than accommodating. You both signed the lease, its not your fault he forgot to account for summer!


AZDude

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2018, 12:27:55 PM »
First, remember that his financial situation is not your responsibility. You have done a terrible job of setting precedent and a incomprehensibly bad job of negotiating.

You admit it is a crummy apartment that lacks maintenance, etc... Basically your landlord is a slum lord and is pissed off because your A/C use is hurting his bottom line. Stand up for yourself. Don't voluntarily pay anything. Make him raise the rent or modify the lease, in writing. Chances are he is too lazy and will not do it. Chances are also good that his finances are much better than he lets on.


driftwood

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2018, 09:34:42 AM »
In regards to the A/C...

I've seen it mentioned before about leaving the A/C on when not home... have you ever gone from zero to your desired temperature?  It can take hours... everything in the house, not just the air, is now hot and needs to cool. So if I'll be out of the house for an hour or a few hours, or even the whole day, I 'leave the A/C on' (which really means I don't change the thermostat), so that the A/C only needs to maintain the cool temperature, and the inside of the house doesn't heat up. I may turn the thermostat up a few degrees, but no way am I turning the temp control all the way off.

What's funny is I see people talking about turning it A/C off when not home... but you don't do the same in winter. Hey, you went to work, why didn't you turn the heat off?! Um, because if you come home to a 32 degree house and try to heat it, it'll be hours before it's really warm (not to mention the risk of pipes freezing).


chickinyow

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Re: Weird Situation with Our Landlord
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2018, 01:00:50 PM »
Your landlord is running a slum from your description, and yet you seem to feel that he is doing everybody a favour. He doesn't keep the place in good repair because he doesn't want to - not because he is letting it go to hell to be a good Samaritan looking to give people a break on rent. He isn't. He sounds very controlling too, and I would not want to live in his building. Sometimes it isn't worth it to live in an umkempt sh*thole just to save a bit of money. Just my opinion.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 01:02:44 PM by chickinyow »