Author Topic: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?  (Read 3892 times)

Tris Prior

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Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« on: January 10, 2017, 08:58:48 AM »
At what point does a tenant's complaining feel excessive to you?

Boyfriend feels that it is OK to tell our landlord any time something isn't working well. I've had landlords in the past who blamed me for literally anything that stopped working in my apartment. So I tend to not say anything unless it's a serious safety hazard or it's something that we cannot function without (like when our oven died. Though Boyfriend had to push me into asking for that to be fixed; left to my own devices I would've just gotten by with the microwave because I figured we'd get blamed for breaking the oven somehow.)

Our current issue is that it has been in the mid- to upper 80s in our apartment according to our thermometer, and we're having a hard time sleeping in the heat. We can't control the heat in our apartment (radiators), nor do we pay for it. Most of the knobs on the radiators will not turn so we can't adjust them that way. We've started sleeping with all the windows open, but it's been windy so the windows rattle a lot and the blinds bang against the windows. So it doesn't really solve the sleep issue. We complained about this before Christmas, the maintenance guy came and turned it down, it was fine for a couple weeks. Last week it started getting into the single digits outside and the heat again started blasting, though Landlord says he hasn't touched it.

So Boyfriend sent an email complaining about it today. Tone is a problem for him in email sometimes, and I think he sounded kind of pissed off. Now I'm trying to smooth it over: "we're so sorry to keep complaining about this, we know it's hard to keep heat consistent in an older building, we wouldn't say anything if it weren't REALLY unbearable, our elderly cat is suffering in the heat too...."

I guess my question is, as a landlord, is this a reasonable thing to complain about? And if it was fixed but then the problem recurs, is it reasonable to complain again? How many times? At some point should we just let it go and deal? I mean, he's paying for all this heat. This is so wasteful. I'd think he'd want to know about it. But my past landlord experiences have probably colored my views. Meanwhile, Boyfriend thinks I have no spine, but I think he's erring on the side of being too demanding.

We expect to move this spring and need a good reference from this guy.

If it makes a difference, our landlord is new. He's in his 20s, has never owned property before, and his father bought the building for him so he could learn to manage a property. He seems very earnest and like he wants to do this right, but he doesn't seem to know a whole lot yet. Which I guess is understandable.

Kitsunegari

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2017, 10:34:45 AM »
Your Bf is right about keeping the landlord updated with the problem, but you're right about the importance of tone. If you don't talk about the problem again he'll think is solved, and he won't try and fine a solution anymore

fishnfool

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2017, 10:45:37 AM »
From a responsible landlord's position,  I want to know the issues with my rental asap. But we're not all of the same mold.

ketchup

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2017, 10:48:32 AM »
As a landlord, I like when a tenant tells me when something is wrong.  I'd rather know than not know.

A few years back, I had a furnace quit working, and the tenant didn't tell me until the house was near pipe-freezing danger.  That was annoying because I had to call around for someone that could do it that day.  This last fall, the same thing happened, but the current tenant told me "Hey, furnace isn't working.  I tried simple fixes x and y.  It's not crazy cold yet but I figured you should know."  My response was simply "OK, try z.  If that doesn't work call my furnace guy at xxx-xxx-xxxx and let me know if you schedule something."  Easy.

Tone is nice but isn't as important as simply conveying the information.  Don't be a dick, but tell me what's going on.

Tris Prior

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2017, 11:50:54 AM »
Thanks for the responses; this is good to know. I struggle with what's worth reporting and what isn't. Obviously we'd report something like lack of heat, but, well, it seems kind of ridiculous to me to complain about being too warm in a Chicago winter, when heat is what you actually want. You know? But, 80s is too warm (one day it hit 91 in our living room!) and it's going to save him money too if he puts the heat at a more reasonable level. (or, save his dad money; I'm unclear on who exactly foots the bill for the stuff that's included in our rent.)

Part of it too is that our previous landlord lived in the building so a lot of issues (heating problems, dead water heater, water in basement, busted washing machine) got noticed and fixed right away as he was using all of that too. Now we have to report stuff because New Landlord doesn't live onsite (and mostly seems unsure of how to fix things, which is a separate issue).

Cwadda

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2017, 04:26:53 PM »
Definitely don't hesitate to bring up issues on that scale, and again there's a good way and a bad way to do that. Being polite never hurts.

galliver

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2017, 05:10:48 PM »
Not a landlord but my parents have so far rented their whole lives (at least, as adults and in the US), and so have I. It's definitely your responsibility as a tenant to keep the landlord posted about what's going on with their property. Obviously most important with large appliance failings (esp when there are consequences like with a furnace), but we've also let our landlord know about things on an "FYI" basis, e.g. when the (elderly) upstairs neighbors (we're renting a condo so not his tenants) flooded their bathroom (which of course soaked into ours), or when the water heater repair resulted in some leaked/splashed water and minor floor warping (we didn't want the floor replaced due to hassle, but didn't want to be blamed for mistreating it when it was the appliance guys!). My mom once had a fridge replaced after she mentioned (soon after moving in) that the fridge light wasn't working and it wasn't the bulb; didn't ask for it, didn't particularly care, just let them know.

With the heat, my research advisor would tell me "the squeaky wheel gets the oil"; keep squeaking. Because as others have mentioned, they don't know you're still having the problem if you don't tell them. You don't have to be annoying, but keep letting them know "hey, fyi, this is still an issue." If you don't have control of the heat, they should be responsible for maintaining it at habitable levels...especially if it *saves* them money.

Dicey

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2017, 05:26:21 PM »
We tell our tenants up front that we always want to know. We act promptly on their concerns.

Since new LL is a newb, I'd suggest a sympathetic approach. "Hey, we know this heat must be costing you a fortune..." You never know, someone on the other side of the building might be freezing cold and complaining vociferously. In the interim, a towel or blanket between the blinds and the window could dampen the clattering. So could pulling them up all the way. Drag out your summer sheets and maybe even a fan if you own one. Good for circulating the air and providing white noise.

When all else fails, a polite letter.

human

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2017, 05:37:37 PM »
Coming from a long time tenant (never a landlord), who cares what the landlord thinks? You pay him rent and an apartment in the 80s is unacceptable he should fix it already.

I guess if you live in a jurisdiction where a landlord can jack rents to whatever they feel like whenever they feel like they could be jerks and go ahead and do that. Thankfully I live somewhere with basic tenant's rights. Even so I've never been a jerk to a landlord.

It seems though this was fixed once not sure how ma y times it was raised after, if it was a few times I think bf has every right to be pissed. Worst that happens is landlord says can't be fixed and you say fine unliveable we're moving.

Tris Prior

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2017, 06:24:33 PM »
Since new LL is a newb, I'd suggest a sympathetic approach. "Hey, we know this heat must be costing you a fortune..." You never know, someone on the other side of the building might be freezing cold and complaining vociferously.

Yeah, that's a good way of framing it, in terms of dollars coming out of newb's pocket. Thanks! And, we asked all the other neighbors (4 units including us) whether they were also roasting, and they are. So it's not just us. But no one else wanted to say anything out of fear that he'd turn the heat off completely in the middle of winter (not out of spite, but lack of knowledge; I sort of doubt this young guy from one of the wealthiest suburbs in our area has ever personally come face to face with a boiler or an old radiator...)

I guess if you live in a jurisdiction where a landlord can jack rents to whatever they feel like whenever they feel like they could be jerks and go ahead and do that. Thankfully I live somewhere with basic tenant's rights. Even so I've never been a jerk to a landlord.

Yes, in my experience this is what landlords have done once you're labeled as a "complainer," even if the complaints are totally justified. We have decent tenants laws here, but mostly due to lack of heat; there's no ordinance saying what the maximum temp should be, only the minimum. And, no rent control or laws re how much they can jack the rent.

We want to move when our lease is up in spring and are going to need a good reference from this guy, unfortunately.

Boyfriend will endeavor to not be a dick via email any more; in his defense, he can only go so many nights in a row with almost no sleep before he loses his filter. I probably should be in charge of the communication going forward.

Berubeland

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2017, 08:05:36 PM »
So I'm a property manager and we definitely need to know what is going on.

My thoughts are our job is to maintain the building and keep it in good condition.

In exchange you pay the rent, keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

If everyone does their job, it all works smoothly.

So...this is how complaints work in my world.

Hey, Mr Landlord, my heat doesn't work properly...
 
I send someone out to work on something downstairs in the basement - pipes bang and clang - It's definitely fixed.

I break out a bottle of the finest vintage to celebrate my prowess as a landlord who has taken care of a problem...

Unfortunately unbeknownst to me, another problem has cropped up and is causing you grief of extra heat in your case, or perhaps the problem did not get resolved in fix  #1 and we would have to follow up with fix #2. If you don't complain we still believe the problem to be resolved.

I'm not sure a lot of tenants realize how complex building systems are and how many causes a problem can have. Basically it's like triage and we start with the most obvious solution and keep working until a problem is resolved.

If it helps to reframe it, call it "informing the landlord of the problem" it's not complaining per se. Complaining is saying, I was going around my apartment and near the window the heat was 19 degrees instead of the legal 20 degrees. Or everytime another tenant drops a kleenex in the hall, sending an email when you know the super does her rounds every morning. Or complaining about how the other tenant is playing their music during the day when it's perfectly ok. Even then a lot of people are friendly complainers, but then you get some people...

What kind of place are you running here, another tenant let their dog poop in the elevator at 12:00 and it's 12:30 and it's still there... or those that like to threaten us with the landlord & tenant board at every opportunity & interaction.

And seriously, most property managers have been to their landlord & tenant board hundreds of times. I actually fire my clients (the landlords) if they can't or won't maintain a decent place to stay for tenants. The place has to follow local building codes.

Drifterrider

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2017, 06:28:14 AM »
As a landlord, I would want to know about anything that is costing me money (me paying for more heat than you want).

You telling me saves ME money and YOU aggravation.

rothwem

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2017, 12:53:41 PM »
As a landlord, I like when a tenant tells me when something is wrong.  I'd rather know than not know.

This. 

I recently had to renovate the kitchen of my rental unit because the drain to the kitchen sink was leaking into the cabinets, and the tenant never told me.  When I pulled the cabinet up, I found a half inch of water under it, and rotted subflooring.  That's when I knew things were going to be pricey.   

With that said, I had another tenant that called me and left me a panicked voicemail saying she had an emergency at the house and to come immediately...it turned out to be a (admittedly rather large) spider.

Tris Prior

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2017, 01:03:46 PM »
I'm so glad I asked this! I'm so used to the first thing out of a landlord's mouth being "What did you DO to it?" when I call to say "X is broken." Glad to hear that not everyone is like that (and, to be fair, our original landlord for this apartment was a pretty cool guy. I miss him.).

Current landlord's response when we complained this time was, "But I just turned the heat down for you guys a few weeks ago!" Yes.... yes you did. And it was fine for a few weeks. Now it's malfunctioning again. Sometimes things malfunction repeatedly. Welcome to property ownership, dude! ;)

TrMama

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2017, 02:37:54 PM »
I want to know about all problems I can fix. So in this case, I'd want to know about the furnace problem. In addition to costing me extra for utilities, I bet the fact that the furnace is blasting all the time will eventually shorten it's lifespan, which would cost even more money.

It's complaining when you pester me, repeatedly, about problems I can't fix. The apartment includes a single parking space, but you own 2 cars and parking the 2nd one is a hassle? I can't do anything about that.

You can't seem to get along with the other tenants in the building, but neither of you is doing anything that legally allows me to evict you? Sure, you can tell me about your latest row with the guy in unit A, but I can't make him be nice to you and I can't evict him. You need to either learn to deal or move out yourself.

In your case, you may want to get the contact info for the LL's dad. I bet if you cc'd him on your emails to his son, you'll get a more prompt and professional response.

rothwem

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2017, 06:58:25 AM »
In your case, you may want to get the contact info for the LL's dad. I bet if you cc'd him on your emails to his son, you'll get a more prompt and professional response.

Oof, no.  Do not do this.  That's a douche move.  I'd be looking to have you out in no time if you did that to me. 

Tris Prior

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2017, 08:07:44 AM »
I'm not even sure we're supposed to know the details of the arrangement; Old Landlord blabbed to Boyfriend, before the sale was final, that New Landlord's dad was putting up the money, that it was a cash deal, that New Landlord was young and had no previous property ownership experience. So no, I won't involve the dad. I don't even know who he is, other than some guy in a wealthy suburb who happened to have $1.3 million in cash on hand to buy the building for his kid to manage.

Ynari

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2017, 02:45:38 AM »
I was thinking of asking a question like this a while back. SO and I were raised in suburbs with DIY parents, so our instinct when the door handle of the known-to-be-wonky door broke was to fix it ourselves. But we live in a rented condo so a lot of DIY isn't even allowed by the board. And I guess I'd rather live with a wonky doorknob than deal with talking to my, admittedly very nice but absentminded, landlord? I don't know. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between obviously landlord issues (electric, plumbing, structural) and what's our own responsibility (like, we replace the lightbulbs, but this doorknob confuses me!)  Either way, I'm glad to see that it's good to frame things as a FYI. Then landlord can make a decision on their own.

But yeah, definitely with heating, let him know what's going on.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2017, 04:08:42 AM »
Many years ago when we rented an apartment, we found out the tab in the kitchen was leaking. My husband investigated it and found out there was an actual hole in the tap, it had rusted away. We went to the shop, bought a new tab and installed it ourselves. Then we informed the landlord, because we thought it was reasonable that he would pay for the tab. Landlord didn't like the fact that we informed him afterwards, he would rather have known on forehand. He also pointed out that our contract said that taps actually should be paid by the tenant. We thought it was unreasonable after living there for one year having to pay to replace a 20 year old tap for our cost. So we considered keeping the old tab and replace it back when we would move out, just out of principle. The landlord eventually understood that our solution wasn't so dumb (us doing all the work and he just paying for a new standard tap) and he chose to pay for it.

Tris Prior

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2017, 09:09:32 AM »
I was thinking of asking a question like this a while back. SO and I were raised in suburbs with DIY parents, so our instinct when the door handle of the known-to-be-wonky door broke was to fix it ourselves. But we live in a rented condo so a lot of DIY isn't even allowed by the board. And I guess I'd rather live with a wonky doorknob than deal with talking to my, admittedly very nice but absentminded, landlord? I don't know. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between obviously landlord issues (electric, plumbing, structural) and what's our own responsibility (like, we replace the lightbulbs, but this doorknob confuses me!)  Either way, I'm glad to see that it's good to frame things as a FYI. Then landlord can make a decision on their own.


Yes, I think this is what my original post didn't convey very well. Where is the line? Obviously we would report lack of heat, or anything that's leaking or causing damage. We let him know every time the basement floods. We didn't debate over calling the landlord when the entire mechanism of our toilet fell apart and no longer flushed (though I totally was freaking out that "oh god, he's going to think we broke it and blame us).

We also have a wonky doorknob on our closet but the door isn't in great shape (looks like the knob has been repeatedly re-screwed in) so I don't want to do further damage. I'm failing to mention it because if I handle it carefully, it functions OK.

Too much heat, though? Or, to use another actual example, water that takes a really long time to get hot? That feels like more of a wussy discomfort issue and that's the sort of thing we're never sure about.

Dicey

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2017, 02:13:15 PM »
I was thinking of asking a question like this a while back. SO and I were raised in suburbs with DIY parents, so our instinct when the door handle of the known-to-be-wonky door broke was to fix it ourselves. But we live in a rented condo so a lot of DIY isn't even allowed by the board. And I guess I'd rather live with a wonky doorknob than deal with talking to my, admittedly very nice but absentminded, landlord? I don't know. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between obviously landlord issues (electric, plumbing, structural) and what's our own responsibility (like, we replace the lightbulbs, but this doorknob confuses me!)  Either way, I'm glad to see that it's good to frame things as a FYI. Then landlord can make a decision on their own.


Yes, I think this is what my original post didn't convey very well. Where is the line? Obviously we would report lack of heat, or anything that's leaking or causing damage. We let him know every time the basement floods. We didn't debate over calling the landlord when the entire mechanism of our toilet fell apart and no longer flushed (though I totally was freaking out that "oh god, he's going to think we broke it and blame us).

We also have a wonky doorknob on our closet but the door isn't in great shape (looks like the knob has been repeatedly re-screwed in) so I don't want to do further damage. I'm failing to mention it because if I handle it carefully, it functions OK.

Too much heat, though? Or, to use another actual example, water that takes a really long time to get hot? That feels like more of a wussy discomfort issue and that's the sort of thing we're never sure about.
A good rule of thumb is that the landlord's going to want to hear about anything that's gonna cost them money. In this case, the rookie may be overwhelmed and have no idea how or the funds required to fix it. Be gentle and persistent.

Guesl982374

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2017, 08:44:02 AM »
As a landlord, I like when a tenant tells me when something is wrong.  I'd rather know than not know.

A few years back, I had a furnace quit working, and the tenant didn't tell me until the house was near pipe-freezing danger.  That was annoying because I had to call around for someone that could do it that day.  This last fall, the same thing happened, but the current tenant told me "Hey, furnace isn't working.  I tried simple fixes x and y.  It's not crazy cold yet but I figured you should know."  My response was simply "OK, try z.  If that doesn't work call my furnace guy at xxx-xxx-xxxx and let me know if you schedule something."  Easy.

Tone is nice but isn't as important as simply conveying the information.  Don't be a dick, but tell me what's going on.

+1

As a landlord, I would rather know about a small problem before it becomes a more expensive large problem.

supomglol

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Re: Question for landlords: How much complaining is too much?
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2017, 11:21:19 AM »
As a landlord, I like when a tenant tells me when something is wrong.  I'd rather know than not know.

A few years back, I had a furnace quit working, and the tenant didn't tell me until the house was near pipe-freezing danger.  That was annoying because I had to call around for someone that could do it that day.  This last fall, the same thing happened, but the current tenant told me "Hey, furnace isn't working.  I tried simple fixes x and y.  It's not crazy cold yet but I figured you should know."  My response was simply "OK, try z.  If that doesn't work call my furnace guy at xxx-xxx-xxxx and let me know if you schedule something."  Easy.

Tone is nice but isn't as important as simply conveying the information.  Don't be a dick, but tell me what's going on.

+1

As a landlord, I would rather know about a small problem before it becomes a more expensive large problem.

Agree with this statement completely.  I find that water related issues fit's this narrative more than others.  A leaky faucet can quickly turn into a huge repair bill if not handled quickly. 
Some tenants are just complainers, sure.  But there's usually only so many things to complain about.  It usually starts with a huge list shortly after move-in, and tapers off after you address each of their issues (fix or explain why no fix).  I find I'd much rather spend a few bucks to make tenants happy than deal with unhappy people living in my residence.