Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Landlordis Terribilis


Our landlord, Scrooge, should have a house with 100 rooms and be found dead in every one of them.

He has the boiler set so that we get heat for only 13 hours per day, half in the morning and half at night. The rest of the time, no matter what the temperature is, we are either (a) cold, (b) contemplating burning our furniture or (c) huddled around an electric space heater we bought.

I checked with the Rent Board a few years ago, and this is legal. He is required by law to give us 13 hours of heat per day, and that is what he does. Not a minute more, not a minute less. Thirteen hours. The outside temperature stays the same during the hours we have no heat, so there is no justification for depriving us. I would much prefer to pay for our own fuel and have heat whenever we want it.

I should mention here that we do not live in a slum. We live in one of the better neighborhoods in a very expensive city, and our monthly rent is considerably more than our mortgage payments were when we owned a four-bedroom house on several acres of beautiful land outside Nashville.

He could afford to heat these apartments around the clock. I've heard rumors that his father, from whom he inherited this building and several others, showed some concern for his tenants' comfort and well-being. This character trait, alas, was not passed on to his son. Only the real estate.

This enrages me. If it were just cheapness, I wouldn't be so upset, but I interpret his callous neglect as arrogance. He believes that he is somehow worthier than those who rent their living spaces from him, that we are lesser beings who do not deserve the normal creature comforts he takes for granted. I do not have a natural aptitude for servility.

I was confirmed in my suspicions when he barged into our apartment without knocking, without the requisite 24-hour notice except for emergencies, without even 24 seconds' notice, to inspect some repairs in our bathroom, which had clearly not been maintained, although he does raise the rent every year. Without knocking, he opened our door with his own key and snorted down the hall to the bathroom like the wild boar he resembles. He did not introduce himself. If anyone had been using the bathroom at the time, there would have been a homicide. Especially if that person had been me.

Last year, I had a nasty flu-like cold, which was worrisome because I have had pneumonia five times. It was in January and the apartment was freezing. We could see our breath without going outside. That was when we bought the space heater. We have used it quite a lot already this fall, and will probably buy another as well. Our electric bills will be second only to the National Debt.

I am making a landlord doll to burn in effigy in the backyard. After I stick pins in all the places that correspond with major organs and let a pack of rabid jackals tear it apart. Then I will put on my down parka and enjoy a nice cup of chai tea with steamed milk and cookies.

42 comments:

mist1 said...

You mean, you can't control your own heat?

Come over. It's like 80 degrees in here. Last night, I had to get out of bed and turn the heat down. It gets so damn hot upstairs.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mist,

Can I bring my cat?

Mystic Wing said...

I think you need to declare war on this @$%#-hole.

You're a clever girl. Surely you can think of some way to fry this fellow's bacon.

Dan said...

our monthly rent is considerably more than our mortgage payments when we owned a four-bedroom house on several acres of beautiful land outside Nashville.

Isn't losing one's mind, the first sign of hypothermia?

Polyman3 said...

Sounds like he needs a good holiday baseball bat to the head.

jali said...

Although you're in an upscale building, your landlord is treating you all like tenement dwellers. I say fight back with a good old fashioned rent strike. If everyone bands together there might be a chance for change. Infants and the elderly with respiratory illnesses and those with histories like yours need heat for more than the legal 13 hours of course. An attorney might be able to argue that.

or...

To call attention to his obvious use of loopholes in the law, notify the "I-teams" of all the local TV stations. They love stories like this. Perhaps thay can shame him into being a better person.

Hugs.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

MW,

I'm sure I could, but we prefer to leave here on our own schedule.

It's the law that needs to be changed since he is acting within it.

Dan,

Probably.

We love San Francisco, though.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Polyman,

I'll tie a sprig of spiky holly on it with a red ribbon.

You have one of the most creative blogs I've seen. Thanks for stopping by here.

Jali,

Yes, he's a slumlord, even though this is not (theoretically) a slum.

I tried to get the other tenants to rebel last year. They thought I was a troublemaker, (which I am.)

I also thought of calling the TV station, but never did. It's unlikely such a person could be shamed, in any case.

But thanks for the hugs. I feel warmer already.

Rhea said...

I want to join you in your effigy dismemberment, or whatever.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Rhea,

You have a most interesting blog. Do you know any good spells for uncaring landlords?

I can get eye of newt, if need be, so don't dumb it down or anything.

Stewart Sternberg said...

The next time you feel like your landlord might be coming around...let me know. I'll get naked and greet him. It should stop that barging in behavior. Trust me, I've seen me naked and I know.

Your landlord is a sick S.O.B. You have to get unhealthy. Really unhealthy. Start posting Nazi material around the apartment, a few posters with the fuhrer..maybe a handful of leaflets. Or maybe it's time to go all XFILES on him. Call him up and tell him you get the feeling you're being watched. Start wearing tinfoil on your head.

Be creative.

Polyman3 said...

Much thanks my new friend.
Like your words & pictures.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Stewart,

I think I'll leave the Nazi paraphernalia to Mel Gibson. And a headful of tinfoil wouldn't stand out in San Francisco.

The building is maintained by a management company which collects rent and ignores requests for repairs, if possible. His mistreatement of his tenants is not personal; he's just a rotten person.

Thank you for your visit!

Polyman,

You're back! Cool.

The Law Fairy said...

Oh EW.

Wrong wrong wrong. You're not allowed even the *option* of paying for your own heat? My legal spidey sense tells me that if there's some kind of loophole for him, there's gotta be another one for you, SOMEHOW.

And if not for this issue, then for something else. Find out the very outer limits of what you're legally entitled to do as a tenant and start doing it until it annoys the shit out of him. Make onion and cabbage stew every night. Play your TV and stereo at full blast until precisely 11 PM (or whatever the local curfew is). Pound random holes into the wall to hang a picture, and after each one say, "huh. No, I don't like it here either. Maybe two inches to the left." Then strike a bargain.

Muahahahahahahaha!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Law Fairy,

Great suggestions IF he lived in the building. In fact, I don't even know his name, although I could find out if I cared to.

I would only antagonize my neighbors, most of whom are pleasant, considerate people, and probably get us thrown out.

I will look into possible loopholes. I bought the Nolo book on Renter's Rights, for starters.

urban-urchin said...

what an asshole. you can call the tenant's union and find out from them if you by law should have the option of paying your own heating bill. and you can definitely report him for bursting in to your apt without notice.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Urchin,

We don't have that option because the boiler is attached to other tenants' radiators as well as ours.

The bursting-in incident occurred some time ago. Then would have been the time to report it, but I didn't although I was appalled. I can't even document exactly when it happened now.

The best solution will be to find another place in the neighborhood, which we love.

velvet girl said...

Wow, what an evil landlord! Boo, hiss, Mr. Scrooge! There must be something in tenant rights about this. I hope you find it.

Our last landlady saw me nearly everyday of my second pregnancy, but waited until four days after he was born to tell us that we needed to find a new place to live. We had to secure a mortgage, house hunt, and move with a newborn and a two year old. What a witch.

Landlords bite, but you have a miserable, bitter man on your hands.

Good luck.

Le Nightowl said...

I could tell lots of stories about my "Scroogess" landlady, but I don't have your talent :)
My heating is electric and paid separately from my rent, so I can at least control this.
I really sympathise with your plight. I wonder how your "supportive" neighbours deal with the issue though?
Marie

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Velvet,

Did she kick you out because of the baby? There must be some kind of anti-discrimination law that covers this. I hope you were able to move to a much better place.

This guy enjoys a very luxurious life style that he never had to work for, and probably has no idea what life is like for those who didn't have everything handed to them.

I can't imagine why he'd be bitter unless he's looked in a mirror lately.

Marie,

I've never been in a situation before where heat was not billed to us separately. This is not pleasant.

I'm sorry your landlady is Scroogy, too. My neighbors don't seem to care, which makes me wonder if I'm overly picky. (Of course we were formerly home owners; that probably makes a difference.)

nmj said...

Basically, if you are home in the afternoon you are supposed to be cold . . . that is quite outrageous.

When I was in SF, the flat was heated with those heating vents, but you could control it yourself. We don't tend to have that here, it's central heating radiators. They are ugly but effective.

Those space heaters scare me, they are so BRIGHT, they hurt my eyes!

seventh sister said...

You should find out his name before you make the voodoo doll. The magic has a better chance of working that way. I am cold this morning, too. Our house is old and is on peer and beam so it gets cold from underneath and the heat vents are in the ceiling. SEriously, though, you might call the office of your city council person. The law might be changed at some point and in the meantime, thecity council(wo)man might be able to negotiate somthing for you if he/she is on the ball.

Matt said...

I cannot believe it when people tell me these stories about how the landlord controls their destiny.

In my apartment, I can have the air-conditioning on at 3 a.m. in january or the heat at noon in July. I don't know how you people do it.

Matt said...

Apropos of Jalil's commment, Virginia has this cute little law called "Pay or Quit" that the landlords evoke if you simply forgot to write a check b/c you're too busy working and making money....

A rent strike might not work as well in some places, unless everyone did it. They give you five days to "pay or quit." They're real cute.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nmj,

It's true. If you work at home, you're screwed.

Our space heater is not bright at all. It's a new kind, and fairly effective if you're not too far away from it.

Sister,

HIs name won't matter if I can't round up the rabid jackals.

Heat vents in the ceiling is absurd, unless heat doesn't rise in Texas.

I'll check to see if rental law has changed recently.

Matt,

In some places, you can deduct a percentage from your rent if you have been denied the peaceful enjoyment of the premises guaranteed under most leases.

i doubt that is the case here.

A better option would be to move.

Thank you for your visit! I've read your comments on other sites.

Open Grove Claudia said...

brrrrrrrrr. I huddle around a radiator like space heater.

When I lived in Oakland, I lived in this building that had recirculating water in the walls - toasty all year round.

I completely feel for you.

Odat said...

I can't believe you don't control your own heat....that just sucks! There's got to be a better way!
Stay warm! and hope you get some relief.
Peace

SQT said...

This is the first time I have ever heard of this.

I hope you find a lovely new place soon.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Claudia,

The apartment heat comes from radiators, one of which cannot be turned off during the designated hours. Even in July. We have repeatedly asked them to fix it, without success.

Sigh.

We're in a great location. Guess I'll buy more sweaters.

Odat,

Moving would probably be a better way. We're weighing the inconvenience and expense as well as the unknown aspects of another place against the problems here.

Thanks for your good wishes. They're always so appreciated.

Sqt,

Thank you!! And welcome to my blog. The coffee and croissants are right in front of you, next to the name tags.

Kevin Charnas said...

JEEZZUUUZZZZ!!! I WANT TO MURDER HIM...SLOWLY.

I'll get the gay mafia and we'll fit him with cement shoes (doesn't matter if they don't look trendy, no one will see them where we'll be sending him) and then take him swimming out in the Bay. Whaaddya think?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Kevin,

Are you sure you're not from NY?

I appreciate your sacrifice in offering to handle unstylish footwear. Of course, you won't be the one wearing it.

Who says being a landlord is not a day at the beach?

Jerri said...

Your landlord's choice to provide heat in exact accordance with legal requirements reminds me of my former husband's way of paying child support: $XXX.39 on the first of the month and $XXX.38 on the 15th.

The man made $450,000 a year, paid child support based on $60,000 of that income (the legal cap), and alternated the amount to keep from paying an extra PENNY of child support.

The comments here include some creative ideas for hurting the scum, but I submit that by having such a miniscule heart and no visible compassion, he hurts himself much more than you'd ever manage without going to federal prison.

I like your suggestion: sweaters. Pretty, pretty sweaters.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jerri,

You've summed up what everyone should know and remember. If you hate someone enough to hurt him, is he or she really worth the punishment your actions would incur?

My first husband told me flat out that he would see his children starve before he would give me a penny in child support. It was the only instance I can recall of his ever being true to his word.

I'm happy to see you here. Your blog is wonderful, and I will be bellying up there regularly.

kim said...

the SCROOGE!! ake him of the christmas card list right away!
i hear costco has these tower things that are great space heaters?
ill help you make the voodoo doll and watch craigs list for something in your neighborhood :)

Jocelyn said...

When my sister was in the Peace Corps in Moldova, they had lots of hours each day with no heat, so she'd use the (excuse the term) "white trash" heater: lighting the burners on the stove and opening the oven door and letting the heat escape into the three feet around the stove. She spent many a night playing solitaire that way. Okay, now I'm thinking about how the Peace Corps is overrated. And I'm still feeling for you...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Kim,

He's not on my list. My holiday card list, that is. He IS on my shit list. Where he belongs.

Jocelyn,

I didn't realize you could be white trash if you didn't live in a trailer park and go out wearing bed sheets. Wow. You learn something new every day.

The Peace Corps is great, but should not be confused with Club Med.

The CEO said...

This is not the kind of law I'd expect to find in San Francisco. I am so sorry for you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

CEO,

It surprises me, too. It seems inconsistent with rent control, which we also have here.

Lee said...

"Our landlord, Scrooge, should have a house with 100 rooms and be found dead in every one of them."

That is one of the best curses I've ever heard! Thanks for the laugh!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Lee,

It's the best I could do, considering I'm not Sicilian.

Still, evil eye is as evil eye does.

Liz said...

Didn't he see the movie "Seven" enough times to realize that being a greedy bastard isn't a good thing in the long run?

I am definitely feeling the voodoo doll idea. Next time he barges into your apartment, you should point the voodoo doll out to him and ask him if he's been feeling ok lately.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Liz,

People like him never get it. Except in Dickens.

Seeing him was a fluke because a property management company maintains the bldg, collects rent, and is generally his lackey.

It must be a thankless job because they're not very nice either.