I don’t like running away from my problems. I’ve learned over time that any problem you can run away from is a problem that will only be bigger and meaner once it catches up with you. I say, kill it while it’s little. Snuff it out in its infancy, before it has a chance to reach adulthood and really screw with your life.
That said, let me tell you a little about the apartment complex where the husband and I have been living since August of 1998. It’s actually a pretty nice place. It’s a good location (near the highway and the train station) and rent is pretty cheap ($645 for 1100 sq. ft. w/ w/d hook-up). The neighbors get a little noisy sometimes but they’re easily dealt with. I’ve heard that there’s a problem with home invasions and break-ins, but where our apartment is located in the complex, we don’t have such problems. We’ve never had so much as a door-jiggle in the four years we’ve lived there.
The only real complaint I have about our complex is maintenance. I’ve learned a great deal about the laws in Texas regarding landlords and leaseholders: more than anyone not in the business should know.
In 2001, our A/C went out. The outside unit had been rattling for several weeks and finally, it gave up the ghost. I turned in a work order asking the A/C unit be repair or replaced. Whatever.
Then I turned in another ticket the next week.
And another the next week.
I threatened non-payment of rent (very risky) and they re-charged the Freon. A/C worked for about a week before it died again.
Now we were into the month of May and the city of Dallas has very particular rules about A/C from May to September, so I went down to the office an informed them that my apartment was now in five-day’s violation of city ordinance #20578 and if they didn’t fix it I was going to report it.
An hour later I had a new A/C unit.
Of course, the old unit was still sitting out there until someone NOT affiliated with the complex came by and ganked it. Maybe they worked for some cheaper, crappier complex and thought that would be perfect for crack house No. 5.
So that was that. No biggie.
In April of 2002, we got a mold smell in our apartment. It was only there when the A/C was on, so it was obviously something in the vents. I asked maintenance to come by and figure out what it was.
The next day, the maintenance guy came by and stood outside my apartment to tell me the mold smell had been caused by a sewage leak.
I asked them to clean the vents out and clear out whatever “sewage” might have gotten into the vents to cause the smell.
A week later, Phil was getting headaches and nosebleeds. I taped muslin over the vents and turned in another ticket.
And another the week after that.
And another the week after that.
And then I sent a certified letter explaining that if the problem wasn’t taken care of (or if I didn’t get a written reason WHY the work couldn’t be started) I would have the problem fixed myself and it would be deducted from the rent. That’s in total compliance with Texas State property code 92.0561.
And they didn’t do anything. It was as if the work orders had never been turned in. I sent another certified letter notifying the office I would have the work done myself and they would need to deduct it from rent.
Still no response from the office. I hired a guy to come in and clean the vents. He found some mold (not black, but close—never had it tested) and I sent a final certified letter to the office with a copy of the receipt for work done.
And two days later we got a lock-out notice for non-payment of rent.
I went up to the office to talk to the manager. He was new, had just started that week, and had no idea of what was going on with my apartment.
“Well, we got your note, but my regional manager said I should just go ahead and charge you full rent.”
And may I speak with your regional manager? Because I have enough paper-work here proving that a problem affecting the safety and health of paying tenants was not handled in a timely fashion and if he pushes for eviction then he is in violation of STATE LAW and I will own his ass.
Three hours later they gave us credit for the work done.
But wait, it gets better. The main A/C control unit in the upstairs bathroom started leaking water—like 55 gallons in a week (and I only say that because we emptied a five-gallon drum about a dozen times).
It took two weeks for maintenance to come out and look at the problem. They said they had fixed it, but the leak started again two days later. It took another two weeks for them to come out and look at it the second time. They said they fixed it. It was leaking two days later.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
And that went on all summer. I couldn’t really use any of my old tricks for that because they WERE coming out and “handling” the problem. Autumn was coming and the problem would go away once we stopped using the A/C. I had already installed aluminum-foil gutters along the ceiling, so when it did start leaking again I only had to lay out one bucket.
And then there was the whole in the downstairs bathroom ceiling.
That had shown up on Memorial Day weekend; it was still there on Labor Day. I had gotten promises from several people that it would be dealt with and they all said they had to call a contractor to replace the sheet-rock in the ceiling. I can understand it taking a little time. Also, it wasn’t a big deal to me, really. I rarely use the downstairs bathroom (that’s the cats’ room) and it wasn’t like a lot of water was leaking on the floor, so I was cool with it. I had enough documentation that proved I had asked maintenance to solve the issue as it happened, so it wasn’t like I was going to loose a deposit or anything.
But then the hot-water pressure went out.
Well, the hot water went away, and then all the water went away (but only from 9 am to 6 pm) and someone said they were working on the boiler. That’s cool. I can understand that you need to turn the water off when you’re working on a HOT WATER BOILER.
And by the way, I pay a water bill, so you better give me 12 hours notice at the least if you want to keep doing that.
So that went on for a week. Once they had finished that, the hot water pressure was one-third of the cold water, if that. And there was a running water sound, you know, like how you can hear water moving through the pipes in an old house. In the apartment building, you can always tell when someone is taking a shower, or washing their dishes, or doing their laundry.
But we had a water-sound for two weeks.
And when maintenance showed up to re-carpet the abandoned apartment next to us (a pass-due notice was on their door for two months before someone figured out they had left one night) the water-sound stopped.
And the hot water pressure got a little better. Well, it would be good for maybe three minutes in the morning, but then it would die out again.
So that was driving me up the wall and I had been turning in work orders on a weekly basis and it wasn’t being taken care of.
There’s nothing more satisfying then striding into a leasing office, when there are people there to sign a lease, and making a scene. Not a scene, not really. Just announcing loudly that you’re there to turn in a work order and “Oh, it’s just a repeat of the one from last week, which is a repeat of the one from the week before that, which is a repeat of the one from the week before that, and can we have this fixed this month, pleeeeese?”
But driving off potential neighbors wasn’t getting things fixed.
I called over one day and asked to speak with the manager. I wanted to ask him what the hell was going on that maintenance could even send a guy by to look at the apartment. He didn’t even have to fix anything, just look at it. Heck, don’t even bother coming in; just look at the outside of the apartment and make me feel like you’re doing something.
But the manager was busy. I explained who I was and what I wanted and, yes, I’ll hold.
The leasing office front-desk-girl put me on hold and came back with, “He’s really busy.”
Oh, okay. Well, will you let him know that he’ll be getting a certified letter in the next couple days?
I got home and there was a guy from the maintenance crew waiting for me. Now, this was a different guy then the one they usually sent by. This guy was like, the head of maintenance. One of the guys who came up from Houston with the new manager. This guy was the head of someone’s crack team of fix-it’s.
He asked point-blank, “What is wrong with your apartment?”
I gave him the tour.
Here’s the toilet that leaks sometimes and doesn’t sometimes. The air-pressure has to be just so and it’s a thin trickle from the base.
Here’s the crack in the wall that started when they replaced the floor in the apartment under us for the fifth time. As you can see, the subsidence is strong enough to cause a shear break in this window.
Here’s the space between the ceiling and the cabinets that has been getting wider each season.
Here’s the hole in the downstairs bathroom ceiling that’s been here for six months. As you can see, someone thought that a bucket of putty and a spatula would fix the issue.
“Who did that?”
No idea, my good sir. They did it while we weren’t here and they didn’t leave a note. But you can see it’s cracked already.
“Does it leak?”
I mean, look at that. Who thinks that’s okay? Jesus. Let’s go upstairs.
Here’s the A/C control unit that leaks water. As you can see, we’ve installed gutters to collect the water. That way, we only have to put out one bucket instead of a bunch of bowls.
“It’s hot up here.”
That’s because the A/C is off. If it had been running, we’d have some water on the carpet here. Moving on…
Here’s the upstairs bathroom where the hot-water pressure sucks. Taking a warm shower is a bit of a game here…
“How long has that bulge been there?”
As long as we’ve lived here. It was like that when we moved in.
“How long have you lived here?”
“And there was a running water sound for two weeks?”
Yeah, but that went away when they started re-carpeting next door.
“Wait, they’re re-carpeting next door? When did they…”
With that, he leaned forward to examine the bulge and stepped on the soft spot on the floor. I’ve never seen a man move that quickly.
“Is that safe?”
It’s fine. Believe me. My husband is much bigger than you and he steps on it all the time.
“You threatened to condemn the building, didn’t you?”
Only if I’m constructively evicted. And it wasn’t a treat. It was Newton’s third law of motion.
“But that’s the main wet wall.”
Yeah, and it’s also the main structure bearing wall for all six apartments in this building. So if that floor gives out, the entire building will have to come down. And if this building comes down, code enforcement is going to be out here looking at ALL the buildings.
“We’ll be by tomorrow.”