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Mrs (code enforcement called because the house is very cold)

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  • Mrs (code enforcement called because the house is very cold)

    My husband and I moved into a house that seemed to be ok but was very cold. We were told that it was due to the heat not being turned on. We then found other problems like no porch light with hanging wires, a cellar door that is not bolted down and the door does not fit so rodents and water can get in...not to mention anyone who would want to. The bedrooms upstairs do not have heat vents and are freezing so to make a long story short we are paying for a 4 bedroom but only getting to use it as a 2 bedroom. Landlord has been told of issues but he said in a nice sort of way we could kiss his A$%. We called code enforcement and they said it is inhabitable at the moment and he has until March 29th to fix but in the mean time can we do anything?? Our gas bill is outrageous and the city said it is probably due to cracks and holes in the foundation. Can we take out of the rent for these bills since the city is involved?? Thanks. any info would be great.

  • #2
    Re: Mrs (code enforcement called because the house is very cold)

    I doubt seriously that the high bills have anything to do with a few cracks in the foundation. That could add to the bill, but it sounds like the house you moved into has an original heating system - no heat upstairs (heat always just rose up, before new forced air furnaces). There was usually just an open vent to the downstairs so hot air could rise to those areas. (If you have carpet upstairs, this was probably closed off.) It probably also has no insulation in the walls. You can find this out by removing the cover plate of a switch or outlet on an exterior wall and looking beside the metal box. (But don't touch any wires inside, of course!) Or look in the attic. This type of heating system is very inefficient and will cost much more to heat, even with upstairs vents, than a new high-efficiency furnace.

    The LL has been given time to make repairs. Normally you cannot rent withhold until he has time to make those repairs and fails to do so. (I can't believe they gave him that long to do these repairs though. Normally, 30 days is the longest they usually give. Why did he receive so long to make these repairs? I would call code enforcement and ask why he has so long to repair.) To rent withhold, the entire house has to be uninhabitable (unable to live in). I don't believe code enforcement has declared the entire house uninhabitable. Only the upstairs rooms. The entire house is not uninhabitable, only those rooms are. The other downstairs rooms are fine and livable. I would ask your LL for a rent reduction until this is fixed. Ask him to reduce rent to that of a 2 bedroom unit until the repair is made and there is heat upstairs. If he refuses, take him to small claims court after this is fixed and ask the court to award you a judgment for the amount of reduction for the period of time up to when it is repaired.

    Likewise, you cannot repair and deduct. To subtract the money from the rent, you would have to be making repairs to the house after he failed to do so, and subtracting the amount of those repairs. You cannot just deduct the high energy bills you receive. You can only deduct repairs. You may be able to negotiate this in lieu of the rent reduction.

    Putting up a porch light and installing a latch on a cellar door are easy fixes. No doubt these could easily be done in a day. Installing heat vents upstairs will take longer, but I doubt 60 days! Cold air returns will also need to be installed there or it will always seem cold up there, no matter what temperature you put the furnace on. Without the cold air vents, there is no circulation of air there. If they don't put in cold air returns, always leave the doors open so the air can circulate. An easier solution would be to install baseboard heaters in the upstairs. That would provide warmth without the need of cold air returns. But how he fixes this is up to your LL. Know that you will continue to have high heating bills, even after the new vents are in. The furnace is probably old and inefficient, there is probably no insulation, I would guess it even has the old windows (losing more heat).

    Before you rent your next place, investigate and inspect it better. Had you looked, you would have seen that there were no heat vents upstairs. You would have discovered that there was no insulation. You would have seen the age of the furnace. Look at these things in your next place before you sign a lease. You need to know this. You can also call the utility companies and let them know you are thinking about renting a property. Ask them what the budget plan is for the property address. That will give you some idea of how much the bills will be at the place. I would plan on moving as soon as the leas ends to a more energy efficient place. Good luck.

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