No Heat, Apartment Has Smoke And Fumes, Landlord Is MIA

Dayva is fuming, almost as much as her apartment. She’s been without heat since yesterday after the cord on the heater her landlord installed melted. The landlord sent repair people who replaced the cord, but the heater still doesn’t work and its been emitting odd smells. Now she’s fighting through phone tree hell and getting hung up on by the landlord, unresponsive management company, and their minions. What’s a body to do?

Dayva writes:

Yesterday, I woke up to a house filled with smoke and weird smell. I called 911 and the fire department promptly came. The smoke was coming from a light in the bathroom, but they also discovered that our gas heater’s (it’s the kind that is like a giant space heater that runs on electric and gas) cord was half melted. I was really freaked out by this. So I called management right away since we obviously could not use our heater anymore.

They came promptly with 5 repair people. They replaced the light that caused the smoke condition. They replaced the melted cord. However, now our heater does not work. The electrician left and said he would be back in a few hours, but to keep trying it because the heater was empty of gas and just needed to fill up. I was skeptical but I waited 2 hours, trying a few times in that period. It still did not work so I called the electrician back, and he said he had actually notified the management company and they were going to get a specialist to come. I tried calling the management company to find out what was going on, no extension worked. Finally one did and that person hung up on me. At this point I was cold and in tears (having been in the house with no heat for about 6 hours and facing a night of this). I called back to the general mailbox and left what was probably a crazy and pathetic sounding message about how I had no heat and someone hung up on me. Then I remembered I had the number of the guy who is supposed to schedule the repairs. I called him. He informed me that he would schedule the repair and some electric heaters would be delivered if it didn’t happen tonight. So I waited even more. I called him back at 6. He said he didn’t know when the repair would take place but someone should deliver electric heaters and call him at 8am the next morning to find out about the repair. No one came.

Around 830, I heard a buzzing sound start and the heater (completely off) started to emit a weird fresh paint smell. It’s definitely not gas but I’m sure it’s not good to breathe in. At 9 I tried calling back the repair coordinator. No answer and of course the voicemail box was full. There was some talk b/t my roommates of calling 311, but I said you know what, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and give them until tomorrow morning. Thankfully I was able to stay at a friend’s house, however my roommate was not so lucky and she chose to stay there.

This morning I woke up bright and early at exactly 8am to call the repair coordinator. Did not pick up. called at 815. Did not pick up. So I called 311 at around 830 and filed a complaint. I then went home to make sure my roommate and cat were ok (they were.) When I got there I called the management company again. I got in touch with the real landlord! I told him that I had tried to call the repair coordinator and could not get through and no one delivered any heaters and I could not miss another day of work (I stayed home the previous day to deal with all the repairs etc.) He sounded concerned and said someone will drop them off and leave them at our door, and he will call the repair coordinator and see what was going on. When I entered the house the smell was still there. Thankfully today it’s about 50 degrees so it wasn’t that cold (last night however was about 35). Not knowing what else to do I went to work.

Around 1030 I decided to give my old friend the repair manager another try. He didn’t pick up. But called me back minutes later and asks “what are you calling for?” At this point, I don’t know, maybe the fumes had went to my head, but I was upset. I (condescendingly) asked him if he remembered that I had no heat, and informed him that I could not even sleep at my own house, and that no one had ever delivered the heaters last night. I know this kind of behavior does not help things but I was pretty worn down. He feigned regret and said he would schedule the appointment. Now here is where it gets dicey. The management company is run by hasidic Jews. They do not work on Friday afternoons or Saturdays, and to the best of my knowledge, do not allow their workers/repair people to work on these days either. This happens to be Friday. My roommates and I have been trying to call the management company and the repair coordinator all day since this 1030am phone call and there is no answer. The other thing to mention is that this will be our last month there, and we have already paid last month’s rent when we moved in, so we can’t take recourse by not paying rent. I’m also worried this problem will cause us to not get our security deposits back.

It seems I’ve done everything I can already do. I do not know when this problem will resolve itself and I’m just really mad at the uncommunicative and uncaring nature of this management company. The building has numerous other problems as well, so it seems this is their way of dealing with things. Is there anything else I can do?

Would love some help from the consumerist community!

Thanks a lot,

Dayva

Dayva, since you live in New York, my first instinct would be to call 311. They can route you to the appropriate department, the fastest, to get your issue taken care of.