Neighbors violating lease

quietrenterMarch 18, 2010

Hi, I'm brand new here and I haven't been able to find a posting with this problem, so I thought I'd ask. I live in an apartment building where there is a fire door at each end of the hallway. For roughly the past two weeks the neighbors across the hall have been propping open the fire door immediately outside my apartment (it's right next to their door too). There is big sign on each fire door stating that it is a fire door and must remain closed by order of the fire marshal. I have a kitten that likes to escape as soon as I come in the door so I've been closing the fire door everyday so she won't make it down 3 flights of stairs before I can catch her.

     Two days ago I had closed the door and was unlocking my apartment when the lady across the hall came out of her apartment, looked at the now closed door then went back into her apartment, retrieved a piece of cardboard and propped the door open again. I stood there gaping at her but she wouldn't make eye contact or acknowledge me in any way. (I should have said something but I was so shocked at her audacity that I didn't.) Obviously she knew I had just closed the door. So, I immediately called the management company and reported it. The assistant manager told me thank you and that she'd send them a letter. (either a warning or a notice of a lease infraction, I'm not sure. But they're pretty quick to send out infractions without a warning first so I'm assuming it's the latter.)

   Then, yesterday I came home and the door was propped open again. I closed it and immediately after I had entered my apartment I heard my neighbor come out and prop it open again.  So I went back out and closed it. It just became a silent power struggle between us and I ended up closing that door 6 times last night and this morning it was open again.  Â

   So today I called the management company again and left a voicemail.  I'm not sure whether the neighbors were sent the letter promised by management or not, so they either don't know that it's not okay or they don't care--despite the large signs on the doors.Â

   The issue with my kitty running out is annoying, but I don't expect my neighbors to change anything because of it. And while I think my neighbors behavior is terribly rude, I can deal with that. (Just becase their neighbors doesn't mean I have to be friends with them.) My biggest issue now is the fact that the fire door is there for a reason. If there was a fire and that door could give us an extra few minutes to get out of the building it could save our lives. I also looked up the city ordinances and fire codes etc and read that it's against the law to prop open fire doors. Â

   So, my question is what do I do at this point? Do I continue to call the management? I don't want to keep bothering them but this is a safety issue. Honestly, I'm not willing to knock on the neighbors door to talk to them--since it is a law I feel like the management should take the responsibility of notifying them. The fire department for my city has a phone number to call with questions about fire codes but that seems like I'd be "tattling" on the management company. Any suggestions? I'm frustrated because there have been a LOT of apartment fires in my county in the past few months and it would be devastating to lose all my possessions--but so much worse to be hurt or die because of a DOOR. Â

Oh--one more thing: I can't figure out any good reason that the neighbors insist on the door being open since the doors to our units are always closed. We don't even have peepholes. I'm perplexed as well as frustrated so any advice anyone can give me would be great! Â Sorry this is so long! Â Â Â Â Â

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You hit on the big one - Safety. Which in this case goes hand in hand with Liability. That door is there for a reason and meant to be kept shut for a reason. Heaven forbid a devastating fire break out and it's learned later that door was open and Mgmt knew it was being propped open. They could legally be up the proverbial creek.

I think you've expressed reasoning quite well here. I'd urge no more phone calls to Mgmt. Put it in writing, keep it straight to the point and avoid mention of the kitten at all. (I get that part, but it's not relevant to them and not what's going to get results for you.) Zero in on your fear for your personal safety and others. I was going to suggest Certified as proof they got it, but that would be your call. My thoughts would be standard delivery first time, Certified thereafter if it continues.

In your letter quote local fire code, mention just what you said above: that if that door is by law meant to stay closed and could give you and others an extra few minutes in a fire and/or help save lives, you are very uneasy that it's being kept open. Mention you've closed it at night and found it open in the morning and are deeply concerned at the possibility it's being left open all night while everyone is asleep. (Also, by doing that, does it give easy, unauthorized access to the building?)

I wouldn't call the fire marshall unless it becomes obvious that Mgmt is unwilling to enforce this. That will get results, but it's going to become a thorn in Mgmt's side in the form of possible citations, being on a 'watch' list so that random follow up inspections are done, etc. That won't be appreciated, so that's why I'm encouraging you to try the letter first, before pulling out the big guns. Also, I don't like verbal communication for a couple reasons. It's too easy to put on a back burner, or a receptionist could have taken the call or voicemail and simply blew it off. In writing in the proper hands should get results.

If Mgmt has any sense, once they get your letter mentioning fire code and the fear for personal safety they will monitor this closely and realize if they don't, it's a dangerous area they are treading into. If that doesn't get results, then by all means do what you need to in order to protect your safety.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 9:02AM
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Could she possibly be opening it to get rid of the smell of.... something illegal going on? I personally would call the fire marshall's office and let them know what's going on. Don't worry about your super - either he does his job or he doesn't (and is quite able to take care of himself).

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 1:21PM
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Thanks for the advice. When I've called the management office I haven't mentioned the cat specifically for that reason--why would they care about someones random anxiety? So I just mentioned the fire marshal sign and that it seems like a safety issue. I do hesitate to call the fire marshal even though I know there are regulations saying landlords can't penalize a tenant for calling. But we all know that there are ways of treating people poorly without being in violation of a rule/law.

Also, no it's not a security door so at least anyone coming into the hall have already gotten access to the building. (Though people do prop open the security door to outside a lot too.)

I had thought of the smell issue. I know people do prop open the doors periodically for awhile when they've cooked something potent which doesn't bother me since it for short times. But, this doesn't seem to be the case as I haven't smelled anything strong. The logic behind it is so confusing! It makes me think they're now doing it just because they know I'm closing it.

I think I'm going to give it a day or two to see of it continues and then try the letter if nothing gets better. At least today it stayed closed for several hours between when I closed it and when I drove by on my lunch break. And when I closed it after work they've yet to open it again--it's been 2 1/2 hours. So it's a step in the right direction. Maybe they finally got the letter and aren't being so vigilant about it...

Thanks again for the advice! I was afraid someone would immediately say I'm being unreasonable.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 6:23PM
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Oh, I don't think you're unreasonable at all. As a LL I cover myself as best I can from these kinds of situations (houses, tho). And the reason I suggested holding off on the FM is for just the reason you stated. Not knowing what type of LL you have, some could take it as a personal affront. But I still say if you get no results beyond a letter or two, FM is a viable alternative.

I'd be interested to know how it goes.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 8:24PM
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