Landlord won't fix the furnace and its 6 degrees outside!

newhomeseekerDecember 22, 2008

I just moved into a new rental home a few months ago. It has electric heat (a heat pump). The first month's bill was $20 and the power company is known to be the cheaper of the power companies in the area (the place I lived previously had the more expensive company). My lease is for one year. I just got my 2nd electric bill and both were actual readings. THe 2nd electric bill is $110. The only thing that has changed is it has gotten colder so the furnance has run more (keep it at 55 degrees!) The last few nights the furnance does not shut off for more than ten minutes a day!!! And today it is 6 degrees outside and freezing in the house. If we turn it up to 60 or 65 it never reaches that temperature. It will run all day and barely reach 60 degrees!! It did this the other day when it was forty degrees outside! Called the landlord and she said she would call an electrician immediately to come check the furnance.

Well it has been days and she keeps making excuses. Saying maybe the furnance is actually working and tells us to turn it up to 70 degrees and maybe it will warm up.

Well it never raises the temperature to 70 degrees, it won't raise it above 60 and runs forever just to get to 60 degrees! We had a friend who used to work as an electrician (retired now) come over and check out the furnance. He tested the heating elements and said two have very low readings and are almost burnt out. That they need to be replaced. The landlord is stalling saying she placed a call to a guy to come out and check the furnance and he has not called back. She has tried telling us that electric heat is not as warm as gas (yes, we know that) but it feels like the furnance is just blowing the existing air in the house around with the fan. The furnance will run for an hour, shut off and literally come back on less than 2 minutes later. How can the air cool off that much in 2 minutes (there are no drafts or anything) Or the furnance will just run non stop until we lower the thermostat to 55 degress then it will shut off briefly (maybe for 20 minutes).

We live in OH and the rent is due the first of the month. If the landlord does not fix the furnance or at least have someone check it out is there any legal way we can withhold her rent until she does so? We literally can not sleep in this house at night because it is too cold. I think the landlord may have talked to her husband and they can't afford to have anyone come look at the furnance or pay to have it fixed so she is stalling and won't do anything. I found out recently that this landlord owes property taxes on ALL of her rental homes as well as her current home she lives in. She owes only $300 on the house we are renting from her. We pay her $800 a month to rent the place so she could take it out of that. Is there anything we can do?

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"If the landlord does not fix the furnance or at least have someone check it out is there any legal way we can withhold her rent until she does so?"

Maybe. Some states/municipalities allow tenants to withhold rent if the place becomes uninhabitable. You have to go through proper channels. You cannot just not pay. Rent must be deposited in a type of trust account. Contact your city.

You may not stand a chnace of being able to do this though. Where I live the landlord is required to have the building be able to be 55 degrees. Yes, that is not very warm, but you ain't gonna die. The law may vary where you are.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 4:56PM
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Get hold of whatever your local housing authority is immediately - what she is doing is illegal (not providing sufficient heat in winter) and as far as I know whether you've paid or not is irrelevant. The days of Oliver Twist (or pick some poor thing from back then) are over and so are those of slumlords.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 6:31PM
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Here's the Ohio Revised Code for a landlord's obligations.Specifically this paragraph applies to you:

(4) Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances, and elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by him;

Here's the Ohio Revised Code outlining tenant's options if landlord does not meet their obligations. Pretty specific.

I try to give both views (there are always two). Maybe your landlord is not paying taxes because they're not managing $ as they should ~or~ maybe some crisis has befallen them (i.e. serious illness with hefty medical bills, etc). Hard to say for sure, but stuff happens to us, too. ;)

Not defending their behavior, but I had a similar scenario just recently. There could well be a problem getting an electrician out in this weather, it's causing a lot of problems, especially if you've got ice on the power lines. We had an ice storm last week, power line collapsed to house, and sub zero temps were on the way the next day. Tenant had no heat. We hustled and spent Friday evening getting the power company out, then spent an entire Saturday on the phone till we finally snagged an electrician who could finish what the power company didn't cover (lots of power failures due to cold/ice). And the reason he responded was because the job site was close to his home at it was at the end of the day. No one else ever called us back. One of our largest contractors (suburban metro area) has only 1 heating guy on call on weekends. :-/ My tenant knew we were doing everything as quickly as possible (strive for that), but did at one point comment they 'didn't get what was taking so long'. (18 hours from time of line break to repair). ~sigh~ Some people seem to think we've got magic wands and contractors jump when we call. It's not how it works, we wait in line like everyone else. And in our county, those on home medical equipment get first priority by the power company and most heating contractors as well.

Hard to tell if your LL is jerking you around or caught up in the wait. Are you having a lot of bad weather where contractors would be really busy? Also keep in mind we just came off a weekend when contractors are running on skeleton crews. Could move faster now that we're in the work week again and full crews are working.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 7:10PM
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Good luck. i had no heat during the coldest winter. I tried reporting the landlord and got kicked out. Pay your rent. Thought this was illegal. The city where I lived said there is nothing they could do. Told me to find a better place to live.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 12:17AM
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