tenant rights on stx  

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shanekuhlmann
(@shanekuhlmann)
Active Member

I have a question about what I can do as a tenant for a area realtor.
we reported our oven wasn't working over 3 weeks ago, the repair person came out and said he would order a part and it would take about a week. Every time we call the realtor about the issue they get somewhat defensive and generally act like they do not know what's going on or we get an excuse about the post office lost the parts and they had to be reordered and so forth. They never provide any tracking to actually prove any of these points though.
I have even offered to buy whatever the part is and install it, if they would credit my rent but that wasn't an option to them.

In the past they have used this tactic with a few issues that have came up.

1. broken light fixture that required wiring repair, they used to tell us someone is coming and after 6 months they just told us the owner doesn't want to pay to repair it. which I found odd but its not a main light so I accepted that answer.

2. The refrigerator is rusting all down the front. I asked if they or I could even repaint it. I got the same round about answer as the fridge, so I just quit asking.

3. The clothes washing machine leaks occasionally. there is a seal issue on it. they sent a repair person out and he said it would be fixed in a few days, that was 3 months ago. It only does it occasionally so I thought it wasn't a big deal.

4. In the original ad for the rental pest services were provided. When we asked we were told someone would come by monthly. 6 months later no one has ever came by and we were told its not in the lease. My fault I didn't look in the lease specifically for that so I accept that.

What can I legally do?
I basically told the realtor that if the oven isn't going to be repaired then I need to move. I frequently bake chicken and other things for dinner. The realtor threatened me with losing my deposit and being sued for the remainder of the rent for the lease. I looked through lease and there is no clauses about repairing broken appliances. I found very limited information about tenant rights online in the vi code.
is there anyone who has advice or been in a similar situation as this? I don't want to name the realtor because stx is a small island so word would get around quick but I am out of ideas on how to get them to at the very least fix the oven or the process to get out of lease with deposit.

any advice would be appreciated.

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Posted : March 13, 2014 5:38 pm
OldTart
(@OldTart)
Expert

There is a paucity of information available to VI residents where landlord tenant relationships are concerned but, in my experience (unfortunately I've been in court a few times on landlord/tenant issues over the years), judges usually go by what's commonly and generally written in stateside laws.

As far as general maintenance and appliances are concerned, these should be addressed in writing to the LL Emails are usually acceptable but return receipt certified is even better. A landlord is expected to repair broken appliances included in the lease "within a reasonable time". Even allowing for "island time" I would consider a current wait of three weeks to fix a non-working oven to be extreme. I would write a polite but firm letter to the property management company advising them that if the oven isn't repaired and operational within a week from the date of the letter you will replace it with a similar model and deduct the charges from your next rent payment.

I would also point out that your request to have the leaking washing machine repaired has been ignored and that you expect to have same fixed without further delay.

If you still have the original ad which says that extermination services are provided as part of the rental, provide them with a copy of the ad and ask them why this hasn't been done.

The realtor can flap gums about not returning your security deposit and charging you for the remainder of the lease but cannot withhold your security deposit unless he provides a detailed and documented list of expenses related to damage within a reasonable time of your leaving. In most stateside jurisdictions this is 30 days from the date you leave/turn over the keys. A landlord is also legally bound to mitigate his damages by making every effort to find a tenant to replace you if you leave before your lease is up. He can neither arbitrarily sit back, do nothing and charge you for the remaining months of your lease nor find another tenant and "double dip" by taking your rent while accepting rent from a new tenant.

Nothing you can do about the rusted 'fridge. It's working!

Next time you rent property, take extensive dated photographs before you move in and likewise take photos when you've cleaned the place right before you move out. Always address maintenance issues in writing - you can always report problems over the 'phone but follow up with a confirming email. And of course always read your lease carefully before signing it ...

Stay firm but quiet and polite in your dealings. Hope that helps a little. Good luck!

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Posted : March 13, 2014 6:54 pm
Jumbie
(@ohiojumbie-2)
Trusted Member

You paint a rather dismal picture as a renter in dealing with what sounds like "bullying". I assume this realtor is managing the property for an off-island owner, who may or may not know what the real story is with your issues. As far as a rusted fridge goes, that's par for the course in a salt air enviornment. If it were me I would just move out if this "realtor" doesn't get things fixed within next 2-3 weeks. Let them worry about how to track you down at your new rental. Nobody should have to put up with the kind of treatment you describe.

Keith Crilow

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Posted : March 13, 2014 7:00 pm
shanekuhlmann
(@shanekuhlmann)
Active Member

thanks for the good advice.

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Posted : March 13, 2014 7:57 pm
rmb2830
(@rmb2830)
Advanced Member

might want to ask consumer prot/licensing if they have any jurisdiction

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Posted : March 13, 2014 8:04 pm
loucypher
(@loucypher)
Advanced Member

Should you decide to break the lease be absolutely sure you have documentation to back up your story. Send certified letters and keep records of all communication to the landlord and/or property management company. Should you end up in court over this you have proof to back up your claim.
But what about your security deposit? You may not get it back right away or at all. Unless of course you go to court and the judge finds in your favor. Even then they might "thumb their nose" and still not refund it without an additional day in court.
When I was in the states my landlord neglected to fix the heat for two heating seasons. The issue was that the pump for the baseboard heat was so noisy we couldn't sleep with the heat on. We bought a space heater for the bedroom.
Long story short 2 years later the judge awarded $50.00 per month during the heating season and the price of the space heater.
Then to prove how big a dick he could be, he (landlord) decided to retaliate by not returning our deposit when we left. The judge awarded double damages for not providing reasonable cause. That cost the landlord another $825.00
It would have been cheaper for the idiot to just fix his heat in the first place.

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Posted : March 13, 2014 8:32 pm
divinggirl
(@divinggirl)
Trusted Member

I don't want to name the realtor because stx is a small island so word would get around quickquote]
Exactly why you should name them - maybe it will light a fire under their rump! I know a couple of years ago someone listed issues with a realtor on this board and got no where until he named them then all of a sudden things got done.

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Posted : March 13, 2014 9:55 pm
Juanita
(@Juanita)
Expert

Perhaps you could contact the VI Board of Realtors and ask if they can advise you on how to proceed. No offense to any of the posters on here who are offering advice, which may well be correct....I don't know, but it may not, and if it's not correct, it may get you into trouble. However you proceed, it's my understanding the VI courts are generally bent toward tenants' rights. After years of being a landlord in the islands, I (thankfully) never had to find out first hand!! 🙂

Juanita

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Posted : March 13, 2014 9:59 pm
dougtamjj
(@dougtamjj)
Expert

I believe the correct way to deal with this is to go to the court house and put your rent into escrow with the court until the items are fixed if the broken items are not excluded in the lease. When the landlord provides proof of repair the funds are released.

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Posted : March 13, 2014 10:30 pm
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

As long as the fridge works I wouldn't worry about that. Things rust down here. The oven on the other hand.....

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Posted : March 14, 2014 12:11 am
jsc173
(@jsc173)
Active Member

I haven't seen anyone recommend you talk to an attorney.

I don't live in the VI - yet - but I have to think an attorney could get you what you want:

1. If you do want to stay you could get things fixed by the landlord or fix yourself and deduct from the rent, or;

2. If you want to leave, you could sue the landlord for breaching the lease under a doctrine known as constructive eviction. In other words, if the place is unlivable, you can walk.

I wouldn't just walk or you might get sued.

As others have said, if you;re in front of a judge, words are worthless. Letters and emails trump "he said - she said."

Good luck.

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Posted : March 14, 2014 3:09 am
gonetropo
(@gonetropo)
Advanced Member

If you go the attorney route, be ready to pay about $350/hour for their services. Highway robbery in the VI!

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Posted : March 14, 2014 9:41 am
Alana33
(@Alana33)
Expert

Review your lease document as a judge will make decisions based on what both parties have signed and the terms agreed.

However, you may wish to call someone in to fix the oven and make other repairs, keep receipts and deduct from rental amount.
I would request in writing, first, if not already done, that the agent please fix the items mentioned within a reasonable amount of time, state how long you have been waiting, etc. and give them a certain amount of time to comply, then pay to fix yourself. take pics, keep receipts.

Keep documentation of all requests, conversations and communications between you, the landlord or land lord's representative.
Have you spoken to landlord directly or requested that you be put in touch? Keep EVERYTHING in writing.
Good idea to contact the VI Board of Realtors as they may be able to assist you in which direction you should go with this particular situation, especially if there have been complaints in the past with regard to this agent.

As for a rusty looking fridge - easy fix.
They sell a special appliance paint at Home Depot or paint stores but you'll have unplug it (can't paint when cold) get rid of all exterior condensation, sand it completely, clean the entire surface prior to painting and then paint with special paint using small foam rollers. Don't try to spray it, ever. Remove or tape the handles unless painting that but tape to protect the seals around the refrigerator doors/ don't paint them. Using the foam rollers has it come out looking brand new. Take before and after pics but seriously doubt someone will sue you because you made something look better as long as you do a good job.

It already sounds as if you will have a difficult time getting your security deposit returned, I hate to say, so take pics of everything, keep good records and pay your rent on time. Is the agent the owner of the company that manages the rental unit? If not, have you spoken to the owner of the company? As a Realtor and a landlord, I respond very quickly to things that need repair in my rentals.
I'd never rent with a rusty looking refrigerator, either.
Good Luck.

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Posted : March 14, 2014 1:28 pm
OldTart
(@OldTart)
Expert

As for a rusty looking fridge - easy fix.
They sell a special appliance paint at Home Depot or paint stores but you'll have unplug it (can't paint when cold) get rid of all exterior condensation, sand it completely, clean the entire surface prior to painting and then paint with special paint using small foam rollers. Don't try to spray it, ever. Remove or tape the handles unless painting that but tape to protect the seals around the refrigerator doors/ don't paint them. Using the foam rollers has it come out looking brand new. Take before and after pics but seriously doubt someone will sue you because you made something look better as long as you do a good job.

If you're inclined to redo the 'fridge don't do it unless you have written permission from the LL.

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Posted : March 14, 2014 2:19 pm
mtdoramike
(@mtdoramike)
Trusted Member

You have the right to move out in an expiditious manner:)

I would never rent through a realtor, they have no real skin in the game, their only motivation is getting the apartment rented. I much prefer to rent from the owner, they have more skin in the game and usually a lot easier to deal with because if they get a good paying tenant in their rental, they want to do what they can to keep them. I also try and rent without a lease on a month to month basis, which is still not that hard to find.

Lastly, like I mentioned above, MOVE OUT, espcially if your lease is up, if not, let the realtor if these items are not taken care of by a certain date, you will be moving out. But make sure this is in writing and sent registered mail so they have to sign for it to show that they have it and proof can be presented in court if they try and come after you for the remainder of the lease.

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Posted : March 14, 2014 2:50 pm
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