No heat at $5,000/month

Libertarians blame rent stabilization for the problems of tenants in cities like New York, but there are few rent stabilized apartments left in this town or this building. Most people in this building pay $4000 to $5000 a month for a “luxury rental” the size of a working-class Hoosier’s garage. Certainly the fee the landlord collects is luxurious. Nothing else about the place is. Particularly not luxurious is the lack of heat, now in its second day. Snow falls, arctic winds blow, but the $5000/month luxury building is as cold as a dead seal.

The building once employed a certified plumber capable of fixing the constant leaks and other woes that plague this building and are common to poorly maintained high-rise apartments thrown up in the go-go 1970s. But the managing agent was always six months late paying the plumber’s bill, and often argued about the charges months after they were incurred.

“I’ll pay for one guy,” the managing agent would tell the plumber six months after the plumber used three guys to fix an emergency in the building.

In cheating the licensed plumber, the managing agent did not act on the tenants’ behalf or with their knowledge or consent.

Eventually the competent licensed plumber grew tired of losing money every time he saved the building from disaster, and stopped accepting jobs here. The competent licensed plumber’s competent licensed colleagues did likewise. Thus the building placed its tenants at the mercies of the incompetent.

In the past 24 hours, four different low-cost plumbing companies have come to this luxury high-rise to fix its unconscionable heating problem. As a result of their efforts, the doctor’s office in the lobby has been flooded, and a pipe broke on the third floor, filling a tenant’s apartment with steam and pouring boiling water on her floor. Into this boiling water the tenant stepped when the steam she mistook for the smoke of a fire awoke her. I am grateful to hear that she is not seriously injured. Meanwhile, there is still no heat, and our daughter is sick with a hacking cough.

N.B. As a long-time tenant, I do not pay anything like $4,000 or $5,000 a month, but most people in the building do.

[tags]NYC, landlords, tenants, tenant rights, competence[/tags]

39 thoughts on “No heat at $5,000/month

  1. I can sympathise to an extent. I sit here now freezing cold with many layers of jumpers on while the heaviest rain I have seen in a long time falls outside.

    However my cold conditions are self inflicted as I am a poor student and my small 4 room flat has only one 30 year old electric heater that costs about £3 ($6.20) an hour to run.

  2. you have legal recourse via tenants rights laws to sue for damages caused by their lack of maintaining the building and providing essential utilities/services.

    i know the laws dictate the minimum temperatures that must be maintained at certain hours of the day (i think basically it’s 68 during waking hours and 55 at night).

    legal recourse doesn’t make you feel better but you might be able to recapture some of the rent money you’re paying for basic necessities you’re not being provided.

  3. Oh man. I’ve been thinking of you and particularly of your sick kid all day. Do you have any friends with heat close by? Except I wouldn’t want to move her in this weather either, probably. Hope this is all resolved very quickly.

  4. It’s much warmer outside than in.

    There are now six plumbers in the lobby, all on mobile phones, trying to contact someone who knows something about plumbing. A very old man with Alzheimer’s is standing around, giving them tips. He recently tried to buy a cup of coffee in Starbuck’s for 25 cents, and when the Starbuck’s cashier told him coffee was $1.25, he asked when the price went up.

    So that’s the state of affairs, heating-wise.

    But outside it’s snowy and fun! And we have a kiddie party to go where there will be warmth as well as friendship and food.

  5. That is just sick… 5k a month. How central is it, is it manhattan or brooklyn, how many sq. feet? I’ve been thinking about moving cross the pond to NYC once I graduate, but its hard to know where to look to find rent prices. Anyway, 5k, that’s basically an entire sallary. For no service at all. That’s sick…

  6. Sounds lke a royal pain. You’re probably going to dislike me greatly because all I can think about is how little snow we get here in Northern England.

    Hope the problem gets sorted soon!

  7. Many, many sympathies.

    Nearly two years ago I reached under my radiator and cranked the valve shut for good, having found near-blast furnace conditions create an environment antithetical to life. Said valve cap broke off in my hand. Hilarity ensued.

  8. Jeffrey, can’t you call 311 and file a complaint with the city? I see “No heat in your building? Call 311 now” signs sometimes throughout the city. It’s also a menu item in the 311 phone system.

  9. I understand the frustration but at the same time have to ask. Why? Why would you subject yourself to rent that high with conditions that poor? There are plenty of jobs elsewhere in this country. Maybe I just don’t get New York but that has no appeal to me whatsoever.

  10. You’ve just named every reason I’ll never live in NYC. Is there any particular reason that requires you to live in Manhattan? The events you described above seem like a valid way to get out of your lease early. $5k/mo will get you a beautiful house even 50mi outside of Manhattan.

  11. I don’t pay rent that high. I can’t answer for those who do.

    There are opportunities in New York that don’t exist in some places that are more affordable.

    After 48 hours of cold, the heat came back around 8:00 last night … just as the weather was shifting from arctic back to unseasonably warm.

    The plumbers are back today, however, so I am confident that the heat and hot water will disappear again shortly.

  12. This just reaffirms my conviction that big cities are fun to visit, but a house on your own lot is infinitely better. It’s my grass, my trees, my driveway, my hvac unit… And here in North Alabama, it all costs so much less.

  13. Note to self: never consider moving to New York. My rent is currently $530 for a pretty spacious 2BR apartment with underground parking (no scraping ice for this guy). The toiliets flush, and I am warm. I always thought it would be fun to live in New York, too bad they didn’t show me the bills on Seinfeld.

  14. Sorry to hear the current woes. That stinks.

    It is one of the pleasures of living in a mostly owner occupied co-op/condo that you’ll soon be enjoying. When everyone living there has a stake in the building it is managed to a MUCH higher level. Rather than worrying about squeezing out the last penny of profit, the board looks to make it a great place to live.

    I joined my co-op board 2 years ago and we always look at how to preserve domestic tranquility in our actions. You should consider the board in your new building when you land and get your bearings.

    … I don’t understand the point about rent control though. It seems to me that you successfully made the argument against it. When a land-lord is forced, by law, to reduce rents, they have to find a way to pay the bills with less revenue. If they can charge whatever the market prices are for each apartment, they are more likely to have enough to support the best service vendors available. Right? (assuming we’re not talking about scum-bags)

  15. While I feel bad for you, it’s hard to muster up much sympathy for anyone who can afford to spend $5,000 dollars a month for rent.

  16. It’s funny how many people chidded you about the $5G’s/month yet you said more than once:

    I don’t pay rent that high.

    Well, I was in NYC yesterday at NYU and it was cold, wet, and unpleasant. I hope your fortunes turn around. I’ll keep my eye out for any good deals in case you’re tired of spending $5G’s/month :)

  17. I don’t care who you are, that just sucks mightily. As mentioned by many a writer, there are few things as disheartening as constant cold. Glad to hear you’re warming your toes again for the time being.

  18. Thanks to the rough conditions in the apartment over the weekend, my wife’s and daughter’s mild colds with coughs have turned into full-blown bronchial disasters. A– coughs so hard, she vomits. C—– temporarily lost her voice. They are both sleeping now.

    Our dog is also sick, although his problems at least were not exacerbated by the lack of services over the weekend. Rough day.

    While I feel bad for you, it’s hard to muster up much sympathy for anyone who can afford to spend $5,000 dollars a month for rent.

    Well, I don’t pay anything like that.

    But rents of $4000 to $5000 are quite common in this building and this city, for ordinary one- and two-bedroom apartments. You think the people who live in them must be rich, but they’re not.

    To afford the high rents, two or three or four young professionals move in together into an apartment that’s meant to serve one or two. Put four or five people in an apartment that’s built for one or two and multiply it by most of the units in a building. That’s a lot of unanticipated wear and tear the building wasn’t designed to handle and isn’t ready for. Elevators break down more frequently, water goes out, heat goes out. High prices lead to more bodies in every apartment, which accelerates the breakdown of basic services.

    It is one of the pleasures of living in a mostly owner occupied co-op/condo that you’ll soon be enjoying. When everyone living there has a stake in the building it is managed to a MUCH higher level. Rather than worrying about squeezing out the last penny of profit, the board looks to make it a great place to live.

    Yes, I am looking forward to that! We would have moved already, if not for the unexpected closing date delay.

  19. I spent the past weekend installing R-30 and R-25 Comfort-Therm insulation in my attic. I’ve never been so sore in my life after hours of crouching and crawling. All that work for local temperatures that rarely go below freezing. Rents and mortgages are expensive out here in Northern California, but at least we have nice weather. I hope your little one gets better. It’s so tough when your kids are sick.

  20. Wow. That’s awful. You’ll soon be over the hump, but it will feel like forever to get there.

    NYC, how I miss thee? :)

    I love New York. But I love paying reasonable rent for quiet, comfy, and appropriately sized living space. You don’t have to be anywhere (except online) to make it here (the internet) – some may disagree.

  21. … I don’t understand the point about rent control though. It seems to me that you successfully made the argument against it. When a land-lord is forced, by law, to reduce rents, they have to find a way to pay the bills with less revenue. If they can charge whatever the market prices are for each apartment, they are more likely to have enough to support the best service vendors available. Right? (assuming we’re not talking about scum-bags)

    Daniel, you are right, you do not understand rent control or rent stabilization. You also are not privy to the the financial *health* of new york city landlords. Landlords behavior is terms of providing basic services to their tenants is irrespective of having rent stabilized tenants or not.

    pay the bills with less revenue

    I just have to laugh at this one. You have no idea.

    Many of these landlords bought buildings in New York City when the city was giving them away in the ’70s. In the course of the past decade each and everyone of these landlords have won the lottery thanks to a global credit bubble which has in turn inflated real estate values in NYC.

    These landlords are cash rich. Literally. Again, you have no idea. I can go on and on. And the reason landlords can charge $4,000-5,000 monthly rent is because there are young proffesional willing to pay that much. Simple as that.

    Jeffrey,

    Sorry to hear about your situation. All the best with respect to your family’s health.

  22. Most people in this building pay $4000 to $5000 a month for a “luxury rental” the size of a working-class Hoosier’s garage.

    Yipes. And I thought living in Santa Monica was pricey.

  23. I moved back to my hometown from Philly because I was sick of the house prices. My firends in NYC make about $6,000 to $10,000 more than me but have about 50% more bills. I currently pay $600 for a single 3 bedroom home and they are paying from $3000 to $5000 for a place about 1/3 the size. I am about to buy a place with 4 bedrooms, hardwood floors, 3 acres of land, a deck, 2 car garage, near a private pond that is only 20 minutes from where I work for a morgage of $650 a month.

    I often miss the city (Philly that is) and nevermcould justisfy NYC enough to live there but I am more excited to be out of the rat race and still doing what I love for a decent dollar.

    Good luck, and I wish your family well.

  24. Actually it does prove Daniel’s point about Rent Control; few of the tenants are willing to move and give up the low rent, therefore the landlords have no reason to fix things, even if they do have the money.

  25. Actually it does prove Daniel’s point about Rent Control; few of the tenants are willing to move and give up the low rent, therefore the landlords have no reason to fix things, even if they do have the money.

    I’m just going to say once more: most people in the building pay $4,000 to $5,000 a month. That’s not low rent, and it’s not causing the landlord any hardship. At 10 units per floor, that’s $50,000 gross per floor per month. And there are 21 floors.

    Sure, the building has taxes and staff to pay, but the owners are still raking it in.

    The managing agent didn’t mistreat and thereby alienate a competent plumber because of “rent control” or because rents are low (they are high) or because the building doesn’t make enough profit (it makes a sickening obscenity of profit every day). The managing agent mistreated a competent plumber because the managing agent is a jerk. Period.

  26. In response to some of the comments is NYC really worth it? My vote would be yes. My daughter did her internship there last summer. Since we had the apartment paid for the summer we took advantage of price line and were frequents flyers to NYC. I pay under 800 per month for a 4 bedroom brick house with a garage, fenced in backyard blah blah blah. What I don’t have is wonderful public transportation, a widely diverse population, and to live in the cultural hub of the universe. If I could convince my wife I’d gladly move into a small apartment with high rent and seemingly ridiculous living conditions at times. I think I understand why Jeffery puts up with it, he’d be bored out of his skull anyplace else.

  27. “Sure, the building has taxes and staff to pay, but the owners are still raking it in.”

    How do you know that? Have you every owned rental property?

    Also, technically the tenants paying $4-$5,000 per month are also on rent stabilization. It’s just at a higher level than you, because they moved in later. The landlord has to put away money to make up for the shortfall he will experience in the future as these people stick around and overall costs rise at a faster rate than the rent can rise. Or to think of it another way, these other tenants are partially subsidizing your unit.

  28. The respiratory afflictions concern me, but I think you get those more from viruses than from being in the cold. I think it’s more a factor of being surrounded by people. Although once you are sick, it can be harder to fight off the bugs if keeping warm and hydrated is a problem.

    This is in the area of alternative medicine or “folk remedy,” but I humbly think it works: When I feel like I’m just starting to come down with a cold, I’ll put a few drops of ordinary, over the counter hydrogen peroxide (3% solution, h2o2) solution in my ears. This is on the theory that cold and flu viruses primarily enter the system through the ears more than eyes, nose, or mouth. My experience is that if I do this when first feeling symptoms, it can knock down the viral bug or even stop in it’s tracks. Just 3 or 4 drops in each ear, and plug them with cotton for maybe 10 minutes to 1/2 an hour. Lay on one side and do in one ear, then roll over on the other side and do it in the other ear. The hydrogen peroxide solution won’t hurt anything, so long as it’s not swallowed, and at minimum, it’ll clean out your ears. While some people may talk or write about taking hydrogen peroxide internally for certain things, you don’t take the 3% solution sold in over-the-counter in drugstores internally because it contains stabilizers that shouldn’t be ingested. There’s a 35% food grade solution used primarily in food industry applications but it has to be diluted to a less than 10% solution before it can safely be ingested by itself. Then there’s a 90% solution that’s basically used as the oxygen source in rocket fuel. Probably best to stay away from that stuff. But the plain old 3% drug store solution that sells for a couple bucks a bottle is fine to put in your ears. Once it’s in the ear it tickles, but we find it kind of entertaining listening to it fizz. Once a cold or flu bug gets set in, it may not prevent it but doing this 3 or 4 times a day seems to help speed up recovery. My wife, who helps run a daycare, came down with a nasty cold about a month ago. She didn’t get a chance to do it until the cold had already built up some steam, later in the day, but she thinks it helped her get over it quicker; in a few days vs. a couple of weeks, maybe? For any questions it might be worth while to check with a physician familiar with alternative approaches to treatment.

    On the other thing: Holy canolies! $4k to $5k a month for an apartment!

    From time to time I’ve been known to emit rumblings to the effect that we should relocate to some area where the market for what I do is a little more robust. We’ve talked about Chicago, NYC, and Minneapolis. But all in all, it’s not so bad sitting out here on the frozen midwestern prairies. For $400/month, we get a 2 story, 3 bedroom house with with 2 1/2 baths, a first floor office/study/parlor, in addition to the living, kitchen, and dining room, plus attic and cellar, detached garage, and a back yard about the size of a football field. We have natural gas heat and central air which we only use for maybe a month, total, in the summer because the house is well shaded by big trees. We have a decent sized super market around the corner and about 2 blocks away. And a nice little library about a block up the street the other way. Three blocks away are open fields. About a half mile to the east is an extensive marsh and wildlife area. It’s not unusual to see deer cutting through the back yard.

    I think I’ll stay here.

  29. just a note, people paying $4,000 or $5,000 are NOT on rent stabilization.
    Any unit over $2000 (it may be 2100, it’s been awhile since I took a course in this) is not subject to rent stabilization laws.

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