Skip to comments.Coal fireplace vs. space heaters vs. steam --tenant question
Posted on 10/10/2012 7:17:05 AM PDT by Feline_AIDS
Once again I come to you with questions. This time it's about heating my apartment. I'm the tenant. State is SC.
I am renting an apartment that is part of a divided house. I live on the top floor. My apartment has 2 coal fireplaces that have obviously not been used for a long time. They are back to back in 2 different rooms, so they share a chimney.
The apartment downstairs had fireplaces in the same spots (same chimney), but a previous tenant removed the mantel on one and closed up the hole (not sure about materials used).
The house had an old boiler, but it was always messing up (my first 2 years living there). The people that worked on it finally said they wouldn't touch it anymore because it was too dangerous. (Great!) So the owners installed a brand new, $15,000 boiler in the basement. It wouldn't work at all because the radiators needed to be bled. All steam hammers and no heat. Another winter passed, and I had no heat except a space heater they provided.
Then the heat worked beautifully (1 year). Enter the moron that ruins everyone's fun: the new girl downstairs. The temperature was controlled by the steam allowed into each radiator because the thermostat had essentially been turned off. (Did I mention all of this $15,000 boiler upgrade was done under the table by a family friend of the owner?) So if you wanted a room to be cooler, you would turn the knob on the bottom of the radiator and limit or close off the intake of steam. But on her radiator, the knob was missing. She needed a wrench. So I loaned her one. She claimed it wouldn't work and she had already complained to the landlord that the heat was broken again. She moved out soon after.
So what does the landlord do? The landlord says enough is enough and he's sick of paying our heating bill in the first place (one of the greatest draws of the apt, second to location).
They install these http://www.lg.com/us/air-conditioners/lg-LW7010HR-window-air-conditioner in all the places where there were older window air conditioners before.
This, they say, is going to be our source of heat and cooling. Initially it was called a "backup" in case the boiler quit again. But surprise! Once it actually got cold, they refused to turn on the boiler.
This product indicates that it has "energy saving" properties, as well as "temperature control." Both of these claims are misleading. This is an airconditioner with a space heater included.
The temperature can be set for the airconditioning, and when the energy saver mode is on, the unit turns itself off (except for the digital temperature numbers on the front) and comes on as needed to maintain the temperature in the room. This should work for the heat too, right? Nope.
When you turn the heat on, you still have to choose a temperature, but the energy saving option is disabled. This means that the unit stays on continuously and blows the air at whatever temperature you choose. This doesn't mean that the room stays that temperature, though. If you tell it to heat to 75, for example, the room will become stifling after a time because the heat source is never reduced.
I thought maybe mine were broken--that I was supposed to have energy saving options--so I called LG. I asked the representative the same question in about 45 different ways, and he told me that no, this unit would never cycle on and off when on the heat setting. It will stay on and produce one temperature air continuously.
In other words, I can't control the temperature of the house unless I'm there to adjust it in the winter. I could leave the unit on, I suppose, but the house would be very hot when I returned because the heat builds and builds. It also seems unsafe with all this old wiring.
Every winter day I come home to a cold house to see my dog shivering to death. And she's wearing a fur coat.
So my question is: Is this legal?
I have no way to set a thermostat to have heating elements maintain that temperature unless I use my standalone space heater which has this function, which was actually bought by the landlords when the first boiler had to be replaced in the dead of winter.
I called the building inspector's office, and talked to a woman who seemed to indicate that a landlord had to supply a thermostat control that would provide a "base of heat." I submitted an anonymous request for the building to be inspected, but nothing ever happened.
I wonder if the inspector did come and a) no one was home, b) he saw the temperature read out and thought that was more than it actually is, or c) the joke's on me for expecting this kind of bureaucracy to ever work in my favor.
There's nothing in my lease about the fireplaces. I want to call a chimney sweep and have him inspect and clean them if needed and fire up some coal!
As you might imagine, a house old enough to have coal fireplaces (1900?) has no insulation and enough cracks and crevices to build a crack house. Running space heaters with no temperature control is... uh... expensive. Not to mention cold (because I can't leave them on).
The best outcome: the landlords turn the boiler back on.
After spending ~$5,000 for 12 of the above units to force us to pay for our own heat (they hate us, obviously), they don't want to have to start paying for heat again. I honestly think the people who installed them were morons, because they thought that the remote had a temperature sensor in it. Then they told me that all the remotes were interchangeable. That doesn't add up, fellas. The owners thought this was the perfect solution to make us pay for our heat. (I guess we're just screwed if/when the power goes out.)
I'm leaving SC in the spring, so moving isn't an option now.
So, freepers, what would you do if you were in my position? As always, thanks in advance for your help.
What do you pay per month? What is the heating cost per month you have to pay now? Move if that’s too much for you. You’re leaving anyway. Paying a buttload to keep from moving isn’t good economics....
Move out now.
You can find short term housing at a motel or hotel and keep your sanity.
I couldn’t really follow what you said, but I would guess that if you light a fire in that old chimney, the place will burn down (you didn’t mention a lining).
We use this since the kids aren’t in the house. We only really need our bedroom, bathroom and kitchen area toasty and in Texas it isn’t like it’s crazy cold all the time.
It does cut off, too.
If you don’t need both window units remove one.
Close up the fireplaces and pur clear plastic kits over the windows.
Use the space heater when you are out (MAKE SURE IT IS SECURE FROM THE PETS) and when you sleep.
Do you have a lease? It may say landlord pays heat since he did at first.
You have a heat source.... that’s the good news.
What we used to do back in the old days when I lived in an apartment with a similar problem in OH is open the window in the winter.
If you pay for electricity it’s a crappy solution but at least you kinda control the temp.
Best fix would be to get a thermostat wired into the LG heaters IMO.
Do you have more than one of the units?
Sounds complicated. Maybe a letter (less detailed than your post) to the landlord with a deadline date by which they must resolve the heat problem, or you will report them to whatever agency should care. Cite the specific section of the lease, or a highlighted photocopy of the lease, and/or any local ordinances, which indicate that the landlord is responsible for the heat. A nice sweater for your dog?
Is it that the landlord pays for heat, but you pay for electricity? So running space heaters is an expense for you, not the landlord?
Have you talked to other tenants to see how they are resolving this?
If it were me, I would stop paying rent until the heating issue is fixed.
I had a lease that said the landlord provided heat, but they arbitrarily decided to rewrite it without heat and raise my rent last year.
I THINK that they have to provide a method of heating that is controlled by a thermostat, which I do not have. I also think this requirement might have to do with it being a multi-family dwelling and not a stand alone, single family unit.
Every time I call the city, they have no idea that this house has 5 separate units in it...
I have three of the window units.
Space heaters are not intended as sole heat sources. Aging building wiring and space heaters cause fires daily across the country in the winter time. This is one reason new construction requires arc-fault circuit breakers, especially in bedrooms.
As mentioned, live in a motel till spring, life is short enough already, no need to make it shorter.
If your lease included the landlord paying for the heat, and that was not changed, then the landlord is not fulfilling their part of the contract.
Your recourses are:
1. Move claiming breach of contract. The burden will be on you to get back your deposit etc.
2. Withhold rent, based on breach of contract.
3. Withhold last, two-months rent, subtracting out the cost of heating and your deposit.
I am a landlord, and I would not do what you have described to any of my tenants. A contract goes two ways. When I had an A/C go bad, I had a new $5000 unit in place within 24 hours.
To be blunt, the place sounds like an explosion or fire waiting to happen. If it were me — I’d put whatever I didn’t absolutely need into storage and move somewhere else NOW for the remaining time you’re in the state.
Tried both of these.
Finally wrote them a letter reminding them they had to heat the place or else I’d call the city, and the landlord’s response was quote “Why are you doing me like this?”
They evicted one guy who stopped paying his rent until it was fixed.
The other tenants are cold, too, but they’re afraid of eviction and need the place for the location. They also don’t know that they can have reliable heat from the boiler because they’re newer to the place.
Local building code in Ga does not require a thermostat controlled heat source, SC is likely the same.
The only requirement is a heat source capable of heating the living space to a minimum temp of 68 degrees in winter. Sounds like you have that already.
On your coal fireplaces, do not use. Coal produces H2SO4 when it burns and this eats away at the grouting and cement work in the chimney. At least it will need relining before any attempt to use, cost these days on that kind of work is quite high. Between the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and setting the hidden structure on fire, that coal FP should not be used.
I agree! That's one of the reasons I'm reluctant to leave anything running while I'm gone. The new boiler has automatic shutoffs and all sorts of safety features.
The fireplaces will draw the heat up the chimney and pull cold air in through every crack and crevice in the house. The coal will also stink up the neighborhood and you may get complaints from neighbors. If you do use it you will only get radiant heat and the rest will go up the chimeny.
What kind of cooking stove do you have? Electric or Nat Gas? You can use the nat gas stove as a heater but you need to beware of CO if you do it. If on propane or natural gas, you can hook into it with a small non-vented space heater, depending on your city codes.
I live in an old house on natural gas and have several space heaters. There is enough air leaking in to prevent CO poisoning.
I will always have a natural gas or propane system as when an ice storm knocks out all the electricity it also takes out the central heat as the fans in it run on electricity.
So why didn’t the Lux thermostatic switch work? I use them to cycle house fans with the temperature and they work great. Are the heater units 220 volts? You can get 220 volts thermostatic switches as well if you need those.
If you definitely plan to move in the spring, check your local eviction regulations. Possibly you can stop paying the rent now, and it may take months for them to legally evict you.
Another idea is to go to local TV news “action reporter” or whatever is available, and make a big deal about it, have it on the news... ?
Quartz heaters as needed is what i do in places I have no other source...old coal fireplaces are pretty and will burn a little wood too but make sure they draft nice...small fire only...but they are not much for heat...a buckstove will run you out of the home in all but NE South Carolina in winter.
I’m in Nashville metro...probably median winter US wise..going without heat in a bad winter here like two years ago would be rough
Renting can be pleasant or excrutiating.
Laws vary based on the municipality and state and are extremely different, especially in practice, depending on where you are.
In NYC, “low income” tenants are pretty much set for life no matter what they do or don’t do, including paying the rent.
In nice suburban towns where renting is very politically incorrect, everything is turned in favor of the landlord and against the tenant. There is absolutely no charitable feeling towards tenants in these areas; I was once evicted 3 or 4 days before the lease expired and was only not physically evicted because I had already moved. I was barely able to keep my head above water at the time and could not come up with the last month’s rent and the deposit on the new place, so I just scooted and let the landlord keep the security deposit. The dude paid costs of evicting me legally when he did not have to; he just wanted in his own mind to feel that he “evicted” me. The court went ahead and issued the eviction order, even though landlord was not due any money because he had the recourse of keeping the deposit, which he did. A complete waste of the court’s time, but it was following “the letter of the law”. I’ve had another landlord that literally waited years for repayment after I moved out, simply kindly calling me.
No sense, IMHO, in “swimming upstream”, i.e., expending mental energy in vain.
Allow me to introduce you to something new: the little tiny cheap portable electric space heater. They have gone a LONG way technologically. Some have thermostats. You really only need one for each 400 to 500 square feet of apartment.
Big problem: they are dangerous if not properly used. All electric devices can cause fires if not properly used.
As a programmer, I’m naturally paranoid just short of the point of insanity (I’m actually just a stickler for getting things right). So if I use heaters, generators, motors, fans, whatever, I go to extremes to make sure I’m not overloading the typical 15 AMP circuit, have no “tinder” anywhere near wires or devices (things like rugs, blankets - anything). Electrical resistence produces heat. Wiring that has too small of an electrical capacity for what it’s being asked to do will heat up and can burn through. Of course all of these devices are now made by laughing communist Chinese who build all electrical equipment they send to use such that it will start fires (power supplies in computers are famous for this). Whatever devices I have around the house, I make sure I’m not setting myself up for problems - I assume that it WILL burst into flames at some point. Pets can cause problems too (chewing, etc.) but will be very reliable if properly trained. They have an uncanny sense of heat sources and will stay away - they can sense electrical current and do not like it.
If one is not meticulous, electrical space heaters may not be the way to go; a house fire is such a bad event that even if it increases the chance of a fire by 0.00001% you would probably not want to take the risk, seeing how you and puppy are in there.
I do all that I can to be prudent and pray that God might protect me for all the things I did not forsee.
The electrical heaters will use electricity, i.e., make the bill higher, so one should try to minimize overuse. There are probably local ordinances that prohibit space heaters, along with smoking, drinking, possessing a firearm and permitting puppy to poop outside. It would probably be smart to keep the space heater between just you and the few million folks who read FR.
I had a lease that said the landlord provided heat, but they arbitrarily decided to rewrite it without heat and raise my rent last year.
Did you sign this ‘arbitrarily” rewriten new lease?
This is a terrible idea. Evictions are legal actions. Withholding rent, at least in Ohio, for any reason without placing the rent into an escrow account with the court, will result in eviction. The landlord will then ask the court to award damages. The judgment will show on a credit report and will more than likely prevent him from renting in the future.
Call the court house that handles evictions in your area and ask about placing your rent into escrow.
If they plug into a socket, you might be able to find a thermostat they can plug into. If it is 220 Voltage and it likely is, it may be harder to find one. If they’re hardwired, you will need an electrician or a H/C person to get a thermostat wired in.
I would withhold rent until the landlord resolves the issue. Get in contact with city officials, aldermen, city council, health department if the landlord doesn’t respond in a timely manner.
If the building and wiring are old, the current required by the heater/air unit may be pushing the limit of what the wiring can handle. Feel the plug/outlet area after it has been on awhile and see how hot it is. Find someone knowledgeable about wiring and have them check the breaker panel and the size/condition of the wire in the outlets. They may be cutting corners that the building inspector and the fire marshal would like to know about.
If the city makes him turn on the boiler they will allow him to add the cost to your rent.
YOUR LEASE SAYS YOU PAY FOR HEAT.
If that will make you happy go for it.
The LG LW7010HR has heat control. The fan will keep running but the heater will turn on and off. There should be a setting that works for you.
Leaking windows will allow cool air in to the thermostat though.
Good luck. You made a bad deal to pay more rent and also pay for the heat but that’s life.
Note that I prefaced the response by sayign to check the local regulations.
Sounds like a case for constructive eviction. Ask a lawyer.
Wow, crazy situation you have there. I can’t figure out why if the heat didn’t work because the radiatiors needed to be bled, they didn’t just bleed them? It takes about 30 seconds. Same for why the owner didn’t just go buy a radiator handle for like 3 bucks?
As to whether the situation is legal, most likely it is not, but it will depend on the laws in your state/locality. Even when you have a lease where you are specifically responsible for providing your own heat, the owner usually must provide the means for the heat, and you just have to pay the bills. Not providing usable heating generally falls under the category of “unlivable conditions”, which means, in most states, you do not have to pay rent until that situation is rectified by the owner.
I’d go see a lawyer that specializes in tenant law, because you can probably not only get the situation remedied, but you might have compensation coming your way, the way this sounds.
I went all winter without furnace heat in central Indiana.
Never dropped below 45 but I was using a woodstove to get thru overnight and whenever I was there to tend to it.
Get a 110v light timer to cycle the window unit(s) [might also work with space heater esp. if you could confine your dog to the warmest best-insulated room]. Maybe there’s an option for a 220v timer too?
If you have an electric clothes dryer disconnect the vent hose and clean all the screens and hose airways. Put some old panty hose over the end of the hose or secure with used dryer sheets. You may only be able to run the dryer for an hour or so with heat on high, but I was able to get an extra 5 degrees/hour - downside is you spend a lot more time dusting everything.
Be careful with the timer - it’s a good idea but a light timer doesn’t have the contact rating for a heater... just look at the ratings.
Ya got three units run one .... and crack the window open.
Yes. Dumb, I know. I was able to negotiate month-to-month instead of another year so I could split as soon as my contract was up, but the contract was extended and I'm here another winter.
I will talk to a lawyer. I’m sick of dealing with this.
They did bleed the radiators after they realized that was keeping the new boiler from working, but the under-the-table guys were from three hours away. (You couldn’t make this stuff up.) And every time there was a tiny problem like bleeding a radiator, they’d have to drive three hours here and three hours back. So that caused a time delay in repairs, which caused the dumb girl downstairs to start complaining about it being too hot, which led to them shutting the whole thing off.
The owner himself didn’t go buy the radiator handle himself because he also lives several hours away. They have yet another person acting as the landlord. That person is a clueless drunk who drives around with full wine glasses in the cupholder. (Again, I couldn’t even make this stuff up.) I’m not sure, but I believe the owner inherited the property from his mother, who lived locally and cared about the actual building as well as the tenant. I believe the elderly owner died soon after the new boiler was installed.
It’s a mess.
I’m just slapping my head about this... they should have just given the tenants radiator keys. It’s just a little piece of metal with a square key cylinder, they are all the same and probably cost a buck or two at the hardware store. You guys could have just bled them anytime they needed bleeding.
No kidding! It was a great mystery to me—why didn’t the repair guys add new knobs to all the radiators? My best guess is they wanted to keep getting called back to “fix” it and keep getting paid. It was terrible. And now I’m cold!
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