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.
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