Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Renter's Stupid Tax

Where do you draw the line between expenses you as a renter are responsible for and what your landlord should spend money on?

This weekend, I broke my handheld showerhead. I was trying to re-aim the spray and got a little too rough, cracking the hose that attaches to the showerhead itself. I was really upset at first, thinking that these showerheads cost around $200-$300 which is money I did not want to spend on something I'd be leaving behind. However, a little googling determined that in fact I can replace what was in the apartment with a comparable (and truthfully, slightly better) model for around $30. A trip to the store turned up a $16 "universal" hose, which is the only part that's damaged, so I came home with that.

It's not quite that easy, however--that universal hose is not, in fact, so universal, and is not only far too long but also sticks out funny into the shower and does not fit into the holder-grippy thing (technical term). So I'll be going back to Home Depot this weekend to try and swap out the hose we've used all week for an actual kit (not sure how much luck I'll have with that, but we have no choice but to keep using it--five people in one small apartment for three days and then two people for the rest of the week definitely need to have a working shower!). This is an instance in which I am clearly responsible for the repair--I broke what was there when I moved in; therefore, I will be replacing it with something of roughly equal value. (This is something my roommate needs to learn, since she damaged the rug several months ago and hasn't made any effort to fix it). But what about standard wear and tear?

While we were at Home Depot, I wanted to look at door sweeps. Our balcony door's sweep began falling off a few weeks ago and I finally ripped it off because it had gotten so warped we were having problems closing the door. I had originally intended to fix it, then just decided to get a new one. My boyfriend argued with me, telling me that this was not my responsibility and instead I should alert my landlords and make THEM fix (and pay) for the sweep. I feel like this is a small enough expense and a simple enough chore that I do not want to go through the hassle of communicating with my elderly landlords (which involves having their daughter come over to translate), and likely being misunderstood and lectured for breaking something (which has happened before, unwarranted), just for them to come up (likely when we are not there) to fix something I could do myself in five minutes.

It's not the only thing around the apartment I would like to fix myself. There's a sticky drawer, a few doors which rattle in their casings, caulk that needs reapplying...these are all simple and inexpensive improvements which I am fully capable of making myself and which I don't entirely mind doing. However, I am paying dearly for this apartment and this is one of the perks of renting--not HAVING to deal with renovations and repairs. In spending the money on caulk, door sweeps, or adhesive felt for door hinges, am I paying renter's stupid tax?

I don't have an easy answer. Clearly, I am of the opinion that I don't want my landlords to deal with these minor things I can handle myself. When it's a lightbulb in a 15-foot ceiling above stairs, sure, I'll call them. But I don't like dealing with them if I really don't need to, and caulk repair and a self-adhesive door sweep fall into those categories of things to do myself and leave them out of. My boyfriend feels that this is what I'm paying rent for, and I should actually be making sure that they're taking care of these things, even if it's uncomfortable for me to talk to them about it.

Ultimately, I'm going to do it my way. My boyfriend doesn't live there, and he doesn't need to deal (or not deal, as the case may be) with my landlords. The cost for all the possibly-landlord's-responsibility chores is going to be less than $15; it's certainly something my budget can handle and worth the peace of mind to me. But I'm curious: What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I have a similar problem with calling my apartment's maintenance man. When D moved in, he had the complete opposite attitude. For instance, the blinds on our bedroom window stopped working (wouldn't open or close) because of my naughty cat, and I felt that I should pay for and install replacement blinds. D - and my parents - disagreed, stating basically the same things your boyfriend said. Since then, I've lightened up a little. Especially since the maintenance man - after I told him my concerns with, basically, "annoying" the landlord and him - said it's their job, and they're happy to do it! Now I don't hesitate to call them when something screws up or breaks. However, if it's something small that we can fix ourselves - like a leaking pipe - I'll still attempt to fix it before I call the landlord. :)


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