Why can't people keep promises?

At a meeting held in November of 2006, when a roommate had moved out and we were discussing logistics of securing and signing a replacement, my landlord and remaining roommates also mentioned maintenance requests that had fallen through the cracks.

You see, this was our new landlord, who purchased the building (mid-lease) the month before and who was obligated to take care of problems that our old landlord left behind and that we had written into our estoppel agreement to be repaired or replaced. Like our fridge, which is dilapidated and has been a health hazard since well before I ever moved a little over a year ago.

We informed her that, although it occasionally sustained a reasonable temperature, our fridge did not pass California health inspection standards for temperature or efficiency-- sometimes the milk freezes, other times it spoils. The insulation is cracked and mold hangs out on the ceiling; if we bleach it and clean the fridge out, the mold returns by the end of the week. I'm glad we don't eat like pigs, because if we had any more weight on the shelves, it would surely break the brittle plastic protruberances that hide the deteriorating insulation and collapse the whole damn thing in a cloud of 1980s dust.

She told us, at that meeting in November (at which she inspected the fridge for herself) that we would have a new refrigerator soon, but that since ours was clearly in the worst condition of the other units, she didn't want us "bragging to the other tenants about it." To retain diplomacy in this budding relationship, we foolishly agreed to tell no one. We also foolishly didn't think we needed to get this in writing, because up until this point she had been perfectly amicable and true to her word.

The meeting itself seemed strange, because we had been previously conversing via email, until she explained that we needed to meet in person "because nothing in email is legally viable." She didn't say much of substance, except the part about getting a new fridge, so I wasn't terribly concerned until toward the end of our June-June lease that it was March and nothing had happened-- no repair guy, no replacement, no nothing.

She really, really wanted us to renew our lease, because we're pretty darned awesome. We told her that we love the place, but that for now we'd keep looking for apartments that were more in our price range and had fewer bedrooms. A month passed and we were having no luck finding anything cheaper or better or available. Our landlord called again and offered to lower our rent if we renewed. We had asked for a much more significant reduction in rent than she offered, but her conditions and intentions seemed to be good. She offered two options: pay $3025 per month without a new fridge, or $3050 with a new fridge. Although she had promised us this fridge during the last lease, I was willing to let bygones be bygones since it was our mistake not to get the original agreement in writing. I had reminded my roommates that we should go with the lower rent option since the fridge is bound to break any day anyway, but they wanted the guaranteed new fridge on June 1 and were willing to pay more to get it.

June 1 came and went.

It is now 07/07/07, and our luck hasn't changed.

My roommates are emailing her on my behalf, reminding her of the very original estoppel agreement she signed that said she'd investigate and repair or replace the fridge in question, not to mention the agreement to pay a higher rent for a fridge that never came. Now, I hear she is planning to move a refrigerator from another unit into ours, which I think hardly counts as "new." I think this also means she wants to give that other unit a brand new refrigerator, which shows direct favoritism to them because they pay more for their apartment, despite that we have discussed this issue since well before these people even moved in. We are proposing that she buy a new fridge as originally agreed, or replace the fridge with the one from the other apartment but lower our rent to the non-new-fridge option retroactively and for the remainder of the lease.

Any smarty pants have advice?


Ramanujan said...


kfed said...

I said smarty pants, not smartasses.

Thanks, anyway :)

itregub said...

Contact the Berkeley Rent Board and request an investigation. There is a body of laws under the Berkeley Rent Ordinances with which I am less familiar than some, but which the officials at the Berkeley Rent Board will be more than happy to help with. The fact that you have a paper trail appears to be in your favor. If they are dilatory in responding, email me at itregub@gmail.com, and I'll give you the address of a friend and Rent Board official you can contact directly.

kfed said...


Does that whole paragraph mean nothing, though, if the apartment isn't subject to rent control?

itregub said...

Depends on the location. Is it in Berkeley? If so, it may still be eligible to comport with certain provisions of liveability, reasonable cause for eviction, etc.

kfed said...

It is in Berkeley. I will investigate further if our landlord doesn't respond positively in the next few days. In the meantime, thanks for the lead.