Ask Alice: Advice for Life at Home

Alice, Can I Get My Landlord to Pay for a Broken (New) Appliance?

updated May 3, 2019
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Is it appropriate to ask my landlord to pay for an appliance that broke in my new apartment? My window A/C unit was fried because a previous tenant decided to DIY some of the electrical wiring in the apartment without notifying the landlord.

Here’s a little background: I installed my window A/C unit in my new apartment. I bought the unit two years ago, having saved up and researched the most cost and energy efficient model. The unit fried as soon as I turned it on.

I called to notify the landlord on a Tuesday (he doesn’t live in the building) and he said he’d bring over an electrician on Friday. The landlord had a set of keys, so I wouldn’t have to be home. However, later the same day, I received a frantic call from the landlord saying he was at the apartment and couldn’t get in, blaming me for changing the locks. In fact, the landlord brought the wrong set of keys. Because he was so frustrated, I arranged to meet with the electrician myself (the landlord paid for it).

The electrician, who wired my apartment when it was renovated years ago, confirmed that the wiring had definitely been tampered with and that the landlord would pay for a new unit. When I called my landlord and informed him that my A/C unit had been totally fried, he was very flustered and said, “We can talk about it later.” I’ve only passed him in our building a few times since, and he’s barely said hello to me.

I want to stay in this apartment for a few years, and, with the exception of this incident, I haven’t contacted my landlord for any reason besides mailing rent checks. I don’t think I should have to pay for the previous tenant’s negligence. Do I ask the landlord to pay for a new A/C unit and risk harming our fragile relationship?

Hmm. So your new A/C got fried because the previous tenant had re-jigged the electrical wiring, unbeknownst to everyone, and now he’s long gone, leaving you (and your landlord, and the electrician) to deal with the repercussions of his tinkering. The only thing I’m unclear on is this part:

The electrician, who wired my apartment when it was renovated years ago, confirmed that the wiring was definitely tampered with and that the landlord would pay for a new unit.

Did he mean that your landlord SHOULD pay for a new unit, or that he definitely WOULD?

Either way, it sounds like you have a good case for getting reimbursed, and I don’t think re-expressing that would jeopardize your relationship with your landlord, especially if you remain calm and friendly throughout.

I would write and mail your landlord a letter in print (and certify it, just in case), re-explaining the whole situation, and re-making your request for A/C reimbursement. It gives him more time to think about the situation at his own leisure, rather than forcing a money-related issue on him when he might be busy with other things or flustered about an issue in someone else’s apartment. I’d guess the barely-hellos in the hallway have less to do with him fuming at you than maybe him remembering that he owes you something and feeling a flustered, frustrated reminder of that. (But, who knows.)

In the letter you write him, you could also emphasize how much you love the apartment and have enjoyed living there, and how appreciative you are of his help, etc.

It sounds like this will be an easy situation to sort out — provided that the wiring is back to good again, and that if and when you get a replacement A/C unit, it will in fact work as it’s supposed to.

I imagine communicating with your landlord clearly and calmly will go a long way toward strengthening your relationship (and healing whatever fragility might now exist, although it honestly doesn’t sound so bad to me in the first place — this type of stuff goes on all the time!).

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