A Thermostat Cage, a Toilet Party, and 4 Other Landlord Horror Stories

published Feb 25, 2020
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Credit: Lisa S.

Everyone has a harrowing landlord story. I shudder at the memory of my landlord complaining that she was missing the latest episode of “The Bachelor” as we sat on my couch watching police dust for prints after my apartment’s break-in. (I will never reconcile with the injustice of having my laptop stolen, along with several complete drafts of papers during finals week.) But my nightmare is far from the only one of its kind. A few renters shared their own landlord horror stories that still keep them up at night with us. Read ahead… if you dare!

They made a documentary about my fraudulent landlord

“Three other people and I got duped into an illegal sublet by people wanting to get away from the one guy they were leaving behind in their five-bedroom apartment. The second day in the apartment, he put all of our stuff in a bathtub and filled it with water.

We got our landlord’s contact information and requested a meeting with her, and she told us there was nothing she could do. She informed us he was six months behind on rent and said that we were now responsible for his debt. So we had to convince the guy to leave and hound him for months to pay his debt. And after it was all over I was reading an article about new documentaries and it included a documentary on the landlord and her family (who owned a lot of properties) getting indicted for fraud.” —Lauren, New York, N.Y.

I unexpectedly received a built-in pool

“One night, I came home to an inch of standing water on the carpet, which was pouring from holes in the ceiling. I told the landlord it was unlivable, and she came over in galoshes and said I was being dramatic. ‘It’s an inconvenience is all.’ It was my upstairs neighbor’s washer that was leaking underneath, so he never knew. The water just pooled under his floor and eventually burst and started pouring through my ceiling.” —Taylor, Austin, Texas

In the end, black mold won my landlord battle

“When I first moved to Florida, I was renting this condo. After a couple months, my roommates and I noticed mold on some of our clothes and in our closet. We contacted the landlord and they had someone come ‘check it out.’ Nothing came from it and he said we just need to adjust the air in the house and he suggested we get a dehumidifier. After months and months of my roommates and I dealing with mold build up and getting sick from it, we had to hire our own inspector. There was black mold in the walls in the entire condo! We contacted the landlord and told him we wanted out early on the lease because of the black mold and our getting sick. He refused to let us break the lease without paying almost $4,000 to leave. In the end, we ended up going to court and getting our money back for all of the doctor visits, hiring our own inspector, and the entirety of our lease.” —Alexandra, Davenport, Fl.

My landlord locked the thermostat in a cage

“My first apartment in college was super cheap: A small house leased to us by an adorable older couple. It was something like $500 per month with heat included. There was even a piano in the living room because the old man worked as a piano tuner for 40 years. But halfway through our lease, they sold the house to a local realtor who intended to remodel the house and rent it to graduate students for more money. As undergraduates, we posed a problem to this new owner. He couldn’t hike the rent on us, so he did things like lock the thermostat in a plastic cage so we couldn’t turn the heat up… during Ithaca’s freezing winter.” —Zack, Ithaca, N.Y.

I had to throw a party to pay for a toilet

“As my roommate was flushing the toilet, a stick of deodorant fell off the shelf, into the toilet, and straight up broke the entire thing. Our landlord refused to pay for it and gave us 16 days to come up with $600 to fix the plumbing. So we had a ‘Shana broke our toilet, please help!’ party, charged for cheap beer and jungle juice, and made $800 that we used towards the plumber and future rent.” —Courtney, Bloomington, Ind.

Two burly men knocked on my door to get my rent payment—and I turned them away

“One day we got a letter that said our landlord had sold the building. That was it. No info on who our new landlord was or where to send money. For the next couple of months, we’d leave our rent checks in the mailbox like we used to do, but no one would pick them up. 

One day I get a call, and a woman with a strong accent tells me her name and says she’s our landlord. She says she hasn’t received our rent and wants all seven months’ worth now. We argued and I told her I would start paying rent now, but wouldn’t pay her for the last few months. Well, that didn’t go over well. I kept getting calls daily harassing me for rent. Suddenly they just stopped. Then early one morning, two massive guys show up and knock on my door. In my boxers I open it and they tell me they’re associates of my landlord and are there to collect the rent. I told them ‘hell no’ and slammed the door. 

Three months later, I woke up to an early morning phone call. It’s a woman I’ve never spoken to who says she is our lawyer and wants to know what I want out of the landlords. I said ‘I want to get some time before we have to move out and not to have to pay the back rent when to my knowledge I didn’t have a landlord.’ Hours later she called back and said, ‘You have to be out in 30 days. You owe no back rent, and because they couldn’t show the judge the account holding your deposit, they now have to pay you double your deposit amount.’ I ended up not paying rent for over a year and was then given $1,800. The place has since been remodeled and sold for almost $2 million.” —Charley, Chicago, Ill.

These answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.