I once rented an apartment in Salt Lake City with a vintage gas oven dating to the 1940s. While it looked nice, the temperature inside never got past 200 degrees, even with the dial turned all the way up. Toddlers’ Easy-Bake Ovens were hotter than this thing!
So we did what any tenant would do: We pointed this out to our landlord. Surely he’d want to fix this problem, right?
On the contrary—this stove wasn’t the "problem." It was us.
“Cooking is kind of a personal thing," he explained in an email. "Some people cook a lot, some don’t. And I’m not required to provide an oven that meets everyone’s unique needs.”
Welcome to the weird, convoluted logic of landlords. Sure, most are happy to provide tenants with a comfortable place to live, but certain bad apples would prefer to come up with all kinds of crazy excuses for why they’re off the hook for providing heat, pest control, and other necessities of life. And based on stories I’ve heard from other tenants, my landlord wasn’t even the worst of the bunch!
Behold some of these weird, wild, real-life excuses landlords have made in order to ignore tenant complaints. Think of them as "the dog ate my homework," landlord edition.
1. ‘Rats are more afraid of you than you are of them’
Diane Dobry was living in a New York City brownstone when a water main break on the street caused a rat infestation in her building.
"Since I lived on the ground floor, I kept hearing them under the floorboards and in the walls, so I complained to the landlord," she recalls. "He insisted they were ‘just mice’ or, even if they were rats, they were more afraid of me than I was of them!"
Dobry vehemently begged to differ—so her landlord eventually hired an exterminator, who put rat traps in the basement.
"Then the landlord asked me if I would check the rat traps every day and get rid of any rats that were caught," Dobry recalls. "What? I pay to live here!"
2. ‘You can put on a sweater and jacket’
At first, Shane Lee loved her apartment in New York City’s Chinatown. But by mid-December, not so much—because her landlord had still refused to turn on the heat. And his reasoning was even colder: "You can just put on a sweater and jacket like everyone else.”
"At first I was speechless," says Lee, who had to band together with the other tenants and point out the heating requirements in their lease before the landlord finally caved. "It’s just shocking to me that landlords actually try to get away with that!"
3. ‘No AC? Your plants are the problem’
Kevin Lindon Ryan thought he got a great deal on his Washington, DC, apartment—his "unreasonably low" rent came in at just $1,275 a month. But as his neighbors joked, he got what he paid for during the heat of summer.
"My air conditioning was on full blast, but I was constantly sweating and miserable," he says. His landlord denied requests to fix the unit.
"Instead, he insisted that the heat and humidity came from my plants and told me to buy a dehumidifier," Ryan says, "$400 later, my heavy-duty dehumidifier actually produced more heat."
4. ‘That’s just the way it works’
Jay Westcott had popped out of his Lynchburg, VA, apartment to do laundry when he realized he couldn’t get back in—even with his key.
"The doorknob just stopped working," he recalls. "I was locked out even though the lock wasn’t locked."
Westcott called his landlord, insisting that a locksmith be called to break down the door and rebuild the lock. His landlord acquiesced—eventually—but not before insisting that Westcott just didn’t know how to open the door the right way: "I was told, ‘Well, that’s just the way the lock works!’" Or doesn’t.
5. ‘It’s our daughter’s fault’
Kirby Ingles couldn’t get his landlords in Falls Church, VA, to make any repairs to the property. Instead, they would "give me permission to make repairs on my own—but then would take months, even over a year, to reimburse me for the cost of the repair."
When he tried to confront them about their slow response, they blamed it all on their daughter.
"They shared with us that their adult daughter had run up their credit cards, that they’d paid for her schooling, the list was endless," Ingles says. And that was Ingles’ problem because…?
6. ‘This is Florida’
When Andrew Selepak rented a house in Gainesville, FL, he noticed an odd smell in the bathroom.
"The toilet in the bathroom had leaked so much under the floorboards that it had caused water damage," he says.
He asked his property manager to come over and address the issue, and when she finally did, she told him that the smell was par for the course because "this is Florida."
“She even went on to tell me that she could remember growing up in Florida where her father would have to wipe the mold off his shoes before going to church," Selepak says. "As if it was all normal and there was nothing for her to do!"