Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Every man has his price

My water heater has apparently been leaking since this morning. It stopped heating water sometime Friday, which I didn't discover until I got home that night. My landlord's repairman friend came up Saturday morning and fixed it, replacing the heating element, but then it conked out sometime yesterday afternoon. He came up again this morning. As he worked on it, I saw him mopping up, he explained there was a small leak, which he supposedly fixed. Evidently not. This evening, I noticed a quantity of water soaking the rug underneath my bed. My bed is against the wall that separates my room from the hot water heater closet.

I called my landlord earlier when it was not that late. This is the first true emergency situation I've had since moving in four years ago. He was a real ass and refused to push his friend to return tonight to fix his mistake. Very well: I started flipping through the Yellow Pages. There are several 24-hour "emergency" plumbers whose advertisements indicated they work on hot water heaters. I explained to each dispatcher that the heater might only need a valve tightened, not replacement (though it's admittedly a possibility, this one is 11 years old). I would look at things myself but know next to nothing about hot water heaters.

Since I lack such knowledge, and because I am extremely frustrated and just want it fixed, I would be willing to pay several hundred dollars to get someone out tonight to see what valve is leaking and what's necessary to fix it. I'd even be willing to pay $2000 for a new water heater, if that's what it takes. It's easy for me to say that, however, because I will be deducting any and all incurred expenses from my next rent check or two. What will my landlord do, sue me? He hasn't even taken action against my neighbor, who is always a couple of months behind on rent.

Every man has his price. (For you Star Trek fans, that's Ferengi Rule of Acquisition number 98.) What if I offered a plumber $5000? I'm sure someone would be more than tempted to load up a new hot water heater in his truck and come right over. For $10,000, he might treat the Saw Mill Parkway like the Autobahn.

I'm not willing to pay $5000, though. Somewhere between $2000 and $5000, then, is where a plumber and I would agree on a price. What limits how much I will pay is the fact that I want to move soon, so it would take me more than a couple of months to deduct $5000 from owed rent. I'd have to recover the rest by taking my landlord to court, and a judge most likely would find $5000 "excessive" and rule against me.

Tonight has added tremendously to my apartment-related headaches of the last several months, and it's high time to move. It's really too bad, because I have enjoyed the quiet neighborhood, extremely fast cable modem service, and most of all, the rarely rivaled proximity to the local Metro-North train station. But I will not tolerate my landlord, who's ordinarily a nice man, taking his time when my bedroom is starting to get soaked (and will likely develop mold). I will not tolerate him acting like he's doing me a favor by arranging for his friend to come up the morning after an emergency, then telling me he can't understand why I'm so angry. Such a display of someone's true nature shows that it's time to get the hell out and find a new landlord who gives a damn.

I can't begin to imagine the headache of moving, even if I hire a crew. I'm reminded of "Murder at 1600" in which Wesley Snipes (a fellow SUNY Purchase alumnus) moaned, "How am I gonna move all this stuff?" I have at least twice as much "stuff" as when I moved in, and it was bad enough four years ago. Perhaps I could put some less essential things in storage, so that I don't have to pack things up all at once.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like you should empty your hot water heater. It is far better to not soak your carpets and ruin your floors and walls.

You can find instructions for this online (search for "flushing hot water heater"). Basically, you want to either turn off the gas (if you have gas) or flip the circuit breaker (if you have electric). Then turn off the cold water input pipe -- it will have a valve which you turn off usually located within a few feet of the hot water heater. Then attach a garden hose to the drain valve (towards the bottom of the H.W.H.) and open the valve. Run the other end of the hose to a convenient drain or sink. Then open the pressure valve (towards or on top of the H.W.H.).

Final note: If you do need a new hot water heater, no plumber is going to be able to replace it at 1AM. These are not items a plumber will have in stock. FYI, the cost of a 40-50 gallon hot water heater is about $200 at places like Home Depot. Slightly more for electric or "short" models (that fit underneath stairs or in a crawl space).

Good luck. Sounds like you have a crummy landlord.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 1:42:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Ah, well a couple of the plumbers made it sound like they had a couple of heaters on hand, just that they didn't install them on an emergency basis. One of them said it could cost $2000 to install one (huge labor costs, of course). Now I know how a Congressman feels: it's so easy not to care about the price when it's not your dime.

The second time I called my landlord, to see if his friend was coming up, he suggested I turn off the hot water heater's output valve. He could have done that when I first called. It worked, and the water just outside the closet had started to dry by morning. Then I turned it back on to take a shower, and it started leaking again.

When I was a Boy Scout, I learned the term "Sunshine Scout": a scout who's around and wants to do things only if it's fair weather. Unfortunately I seem to have a sunshine landlord.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a bad output valve, a leaky pipe, or a bad connection on the outflow side of the H.W.H. This probably means the H.W.H. itself is either OK or repairable and simply requires a couple hours of a competent plumber's services.

Hope it works out you.

PS Fantastic blog.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Fortunately it was fixable, but what a cleanup.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006 10:11:00 AM  

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