Steps to remedy a late-night nuisance

What you should know if retaliation occurs

Q: I rent a two-bedroom apartment in a large building, and the maintenance superintendent lives next door. We have always been courteous and cordial until recently when he took over the empty basement directly underneath my unit and turned it into "party central" with a pool table, wet bar, big-screen TV and stereo system. Now every weekend there seems to be a reason for a party (including New Year’s, Presidents Day, the Super Bowl, and St. Patrick’s Day).

The noise is unbearable, and we can’t sleep or even have a conversation in our unit without the bass vibrating our walls. The parties can go on past midnight, and the only saving grace is that they occur only on weekends.

During the week everything is very quiet so we aren’t sure that the building owner even knows what is going on.

We didn’t want to get the maintenance man in trouble so we tried talking to him, but he was rather abrupt and offered no apologies and essentially told us to "mind our own business." So we hoped that despite the initial response, he would try to be more neighborly knowing that we can hear the parties. But after a couple of quieter weekends, everything went back to intolerable!

So we complained to the on-site manager and the noisy situation improved (but that may also have been because we called the police).

Now the maintenance man is retaliating, and he sent us a note indicating that we can no longer park both of our cars in the property’s parking lot. He says we are allowed only one car on-site and that our second car must be on the street.

We have been living here eight years and we didn’t have any problem with parking, and there are several other tenants with two cars who didn’t get any notice of a policy change.

We saw the maintenance man yesterday and asked him if it is a new rule; he told us to check the lease. I couldn’t find anything about parking on the lease, and I know there is enough parking for each unit to have two parking spaces. I tried to contact the manager but she isn’t around this week so we are going to write a letter but are not sure who to send it to or what to say. Any advice?

A: Yes. You have described a situation in which you have acted very reasonably and been tolerant but now you are simply asking for the ability to live quietly without one of the owner’s employees disrupting your lives. Then when you ask politely, but get an inappropriate response. Finally, you are now being hassled by this maintenance man as retaliation. You already went to the on-site manager and while that (or the call to police) led to a temporary improvement, you can’t continue to live like this.

You have been a tenant for many years and are not doing anything wrong. I suggest you contact the property management company or the owner of the property directly by phone. Ask for the property supervisor that manages this apartment community and explain the situation in a calm and professional manner being emphatic but not angry or overly emotional.

While the on-site manager may be covering for the maintenance man (or maybe is intimidated to do anything), it is unlikely that the off-site property supervisor will be complicit with this outrageous behavior and the retaliation. Clearly, if you find that the property supervisor doesn’t take an interest in your complaint, then you can contact the owner.

If you have always had two cars and parked in the building lot and your lease doesn’t indicate you can’t have two cars, then the act of the maintenance man "taking away" one of your parking spaces is illegal and clearly retaliatory. Retaliation can be a cause for you to break your lease, but also can be a basis for a claim or lawsuit against the owner and property management company and should not be tolerated by them. If the property supervisor and owner will not correct this egregious situation, then ultimately you may have to seek legal counsel.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."

Email your questions to Rental Q&A at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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