Post Your Problems/Lawrence Walsh: Let the landlord and renter beware
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The tenant had problems with the landlady.
The landlady had problems with the tenant.
It's a cautionary tale for those who may find themselves in similar circumstances.
The tenant, a 51-year-old man on Social Security Disability, rented a two-bedroom, two-story frame house clad in white aluminum siding in July 2011. He moved in that month.
The landlady said the rent was $450 a month and told the tenant he was responsible for gas, electric and cable.
It was only after he moved in that the tenant realized he should have hired a certified home inspector to perform a basement-to-roof inspection to alert the landlady about problems with the furnace, the hot water tank, the bathroom sink and tub and a section of the ceiling. And then there were the mice.
After complaining about all of the above and "getting nowhere," the tenant said he paid for repairs to the furnace, the hot water tank and the ceiling. He said the problems with the bathtub and the bathroom sink have yet to be corrected.
He said he took pictures of the ceiling, the gas line the plumber had to replace for the hot water tank and the furnace repair work.
"It's her property," he said. "It's her responsibility to take care of those things."
The landlady said the tenant showed up in July 2011 - a month early - with a rental trailer full of furniture to move into the house. She said she told him several things had to be repaired but let him move in "because he said he had nowhere else to go. I thought it was a nice thing to do."
She regrets that she didn't insist that the tenant sign a lease before he moved in. "That was a big mistake on my part," she said. She also regrets not taking him to court for failing to pay his rent in April and June of this year.
The landlady said she told the tenant "four or five months ago" that he was responsible for the water and sewage bill. But she failed to put it in writing and get him to acknowledge that responsibility with his signature.
When the tenant came home Nov. 28 and found he had no water, he called the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority. He said a customer service representative told him the water was shut off because the landlady hadn't paid the water bill. "I was told she owes more than $1,000," he said.
Melissa Rubin, the authority's communications coordinator, said property owners usually are responsible for water and sewer bills unless tenants agree to pay them. In those cases, tenants must sign a document to that effect. The authority sends a bill to the tenant and a copy to the property owner to keep the latter informed.
"We'll investigate what's going on out there," Ms. Rubin said.
When I called the landlady, she appeared to be as exasperated as her tenant.
"The water was off for one day because the authority was working in the area," she said. The authority said it was shut off for nonpayment.
The landlady said neighbors have complained that the tenant and his roommate have visitors "at all hours of the day and night." The tenants said that wasn't true.
She said she should have done a better job of checking the tenants' backgrounds. She said she personally handed the tenant an eviction notice.
"I want them out of there," she said. The tenant said he doesn't plan to leave.
I'll keep you posted.
The Internal Revenue Service has issued a consumer alert about possible scams in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
"Following major disasters, it's common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers," the IRS said on its website. "Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitation."
The agency said individuals planning to make disaster-related charitable donations can avoid being scammed by following these tips:
• Donate to recognized charities to help victims.
• Beware of charities that have names similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. "Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations," the agency said.
• Watch out for emails that may steer you to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes.
• Don't provide any personal financial information, including Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers and/or passwords, to anyone soliciting a contribution.
• Don't give or send cash. Use a check or credit card to make a donation because it provides documentation of the gift for security and tax record purposes.
The IRS website, www.irs.gov, has a search feature that enables the public to make donations that may be tax-deductible to legitimate, qualified charities.
It said legitimate charities also may be found at www.fema.gov, the website for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Taxpayers who suspect disaster-related fraud should go to www.irs.gov and enter "report phishing" in the search box.
For more information about scams and schemes, type those words in the search box at www.irs.gov.
First Published December 6, 2012 12:00 am