Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Well that Bursts the Air Conditioning Bubble

I've never had a problem with my apartment complex.  Aside from the typical living-in-close-proximity noises, I've never even had a problem with noisy neighbors.  We don't hear appliances running, water running, even people running unless the windows are open.  It's a beautiful complex with great amenities and a nice location.  Other than price, there hasn't be a single thing to complain about that can't be easily fixed (stupid washing machine for one example).

About a month ago, The Man and I bought a window-type air conditioner with the knowledge that our apartment complex would install it.  We bought a mounting bracket as well.  I contacted the management office via e-mail to have it installed at the maintenance guy's earliest convenience.  They told me parts and labor would be $40.  A little steep, I thought, but well worth it for the cool breeze when it gets hot outside.  I included the $40 with our rent payment with a clear note indicating such a payment.

Late last week, we received a bill for $32 (and change) for parts for installing our air conditioner.  The Man and I talked it over, and we're a little indignant.  We bought the correct bracket for our unit and had it sitting on top of the air conditioner when the maintenance guy came to install it.  We expected him to have to purchase some plexiglass to go over the unit, but we thought that was included in the $40 original fee.

I made the dreaded phone call to the management office today.  The office just happens to only be open 8-12 and 1-5, the exact hours normal people work, so it's impossible for me to see them in person without taking time off.  After being transferred to the manager, I politely described the situation.  He told me the $40 was for labor only and that the $32 covered parts.  When I told him that I was quoted $40 for parts and labor, he tried to wiggle and explain how necessary the plexiglass is to make an AC function correctly.  Uh, hello?  I get that.  Doesn't mean I should have to pay for it given that I was quoted a lesser amount.

We have the receipt showing the date we purchased the mounting bracket as proof that we had it before they installed it.  Additionally, I have the e-mail between the office and myself saying, "We will have [the maintenance guy] come and install your AC, but there is a charge. We charge $40.00 for [his] time and the parts (plexyglass) to fit in the window."  While I realize the odds of us actually having to pay for parts is pretty high--and thankfully we can afford it, but I feel strongly that we shouldn't have to do so.

What would you do if you were me?


Skunk said...

I would take some time off from work and go to their office during business hours (and not immediately before closing time) and politely but firmly make your case.

cm0978 said...

I can see where they could interpret their email to saying they "...charge $40 for time (COMMA) and ('plus an unspecified amount') the parts to fit..."

Sloppy writing on their part. I have no idea how much plexiglas costs... does $32 seem high for it? It does to me. Perhaps they have a receipt they could show you for that purchase? It could be worth another conversation although it could be difficult to see that receipt given their office hours.

Skunk said...

I completely agree with cm0978 on the "COMMA" point. Poor grammar can be such a pain.

Kayla said...

Personally, I don't think you should pay it.
To me, the email reads as a $40 charge for installation and parts combined.
I would forward the email to the office with a firm but polite (obviously!) reply stating that as you were quoted $40 for parts and labour you are not prepared to pay the additional billed amount.
Good luck!

Jaggy said...

Kayla: we did exactly what you said. No reply yet, but I am hopeful they'll see their error.

It's not our fault if the office person didn't know the correct charges. She told us $40 anyway, and her mistake shouldn't cost us money.

Meanwhile, we've begun the search for a new place to live. Not saying we're moving tomorrow, but we're looking.

Dr. Weirdbeard said...

The landlords tend to figure it's not worth your time, and usually win - however, you paid the fees stated by the landlord in an email, which unless I am mistaken can be used as a legal document. You have also paid rent on time (do you have a dated receipt of rent payment? At worst you can see when the check cashed).
At this point it is up to the landlord to be coming after you to collect the difference. In the meantime, you need to be performing research in how to protect yourself:
-try reading up on nolo.com
-when it comes to move-out, make sure that to do a thorough walk-through with the landlord. At the end, ask them to provide an itemized list of any repairs and the stated cost. The rental agreement should have information on what the standard cleaning costs are, repairs would have to be itemized by the landlord. If the landlord tries to hide the fee or tries to include the fee of the a/c, call him out on it. Don't sign the move out until agreements are made
-if necessary, contact the local housing authority and discuss what the correct actions you should be taking.
-write down day and time of all interactions.

Hope that helps