Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Operation Air-condition the Neighborhood - June 29, 2006

This is 100% true story… the best stuff always is apparently. I know it’s true because it happened about five minutes ago to me.
The Facts.
These are the things you need to know. I have lived at my current apartment complex for almost six years. My apartment complex is all-bills-paid, which means they cover electric, water, etc in the rent automatically for a set monthly rate. Very nice, I like it, that’s why we moved there. I also have had a satellite dish for the last 2.5 years. The dish is mounted to the handrail on my patio on the 2nd floor. My lease states that I cannot mount a satellite dish or anything else to the building. It doesn’t say anything about handrails… but that’s not really the point here… Read on.
The situation:
A few days ago we get a letter from our leasing office saying they would be happy to take down our satellite dish for us and that we should be happy they are only going to charge us $50 for this service.
Of course, we didn’t ask for this so I called the leasing office and we got into a few verbal bouts of logic about the interpretation of the wording in my lease. Eventually the manager got tired of me running her around in verbal circles so she referred me to her supervisor who manages several properties owned by the same parent company.
The conversation went like this.
Supervisor: Hello Mr Sangster. I’m the supervisor for your property. How are you today?
Me: I’m great, thanks for asking, I hope everything is great with you. What can I do for you?
Supervisor: Well Mr. Sangster, do you have written permission from the office to have a satellite dish?
Me: No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I wasn’t aware I needed written permission. My lease doesn’t say I need written permission, it jus says not to mount it to the building and any damage I do the building if I do mount it must be repaired before I leave. Do I need written permission?
Supervisor: Yes, you do. You also need to have at least $10k in renters insurance to cover any liability. You have mounted your dish to the railing which is our property. We need you to remove it.
Me: Liability? Who’s liability? Can you explain? How are you liable? Oh, and I already have $35k in renters insurance, I’m happy to provide proof.
Supervisor: Well, if there was a storm and the dish were to fall and hurt someone you would could be held liable and sued.
Me: Oh yes, I understand that completely, that’s part of the reason I have renters insurance. I understand it’s my liability. That’s why I have insurance. How is that a problem for you though?
Supervisor: (totally ignoring my question) Mr Sangster. We need you to remove your dish from the property and you need written permission to install it. You also need to provide proof of insurance. We have this policy to help beautify the property. (note: is beautify a word?)
Me: Ok, no problem. I’m happy to comply. How do I get written permission?
Supervisor: We don’t give written permission to mount satellite dishes.
Me: ummmm. You just said I have to have written permission and insurance to have one. I already have insurance. Why can’t I have written permission? And why did you ask if I had written permission if you know you don’t give written permission….. and how can that be a requirement if you don’t do it?... I’m confused.
Supervisor: Mr. Sangster. If you want a satellite dish it must be mounted on a pole in a bucket of cement. You can place that on your front porch. You will need to show proof of insurance though.
Me: ok, I’m happy to comply but I have a problem with that. My apartment is facing the wrong way so I have to mount my dish on a very long fifteen foot pole to get it above the building so it can reach the satellite signal. A five gallon bucket of cement will not sufficiently stabilize a 15 foot pole with a satellite dish on top if the wind blows. I will need to have a much bigger base. I would have to mount a pole that long in something closer to 35 gallons of cement to get enough stabilization. A 5 gallon base would topple right over and hurt someone in a storm.
Supervisor: Mr. Sangster. I’ve been doing this work for 35 years. I’ve never heard of anyone using anything more than a five gallon bucket full of cement.
Me: Well, I understand. Most people just need a 3 or 4 foot pole, but mine has to be at least 15 feet. It’s a simple matter of physical really. The longer the pole the longer the lever is. The longer the lever the lesser the amount of force needed to move a given amount of weight. If you lengthen the lever you have to add more weight to keep the lever from moving.
Supervisor: Mr. Sangster. You can mount your dish in a five gallon bucket.
Me: yes, I can… and the first time it storms my dish will go flying. Are you going to file a claim on your insurance if it does that?
Supervisor: No, you are responsible for that, but in any case you cannot mount your dish to our building.
Me: I understand and I’m happy to comply but please answer me this. I’m basically going to have to get a 35 gallon trash can and mount my dish in that. I don’t really want a 35 gallon trash can full of cement on my front porch…. And I think the point of this whole thing is to beautify the complex as you said so you probably don’t want me to do that either.
Supervisor: No, we certainly do not want you to put a trash can on your front porch, but I still don’t think you need that much cement.
Me: Has anyone else in your 35 years needed to mount a 15 foot pole in a 5 gallon bucket of cement? Have you seen that actually work in a storm?
Supervisor: well, no, not that I can think of.
Me: That’s kind of what I thought. It’s very simple leverage. The longer the handle the more opposing force you need. You understand leverage right?
Supervisor: There’s no need to be insulting Mr. Sangster. Yes. I understand leverage, but I still don’t think you need that much cement.
Me: well, the amount of cement is really not up for debate. It’s simple grade school physics really. But, the bottom line here is neither one of us wants a big trash can full of cement on my porch and you won’t let me mount the dish on the railing. Why is it I can’t mount it on the railing again?
Supervisor: Because it’s a liability.
Me: Right… My liability right? I’m responsible. Right?
Supervisor: Right…
Me: That’s why I have insurance… which you even say I have to have… So how is this your problem if I’m the one responsible? Why can’t I just leave it where it is since I have insurance?
Supervisor: Because it’s our property and you don’t have written permission.
Me: oh yeah, So can I have written permission?
Supervisor: No Mr Sangster. We don’t give written permission for that.
Me: Then why do you require it?
Supervisor: So that people can’t do it.
Me: Why don’t you just tell people they can’t do it? Like put it in the lease like that?
Supervisor: (getting upset now) Mr. Sangster. We really don’t have any say with what you do with your satellite dish but you cannot mount it on our property. The railing is our property.
Me: Ok… I get that. You’re still not making a lot of sense but I understand that much. I apologize if I’m just not following along with you.
Supervisor: So when will you take down the dish? You can mount it in a bucket if you like. That’s how most people do it.
Me: I’ll take it down this weekend, but I can’t put it in a bucket because you said you don’t want a trash can on the porch. I really don’t want it on the porch either.
Supervisor: You can just put it in a five gallon bucket like everyone else.
Me: Didn’t we just have this conversation? It has to be much more than that. I don’t want a 35 gallon block of cement on the porch and neither do you. So logically that means I either have to move or cancel my satellite. I still have 9 months on my lease and it’s going to cost $200 to cancel my contract for the satellite.
Supervisor: Well, you’re more than welcome to mount the dish in a bucket like everyone else. Of course we aren’t responsible for the cost of any 3rd party contracts you are a part of and we can’t let you out of your lease for something like this.
Me: So the way this basically breaks down is big trash can of cement on my porch or pay $200 to cancel my contract.
Supervisor: if that’s the way you see it I suppose so.
Me: I really think you should pay for me to cancel the contract or let me out of the lease. I really don’t want to move though. I’d rather just have you pay the termination fee. My dish has been up for 2 and a half years and hasn’t hurt anyone. And you’ve even admitted it’s not your responsibility if it does hurt someone. I accept that. I have insurance.
Supervisor: (getting mad now) We will not pay the $200 and your lease is legally binding. What you do with your satellite dish is your business but it WILL be removed from our property.
Me: Well, I tell you what. You’re going to pay that $200 whether you like it or not.
Supervisor: (laughing) Mr. Sangster, We’re not paying it. I’m sorry.
Me: (very politely) Listen to me, this is what’s going to happen.
I’m going to take down my dish this weekend. I’m going to cancel my satellite service. I’ll pay it out of my pocket just because I’m a nice guy. Then, starting on Monday I will begin Operation Air-condition the Neighborhood. This operation goes something like this.
I get up in the morning to go to work and I set the thermostat on my air conditioner to 70 degrees. Then I open all the windows in my apartment. Then I leave for work for the day. When I come home I close the windows so I’m comfortable. This will go on for at least a month. During that time I am more than confident that the amount of money you spend on electricity will be much more than the $200 fee you’re refusing to cover because of your silly rules.
Supervisor: Mr. Sangster you can’t do that.
Me: Why is that? Does it say somehere in my lease that I can’t have the air conditioner on and the windows open at the same time?
Supervisor: Well no, it doesn’t but you can’t do that. The electric bill would be outrageous.
Me: Well, I tell you what. Because I’m such a nice guy I will cancel Operation Aircondition the Neighborhood if you get written permission from me to cancel it.
However, there’s a small problem with that. I don’t give written permission to cancel any of my special operations. Why? Because I don’t really want them cancelled.
Supervisor: (they slam the phone down and hang up)

Merddyn -
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference


Steve AKA Fulldraw said...

very nice circular argument! That's why I own a house with no property rules other than city ord. requirements.

gorikuri said...

I'm curious about what happened after that... like did the apartment Supervisor give permission for the dish?