Neighbour keeps turning the heating off

33 posts in this topic

My wife and I live in Hofheim, near Frankfurt, in a converted house that consists of four apartments; one in the cellar and one on each of the three floors. All share common heating, via a great orange contraption that lives in the cellar and looks fairly new. Radiators in the flats are the flat type with little meters on the front of them, and they have the usual thermostat. Whether this heating arrangement is oil-fired, gas-fired or electrical. I have no idea.

The issue is that the neighbour on the ground floor is a cantankerous if not downright aggressive bloke, and because he has lived in the building longer than the rest of us he considers himself some sort of senior tenant or de facto hausmeister, helping himself to the building's single off-street parking bay, pinning sarcastic notices up in the foyer and so on. He has taken to turning the heating off at random times for hours on end, which means that no one gets any heat. He doesn't speak to me - he will not answer if I greet him or try to engage with him - and once when he caught me downstairs turning the heating on again, gave me a telling-off like you wouldn't believe. I told him in my still very shaky German that my wife and I are simply not prepared to sit in a freezing cold flat where the temperature is in single figures just because he fels like turning the heating off for the whole building at random times. I asked him what the devil he thought he was up to, and he just made a gesture of rubbing fingers together and said, 'Money, money, money!'

We all pay for our heating, which is metered once a year by the service provider, and to my understanding it doesn't affect the heating bills of the other tenants if we have our heating on or off. If there is some sort of basic charge for the machine to be running, which is included in our rent, he surely has no right to condemn my wife and I, as well as others in the building, to a freezing existence because he wants to save money.

There is a huge button on the front of this tiresome machine which turns red when the unit is off. You press this to start it up again, and the button turns green. Now he has programmed it in some way that has disabled the ability to manually turn it on and off again, and I don't want to interfere with all the little controls along the top by means of which this programming is done.

The sheer arrogance and the discontent this guy causes in the building has caused us to consider moving, after putting up with this every winter for four years.

Any thoughts? As I say, he will not talk to me or acknowledge me (he's a bloke aged about 40 or so) at all, which I think is a function of my being English, although I'm making progress with the German language issue!

Is there any legal process or legally-based warning that can be applied in this business?

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Thanks, Red Midge ... your response is appreciated. The landlady is a rather sweet elderly woman who lives alone as she has just lost her husband, and on top of that has recently had heart surgery. I had hoped to avoid dragging her into all this, but I'm sure the mieterverein is one avenue, and I will certainly get in touch with them.

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Write a polite letter to the landlady informing her that you would like to reduce you rent until such time that the heating is fixed and you have a steady temperature in you apartment of 23c.

 

Inform her that the Gentleman on the ground floor regularly switches off the house heating system in an attempt to save energy..

 

It is more fuel efficient to keep an apartment at 23c than it is to keep heating the house from a lower temperature that is usually around 10c... 

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Thank you, fraufruit - I believe there is a daughter, yes. Re other neighbours - I wouldn't stir this up without consulting them first, of course. And I'll do that.

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4 minutes ago, fraufruit said:

Does she have a son or daughter that you can contact? 

 

I am almost sure the OP has a rental contract with the landlady and not any of her children...

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17 minutes ago, innfield said:

The landlady is a rather sweet elderly woman who lives alone as she has just lost her husband, and on top of that has recently had heart surgery.

 

Maybe you missed this part.

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no, I saw that...   

Non of that will give her children any rights to interfere with a rental contract or issue... 

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9 minutes ago, SpiderPig said:

Write a polite letter to the landlady informing her that you would like to reduce you rent until such time that the heating is fixed and you have a steady temperature in you apartment of 23c.

 

Inform her that the Gentleman on the ground floor regularly switches off the house heating system in an attempt to save energy..

 

It is more fuel efficient to keep an apartment at 23c than it is to keep heating the house from a lower temperature that is usually around 10c... 

 

You'll have to excuse me, please - I'm new to this forum and not quite sure how to reply to each of you within the context of your messages.

 

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17 minutes ago, SpiderPig said:

Write a polite letter to the landlady informing her that you would like to reduce you rent until such time that the heating is fixed and you have a steady temperature in you apartment of 23c.

 

Inform her that the Gentleman on the ground floor regularly switches off the house heating system in an attempt to save energy..

 

It is more fuel efficient to keep an apartment at 23c than it is to keep heating the house from a lower temperature that is usually around 10c... 

Yes, that's just what I thought.

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I'll try to stop this turning in to the cluster-thing it would normal turn in to.

 

You will have to talk to the owner about this. regardless if she lost her husband, her leg, as long as she is alive and in charge the owner is the person you need ot tlak to.

Unless - the property has some kind of admin company looking after it (hausverwalter).

 

By all means contact the kids if you want, say you know it's a difficult time and you didn't want to stress their mother etc, etc.

Having said that, they also lost their father... 

 

In short, you have to go through the owner.

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4 minutes ago, cb6dba said:

EDIT: Are considering writing the landlady a letter (suggested in jest I guess by SP)?

 

 

A letter, sent by registered mail...  

Keep a copy...

If the OP has a 3yr contract.. then there are another 2 winters plus the rest of this one to endure...

 

If the OP has proof of requesting Reasonable assistance from the landlady then there is more chance of getting out of a contract should the case arise! 

 

 

You could also send me in to have a word in his ear!!   :lol:

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2 hours ago, innfield said:

We all pay for our heating, which is metered once a year by the service provider, and to my understanding it doesn't affect the heating bills of the other tenants if we have our heating on or off.

It does because only part of the heating costs will be appropriatedin proportion to usage. But he has to live with that?

There are lots of court rulings on what temperature you´re entitled to achieve with your heating and during which hours. The Mieterverein will know them. Sometimes it´s even stipulated in the lease contract. You might want to check yours.

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Spider! Spider! Spider! Go!!!

That great orange contraption sounds like a VIESSMANN... German reliability. Loved ours.

The kind man on the ground floor sounds like he has a mental issue. Wonder if you could pursue that avenue if all else fails... cease & desist letter from a lawyer? (Hope you have Rechtschutz.)

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The central boilers for smaller apartment blocks (or larger, or whatever) are usually on by default. If it's gas or oil, he is presumably turning off the pilot light and thus minimum temp of the boiler, or keeping it off entirely at certain times. Most modern ones have timers to keep it efficient during low use times anyway, perhaps he's adjusted that  

 

What he is doing might save some money, but it's small potatoes, penny wise, pound foolish. And on whose authority has he fiddled with the timers or other controls?? Is your wife German? Do any of your neighbours speak a tiny bit of English at least? 

 

You need to contact the owner, and get the other tenants involved. Heart operation or no, she's the easiest way to put the self-appointed boiler commandant in check, as she must do. As already mentioned. Joining the local Mieterverein is also a good idea, because this may be a long process.

 

I recall a winter once when I was a teenager (in Canada) when our old boiler broke down and needed replacement. All told, it was some weeks before we got the new one in (which required a safety inspection appointment and sign-off, too). We baked lots so we could put the oven on, and were dressed like Inca or Greek royalty during the time, wool blankets and cloaks galore.

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Does your building have a Hausverwaltung (building management company)?

I would try them first & then the landlady... 

 

In our building - also centrally heated in some kind of boiler room with individual metered radiators in the apartments - which is a similarly small complext of 5 apartments, every now and again we have the issue that the Hausmeister accidentally turns OFF the heating/hot water/sometimes both when he comes to switch it on or off twice a year.

 

Once we ended up with 13°C in the apartment over a long weekend with no hot water AND no heating. My usual recourse is calling the Hausvervaltung who send around their maintenance guy or the Hausmeister to check. If I can't reach them I ask the landlord to take care of it. Although it has to be said that none of the tenats have a key to the boiler room so we have to go through the Hausverwaltung either way.

 

If your building does have a Hausverwaltung, they (and their Hausmeister) should lock the room and hang on to the key where the boiler is so this 'lovely' neighbour does not have free roam to change the settings...  Is that an option for you?

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Keep a detailed log with dates and times, and temperatures outside and in your flat.

 

Also, is it possible to call the heating repair man, have him turn the heat back on each time, and have the bill sent to the Landlady? 

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I would feel sorry for the landlady in this case as she probably wouldn't know how to deal with it.  If you do mietminderung or call a repairman at her cost every time, it will hurt her and I doubt she is in a better position to control this crazy guy than you are.  I think it would have to be solved through the hausverwaltung, for example as mentioned to lock the room where the heater is or put it in a locked box so nobody can mess with it.

 

If that is not possible, I wonder if court would help.  I know someone whose landlord got pissed off and turned off the hot water and locked him out of the basement.  He went to the police who told him to go to court.  They heard his plea and sent a court bailiff the same day telling the landlord he better open the basement and turn on the hot water again or he'd have a problem.  He was quick to comply.  Obviously this guy is not the landlord but still has no right to turn everybody's heating off.

 

Mieterverein / lawyer definitely a good idea too.

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