Here's the drama, for your enjoyment:
We live in an apartment complex, as most of you know. Most of you also know that, here in Brazil, there is an extra bill called the condomínio bill, akin to HOA dues but that is also required of renters (who are essentially paying it for the owner). Check out this helpful blog post that explains this bill in English.
Anyway, in our apartment complex, each apartment has a different owner. The owners have a sort of union. They vote to change things in the apartment complex. Sometimes, these changes affect the amount of the condomínio bill. The owners here are super smart and organized. They have an electronic mailing list (I'm on it); they send out flyers reminding people of rules that are frequently broken; they put up signs around the buildings if people are doing annoying stuff, or if there's going to be a union meeting. It's impressive!
Well, I learned from their mailings that they voted to install a better security system in the apartment complex. This installation will raise our condomínio bill substantially for the next 6 months. At first I panicked, but then someone on the mailing list wrote that this difference in the bill is the responsibility of owners, not of renters, since owners have the right to vote on these changes and renters don't. (The other reason is that this change will improve the quality of the building, therefore improving the value (read: sale price) of the apartment.)
So I had to get in touch with the owner of our apartment. The problem is that the owner is this young, flighty guy. To give you an idea, he moved out of this apartment and moved to a beach in the Northeast to try to open a "surfing hotel". He bought the apartment from the first owner and lived in it for a year. In that time, he never bothered to register himself as the new owner of the apartment: that means the condomínio people still have only the contact information of the original owner.
I had to call the leasing office that wrote up our contract with the owner, because they had his contact information. Getting someone to help me was a hassle reminiscent of the cell phone drama I wrote about last week, but an agent from the leasing office finally called me back today. She told me that she called the owner, but that he doesn't want to pay the difference in the bill. His arguments were weak at best. The agent reported that he'd said things like "I didn't know about any meeting to vote" and "they're going to benefit from security, too" and "our lease says that they are responsible for the condomínio bill, and this is part of the condomínio bill!"
Oh ho ho. This guy doesn't know who he is trying to argue with. I can talk anyone into a corner. This is a talent that I pride myself in. More than one lawyer has told me that I should be a lawyer. So. I helpfully informed the leasing agent that this charge is outside of the normal condomínio bill and is therefore not what was meant by "the condmínio bill" in the contract, and that he needs to respect a certain amount of good faith in that definition; furthermore, it is not my problem if he chose not to vote or to inform himself of his right to vote at the owner's union meetings. He had the right to deny the charge -- I did not, and a rental agreement is not a representative democracy.
I explained to her that he lived here for a year, and that even I, a foreigner renting an apartment, have been unable to miss all the information about the union meetings and changes after living here for only a few months. So his excuse that he didn't know about the meeting is moot. The fact that he never even bothered to register himself as the new owner reflects his disinterest in being involved in decision-making in the complex, but that doesn't mean he is free of responsibility. I made an analogy between his argument and a cop pulling you over. If you tell the cop, "I didn't know it was illegal to do that!" The cop will say that it was your responsibility to know both your rights and your responsibilities.
Luckily, the agent was on my side, and seemed to be sympathizing. So I suggested that we don't give the owner an option in this situation -- this is not a favor we are asking him. She could simply inform him that this charge would be deducted from the rent we'll be paying over the next 6 months -- they're the ones who send us the bill for the rent, not him. He doesn't get to choose whether or not he would pay. She said she would call and explain it all to him, and that she would call me back.
Well, lucky for me, I have my awesome genius friend Bianca. She was online when I was having this conversation. After I hung up with the agent, I told her about the argument. Quick-thinking Bianca found a government link to a law that explains that this type of charge is, in fact, the owner's responsibility, and it's not allowed to be passed on to the renter. The government law even lists "security systems" as an example of something that the renter can't be charged for! It's right there, in the law, people! It's annoying that the leasing agency didn't bother to look into this, and it's annoying that the owner is a cheap, dishonest bastard at worst and an uninformed proprietor at best, but it's a good thing I have people like Bianca in my life to make up for all this incompetence.
If, by chance, you are having this same problem or similar problems, here's the link to the government site:
Well. Obviously, I called the leasing office lady back and asked informed her about the law. She asked me to email her the link. She said she would pass it on to the owner so that she could call him tomorrow and confirm that he would pay. I didn't like her language choice with the word "confirm," but we'll see how it goes tomorrow. Either way, I've got the law on my side, so he can only resist so much!
Suck it, douchebag! You've been schooled!!!!
If he tries to argue some more, I'm gonna sic the mother-in-law on him. The apartment is technically rented in her name, and she is a superawesome Brazilian arguement-winning machine when it comes to businesses trying to rip her off. She'll know just what to say to everyone to put the owner in his place and save us a bunch of money.
Please, share your similar stories! I love a great tale of justice.