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Ask Chicagoist: Secretly Scrubbing Landlady

By Sarah in Miscellaneous on May 17, 2005 4:21PM

stove.gifI put a letter in with the last rent check telling my landlord that the kitchen sink was leaking, and that a kitchen drawer is broken. When I came home yesterday, the contents of the broken drawer (kitchen utensils) were placed in a tupperware on the countertop and there was no drawer at all in its place. Today I come home to find my stovetop miraculously cleaned. There's a note from my landlord:

Dear Trudy and Bruno*:
Today I clean the stove for you and I ask you _please_ don't let it [illegible]. This little stoves are expensive. and _please_ practice some sanitation. We do not want cacaroaches or mice in the bldg. Thank you for your attention.
Mrs. Smith
The sinck is fixed.

So - is this legal? Can landlords just enter without 24 hours notice? Also, can they be my second mommy? Plus she used my good scrubby sink dish brush AND the replacement head to clean the stovetop! Makes me wonder what else she went through while she was here and I was at work....

*Names have been changed.

Dear Dear Dear Trudy and Bruno:
Have you seen Chungking Express? Apartment-sneaking antics have rarely been so delicious.

It sounds like you're feeling violated by Mrs. Smith's visit, but also a tad jealous that she gets to hang out in your cute apartment all day, listening to your records, and screwing your upstairs neighbor in your bed. As apartment-dwellers, we all live with this possibility; the challenge is to find it fun.

According to the LAW,(Residential Tenants and Landlords Ordinance, page 5):
The landlord ... shall give the tenant notice of the landlord's intent to enter of no less than two days. Such notice shall be provided to each dwelling unit by mail, telephone, written notice to the dwelling unit, or by other reasonable means designed in good faith to provide notice to the tenant.

SO: Speaking in purely legal terms, Mrs. Smith should have given you two days notice before coming in to the apartment. But, here is where the Gray Area begins. When Ask Chicagoist calls its charming building manager with a suggestion for improvement (a mousetrap, ahem!), we know he'll turn up at our tiny digs in the next few days. In placing the phone-call, we feel we are granting implicit permission to come in, do the needful, dance around to the new Stephen Malkmus CD, and then hit the road.

Which brings us to the inevitable question of intent. Sure, Mrs. Smith should have called you, but you knew she would come by sooner or later to do something about the sink and drawer. The scrubbing is wildly gratuitous, no doubt!, as is her nanny-state note to you. But, at the end of a long day of scrubbing, don't we all just want the same things: a Tupperware full of spatulas and a clean stove?

So what should you do?
Call her. Thank her for fixing the sink. Tell her how great the stove looks. Ask that she give you two days notice next time she's coming over. Don't get mad. Forget about the sanitation comment. Give her another chance. Tell her that track #4 "Freeze the Saints" is your favorite so far. Then next time something breaks, remind her to call you the day before she comes over. (And yes, you can deduct the sponge-costs from the rent, if its more than $5. Otherwise we think its kinda fussy.)

And leave a big pile of laundry on the kitchen floor--you might get lucky!

Something just a little bit cleaner than you left it? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com