I have been neck-deep in apartment repairs and haven’t posted anything here in a while. Sorry peeps. Will clue you in.
I have an apartment my landlord would love to get back. It is a good sized one bedroom in a sought after and pricey neighborhood: Upper West Side. I have the sort of apartment all of my clients and probably most people who live in New York City only dream about: it’s rent stabilized and the rent is now $1004.04.
In my landlord’s quest to get me to pack my bags and leave, he has ignored and denied repair requests and has, in my opinion, used a recent bathroom renovation to sabotage my bathroom and make it unusable.
To those of you who know me and who have benefited from the advice I love to share: he did not win the fight and I haven’t packed my bags, nor am I going to.
Instead, I hired some local handymen aka contractors and decided to repair and deduct.
“Repair and deduct” is your right as a tenant in New York. Landlords are required by law to keep your apartment in good repair. The apartment has to meet basic structural, health and safety standards. If your landlord doesn’t maintain their end of the deal and you have informed them of this in writing (certified mail return receipt requested), then you have the right to make the repairs yourself.
One of the problems I had was that my landlord ignored repairing the roof and with my apartment on the top floor, I sustained damage from leaks.
Before embarking on my repair marathon (because believe me it will feel like you are running a marathon when you’re in the middle of a major repair) I wanted to make sure the building was structurally sound.
I contacted 3-1-1 and had the various city agencies come to the building to check it out.
For weeks I escorted various inspectors, including the FDNY, through every nook and cranny of the building, our sister building, and my apartment. The roof of the building I live in had multiple issues and for a couple of weeks I really wondered if I should just pack a bag and go to either a friend’s place or to a hotel. It was somewhat nerve wracking because I am also the President of the tenant’s association and between the building I live in and our sister building there are 100 apartments.
I stayed put. I didn’t want to jeopardize anyone’s life -- which should have been my landlord’s headache but they really did not care if the building collapsed. In fact, I believe they would have been very happy to have exactly that happen. New York City landlords have an easy get out of jail card because of all the money they pour into local politicians. I became the conduit - the person who was on call at a moment's notice which meant my social life stopped and I became the building tour guide whenever a city inspector arrived at the building.
It was a hellish month but it worked.
The landlord began making much needed repairs to the building and attending to the roof. Tenants began to worry and whenever they contacted the landlord they were out and out lied to: "fake news" my landlord and his agents repeated -- all the while they were making these repairs. It just seemed so juvenile. However, if everyone had stopped paying rent (including their commercial tenants) it would have been disastrous for them - so I understand on a business level why they lied. But now I despise them that much more. Safety should never be taken lightly. By anyone. Especially by a landlord.
Once the building was deemed to be okay and was re-inspected, at this point I decided to tackle my repairs which were not and are not easy.
However, it has been very gratifying to know that the landlord has been forced to maintain his properties, that we as tenants are not in immediate danger, and that my apartment will soon feel like my home again.
If your landlord is not responding to issues, sincerely, the first thing you have to do is send a letter (again, certified mail, return receipt requested) and itemized your apartment repair requests. Additionally, call 3-1-1.
Most people fail to report issues to 3-1-1 and it’s because so few are aware that these agencies exist to help renters in the city.
Instead of moving next time you have a non-responsive landlord, do what I did. Report. Report. And then repair and deduct if you really want to stay put. Hey, you might even receive a rent reduction and a rent abatement (more on that in another post).
Happy to re-connect here with you. It’s summer! Amazing.