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Provost vs. JJ. JJ WINS

Posted by Dayann on July 11, 2001 at 23:13:59:

In Reply to: Re: HELP! don;t listen to Provost: P's advice will get you evicted. posted by JJ on July 10, 2001 at 22:01:39:

I'm more inclined to listen to JJ because 1. pro se attorneys at the housing court have given me similar information, 2. he backs his claims up with case law and 3. I got a 30 day notice from a LL before and know they can't just toss you out without due process.

JJ, I'd like to elaborate a little and ask a few more questions. If you can answer them fine, if not, fine.

First, Provost is wrong about my living situation. I live in an APARTMENT in a legal two-family private house. The law you directed me to read, if it is up to date, applies to me.

Next, we believe the letter we received from our LL is not a valid notice to terminate for the following reasons: it was not delivered return receipt requested, he has no proof he ever issued it, if we wanted to be pains in the butt, we'd ignore it and say we never got it, but we aren't dishonest people. It was issued to us not 30 but 23 days prior to our next rent due date. He accepted and deposited our rent check immediately prior (HOURS prior) to issuing us the letter. It does not establish that we are month to month tenants.

We can prove our request for repairs was in good faith because: 1. we attached it to our rent check, 2. we "respectfully requested" that he make the repairs and offered to work with him in terms of cost, 3. we invited him to call us about our request and 4. we enclosed a discount flyer and coupon from two contractors who were offering discounts on replacement windows and window guards. We even surfed the internet and compare-shopped for him to find the lowet prices for window guards and replacement windows. I think there are very few tenants who put up with the crap we have who would go to those lengths, and I think a judge would agree we bent over backwards to be nice about our need for repairs. We also waited a full week before complaining to the city. The LL didn't even call to acknowledge our request for repairs, and when he didn't even give us the courtesy of saying "I got your letter," we called HPD to complain.

Even though a week passed and he didn't even acknowlege our request for repairs, he issued his request that we vacate in less than 24 hours after HPD called him.

An update: we sent the LL a letter, certified mail RRR, saying that we got his letter and that we felt it was issued to us in retaliation for exercising our basic rights as tenants. We cited both the anti-retaliation clause you included in your links and the Warranty of Habitability. We said we were dismayed that after we'd been such good tenants to him and so willing to work with him on the repair issue that he would rather evict than spend less than a tenth of the rent we've submitted in the past 13 months to correct a housing code violation that we only brought to his attention out of concern for the welfare of our child. He did not respond to this letter.

HOWEVER, the City's housing inspector showed up this afternoon to verify our complaint, and sure enough, saw that there were no window guards and that the windows were ancient and in need of repair or replacement. We don't know what he said to the LL but we got an informal note from him when we arrived home saying that he would comply with city housing codes. PROBLEM IS, he will only install window guards if we pay for them in full. He wants $300 to pay for the window guards, installation fee, and sales tax. He says he won't put them in until the check clears. He also says that even if we pay for them, they will stay on the Premises when we "move out next month" (he is still insisting that we vacate). His note did not address the other part of our complaint, which was that the windows themselves were cracked, warped and in disrepair. (What sense is there in putting window guards on a window that is about to fall off anyhow??) To us this is another clear indication that our LL will only address repairs that his tenants pay for, and that's bullcrap, especially since he's collected almost $15K from us since we've moved in.

Provost suggested we put the guards in ourselves, but my husband will not spend another penney on this place. Also, putting up guards requires working on a very high ladder. My husband is not a licensed glazier and has no written proof that he is authorized to make any permanent or semi-permanent adjustments to this person's house. If my husband or someone else got hurt, we would be liable and we'd have no insurance to cover us. We also don't want to be held responsible if damage were done to the house in the course of issuing repairs. This is not law, this is common sense. IT's an old house and the windows are in disrepair. Playing "Bob Villa" is dangerous. Let the LL hire a licensed contractor or put the guards up himself, that way, if something gets broken, its his own house he's damaging.

Since he is reluctantly agreeing to make the repairs at our expense and still insisting that we leave, can we still use the lack of repairs and the harassment (retaliation) issue as a defense?

Can he force us to pay $300 to install the window guards? I read somewhere that LLs of rent regulated buildings could charge a $10 fee, but I have never seen anything that said he could charge us the full cost of installing window guards. This doesn't seem right to me. He is the LL, he is supposed to comply with housing codes, why should we the Tenants be expected to pay for compliance with housing codes if we pay rent in exchange for a habitable, safe apartment that meets up to Dept. of Health standards?

Can we tell him to make the repairs and give us receipts, and we'll reimburse him? Since we're paying for the window guards, can we tell him which ones to buy and perhaps have them installed for less than $300? Anything in the housing codes about this??

Finally, my husband and I are considering withholding our rent since he still hasn't addressed the other repairs (the ones he would have to pay for). Can we still do this even if he sent us this note saying he'd comply but only if we pay for the repairs?

Provost says a judge would be annoyed. I disagree. A judge would be annoyed if we complained about a loose hinge on the door, but not about inadequate heat, faulty windows and no window guards in a space occupied by an infant. I think at the very least if we explained the situation to the judge and documented everything, he would give us a few months to find another place to go given that we can't possibly relocate in only 30 days and we have a baby with us. Even if we don't get damages awarded to us for retaliation, we may at least get some additional time in which to find a new place to go.

Provost: We are not trying to stay here indefinitely. We have been looking for an apartment in a rent stabilized building since March. Our child's health and safety are non negotiable. But we have been looking and plan to move as soon as we find a place we can afford, a lot of these apartment buildings have waiting lists and board approval. We do not want to go into another month-to-month thing, we want a formal lease, so that our rights are protected and we don't have to go through this again.

And we are not being evicted. No action has been threatened, and we haven't received any court papers. All we've received is a written request that we leave. I already know from past experience that you can request anything, but that doesn't mean its legal or that you'll succeed in getting it.

JJ thanks for the links, I've printed them all out so I can refer back to them. Also, I will look up a tenant's advocacy group. Maybe they will have more information and maybe they can refer me to a lawyer who'll help me out for a reasonable flat fee. It is always better to reach a settlement that gives us more time than to run back and forth to court.

Thanks for the help, everyone. I will keep you all posted on our progress.

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