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Trying to get repairs in housing court

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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Trying to get repairs in housing court

Postby Odussean » Sun Jun 21, 2020 5:04 pm

I was sued by LL for rent owed. Arrears have been paid, but am trying to get repairs done. LL likes to paint over things to avoid repairs. I already have 4 violations on windows in my apartment, now about 15 violations for things such as buckling floor, roof leaks and mold on the bathroom wall due to moldy outside wall that was never repointed.

I have spoken with my attorney about the repairs, but his answers always seem unsatisfying. He says I should just let LL do whatever repairs he wants, then go back to court if they are insufficient. For example, LL thinks he’s going to replace the stretcher bar in one of my windows rather than replace the window, while everyone I have spoken to says that’s unlikely as parts for windows are not generally available. He also wants to put a « saddle » on the area of my floors that are rising up (a saddle being a raised piece of wood that is normally put at the entrance to a room). He something about tearing down the bathroom wall with the mold problem, but it’s a class A violation and everyone else has told me that the repointing will fix the mold. DOB actually ordered a shed to be put in place on an emergency basis due to falling brick.

My concern is that he will engage in harrassment by doing fake repairs, I.e., not repairing the actual thing needing repair, but something else and calling it good. For example, to fix my other window violations, he had the super remove some of the window moldings and put in unfinished, unprimed wood that would give you slivers even when painted, which ruined the pre-war character. The super, when asked to fix a sagging closet door a year ago, pulled out a large screwdriver and started stabbing at the floor, until the door would close. When asked about the damage to the floor, he said, « I don’t do floors. »

Some tenants on the top floor have serious roof leaks (3 in my apartment, 5 in another), and I know the landlord uses paper and tar patches to pretend to fix the leaks. The leaks are only getting bigger and I would like to see what can be done as a permanent fix so I don’t throw money out the window if I have a professional paint the rooms.

Would really like to get some ideas on how I can avoid having my apartment destroyed by the time we’re finished, or losing too much money from time lost from work for fake repairs. I asked my atty to ask LL for a scope of work, which received a sarcastic, « you should know the scope of the work, you filed the complaints» in response. I want to be prepared for what repairs he’ll do, and head off the ones I know are pointless and an attempt to harrass. What happens if I refused to let him tear down a wall that doesn’t need to be torn down? Would the judge think I was being uncooperative? Any suggestions from someone who has gone through this would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Trying to get repairs in housing court

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jun 21, 2020 6:03 pm

I'm assuming the LL suit was prior to when housing court was closed down. Since March, nothing has happened. While it is in the process of opening up, there are many questions as to procedures, most of which we can't answer. Lawyers don't even know how things will work.

So may answer here is based on my knowledge of how things would normally work, not during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sued for rent owed -- I'm assuming that is a non-payment proceeding. You don't say if you are rent stab or not.

Painting over things -- of course details matter. There is a law dealing with underlying conditions. For example, landlords might just paint over a water stain instead of actually fixing a leaky pipe. See http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bil ... -1.2007538

This law goes back to 2014, so I don't know how well it gets enforced, but as you can guess, the courts let the LL get away with a lot.

You have to document things, including many photos, violations, emails to LL, offers of access and so on.

I hate to say it, but your attorney might be correct. LLs will screw things up and then you have to go back claiming it was done improperly. OTOH you can watch over the repair people and try to get them to do things properly.

Mold - I had that done and normally it doesn't take removing an entire wall. However it could. You can insist they repair whatever damage was done and return things (plaster, paint) to proper conditions.

You talk about other tenants. Do you have a tenant association? If not, you should.

The problem is that housing court judges are on overload (more now with COVID) and will allow almost anything to get cases off their dockets.

You implied this was a non-pay case. You can also file a HP Action even if you put WOH issues as part of your defense in the non-pay case. That gives you a little more leeway and pressure, depending on what judge is handling the HP part. I have done that. You might even get HPD to be on your side. on some of these repairs it might help to have an architect or engineer opining on how things should be repaired (although that might cost some money).

Another alternative is a 7A proceeding, where a court-appointed person takes over running the building. There was a lot of that in the 1980's and 90's, but I don't hear about it much these days, and I think the courts are very reluctant to use this as a method except in the worst cases. And to be honest, the court receiver might not do things the way you want it.
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