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Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

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Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Fri Jun 09, 2017 10:57 pm

Hello,
First time poster, long time Tenant.net reader.
I will strive to keep my complicated situation brief, succinct and anonymous. (2min 30sec read)

Basically part of my bathroom ceiling fell in 2 weeks ago leaving a motorcycle wheel sized hole above the shower head, (which I've covered with plastic and taken video and pictures of), but the ongoing leak that caused it (coming from the floors above) I'm afraid is getting worse and I'm not sure who to turn to to get it fixed before it does get worse and potentially floods my apt.
I am one of the last remaining tenants in my building.

Quick history of why I'm presently stuck and not sure who to turn to:

None of the apts in my bldg have EVER been registered with DHCR, but I am in a 10unit bldg, built in 1900, my rent is below $2K and I've been here nearly 14yrs.
It is assumed that my apt (and every other apt in my bldg though I understand RS to be apt specific) is and should be RS and I am presently taking steps to prove my RS status as I have been told it should be.

I've only ever had one lease from 2003 and always paid my rent in cash (getting handwritten receipts) to a brother (LL) and sister (Mgr.) who 50% co-owned the bldg left to them by their mother. They also lived in the bldg.

The brother (LL) died, leaving his 50% share in his Will to his 4 children, none of whom live in the bldg and I believe that Will is still in probate.
(His ex-wife still lives below me, but other than her, I'm basically the last tenant left in my bldg.)

The sister (new LL) and her daughter (new Mgr.) recently sold their even 50% Deed to a Limited Partnership ("LP") and disappeared in the night to get away from the brother's half of the family ("other half"), who I'm dealing with now, and who apparently began immediately trying to kick everyone out of the bldg so they can sell it etc.
The problem is, "other half" began acting as LL and Owner and doing all of this without "LP" knowing or shared consent as new co-owners.
(The "LP" is the only owner listed on Dept. of Finance website by the way.)

So the "other half" are now defendants in two Supreme court cases, one from the new "LP" co-owners (who now want nothing to do with "other half" and want to "Part"-ition ways), the other case involves other tenants that were allegedly harassed and pushed out of the building using discriminatory scare tactics and not being told their possible RS rights. This all happened while I was out of town for over a month (and why it took me longer to figure out what's been going on once I got back)

So now I'm stuck with co-owners "LP" who would probably rather force an auction sale and move on and the "other half" who want to (illegally) kick everyone out of the bldg and flip it sell it whatever.

So while I'm holding fast and waiting to see how these court cases pan out and trying to prove my RS status to keep my apt, etc. my bathroom ceiling falls in and I don't know who I can contact to fix the problem before the leak gets any worse.

The only saving grace (if you can call it that) is that the brother's ex-wife (mother of the 4 children "other half"), lives below me, but until it affects her, it's probably a moot point.

(2 months ago DOB did an inspection of my apt but none of those complaints or problems have been dealt with or fixed either. Go figure.)

That's it in a nutshell.
Any helpful info anyone may have is greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
-spideysensetingling
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jun 09, 2017 11:45 pm

This really is too long, but you're lucky tonight.

By all accounts your apt appears to be RS. Were you implying your rent was near $2,000? Has it been that amount since you moved in?
Do you get regular lease renewals from your LL?

You say it's not registered with DHCR, but has anything they've done indicated it might be RS?

What steps are you taking? Did you file a complaint with DHCR? Something else?

Sounds like there are ownership issues to say the least. I'm not sure I'm following all the intrigues you've laid out.

Who do you pay rent to? That's one way to force an issue? Do you get monthly bills with an address where to send the rent? Do they have an office? I would consider paying rent by check or money order. They can't legally deny you that.

So the tenants who are in Supreme Ct., is there a lawyer or legal aid organization that is helping them? That might be the first place to turn.

So on the bathroom, you said you've documented it. You said DOB was there. What about HPD? The next thing to do is complain to 311 and get a violation placed. And have you notified the landlord (any of them) in writing?

And do you think it's just a leak with plaster falling down, or does it look like there might be structural issues? That could make things serious.

Sorting out the ownership is one thing. As for the next steps, there are options. You can file a HP case. You can withhold rent. You can file harassment charges. You can file with DHCR. Although I wouldn't do all of those things.

BTW, are you in a 5-story tenement with white/grey facade except for the first floor which is red brick and next to a blue minimart? If so, please confirm and I can do some more research. If so, looks like a development LLC bought the bldg in April.
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Sat Jun 10, 2017 7:21 pm

Hi TenantNet (thanks for the pass) and for your reply.

I'll try to answer your questions in order of reply (again briefly and succinctly as possible):

Sorry, the $2K rent number was me being vague (I didn't want to give exact numbers), my rent is actually still below $1,000 and has been since my first and only lease in 2003 (and why I'm fighting to keep the place).
It has arbitrarily gone up a couple hundred dollars since 2003 but I've never been given a lease renewal. I'd asked a handful of times over the years but was always refused.

Nothing else has been done DHCR-wise that would indicate RS.
Though one of the tenants in the court case has one Rent Stab Renewal lease, but my lease (and all other tenants original leases were I believe on the basic Blumberg A55 form).
The new "LP" co-owners supposedly should have registered with DHCR after purchasing the 50% Deed, (they have the rent roll, it's an exhibit in their case), but apparently they have a history of owning other bldg's with apt's that should be RS and not registering them either or informing the tenants therein of any RS rights.

The steps I'm taking are that I have been meeting with a few Tenant lawyers (thanks to the advice of tenant.net posts) to decide how to proceed but we've decided to wait and see how the court cases are playing out, also because yes, there are ownership issues to say the least, and we're not sure who to sue going forward yet, but we're leaning towards Supreme court over DHCR.
Housing Court doesn't seem to be an option since "other half" just wants me out. They haven't made any moves to legally evict me, maybe because they wanted to avoid court, (but found themselves in court anyways!)
"Other half" did post 30-day termination letters on everyone's apt doors at one point but that was BS and another scare tactic.

Nobody has been collecting my rent in months (but I am saving it up just in case).
The "other half" just wants me out and the "LP" hasn't been involved since becoming co-owners because of the "other half"'s continued obstruction and why "LP" has taken "other half" to court.
I did start paying with a Money Order for a few months before, when it looked like there was trouble brewing (spideysensetingling haha), right after my landlady and her daughter moved out.

Yes the tenants in Supreme Ct. are represented by lawyers and Legal Aid org's and I have been speaking with some of those attorneys for advice and to keep abreast of how the cases are proceeding while also looking up the cases on eCourts WebSupreme.

And I just looked on HPD's website and there are open violations for my apt and bldg.
So I will call 311 next. Thanks for the advice.
I just recalled there was a task force from the NYS Attn. General's office sent here a few months ago and both DOB and HPD must've been here along with Special Investigators etc.
The Attn. Gen's office, has supposedly taken an interest in the case brought by the tenants in my bldg because of the alleged harassment and discrimination.
We'll see if that actually means anything or not.

I don't think there's any structural damage as of yet as far as I can tell, though along with plaster there was some concrete that fell in.
I can see all the way up to the upper floors through the hole in my ceiling and it still looks sound so far. I hope.

Yes 5-story tenement almost as you describe, but could be a different bldg?
I will PM you the apt address as well as the court case index numbers if you want to check those out.

Thank you again-
spideysensetingling
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jun 10, 2017 7:34 pm

Come on, please make these things shorter.
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:02 pm

spideysensetingling wrote:my rent is actually still below $1,000 and has been since my first and only lease in 2003. It has arbitrarily gone up a couple hundred dollars since 2003 but I've never been given a lease renewal.


Lack of lease renewals, registrations, riders and so on. This appears to fall into the fraud area, and should, IMHO, be cause to pierce the 4 year SOL. Research the "Grimm" case on the forum, and on Google.

spideysensetingling wrote:I'd asked a handful of times over the years but was always refused.


Create a timeline as best you can when you asked.

spideysensetingling wrote:Though one of the tenants in the court case has one Rent Stab Renewal lease


RS renewal leases must be on the RTP-8 form. If that's what the tenant has, it supports your claim to being RS.

spideysensetingling wrote:but my lease (and all other tenants original leases were I believe on the basic Blumberg A55 form).


Original leases are not necessarily RS leases. Some don't even mention RS.

spideysensetingling wrote:but apparently they have a history of owning other bldg's with apt's that should be RS and not registering them either or informing the tenants therein of any RS rights.


In a way that's good for you as you should be able to show willfulness, and be eligible for treble damages.

spideysensetingling wrote:I have been meeting with a few Tenant lawyers


Was just going to suggest that, at least for a consult. No reason yet to pay big bucks. But get someone who has loads of experience with DHCR and higher court cases, to get a good assessment of your chances.

spideysensetingling wrote:leaning towards Supreme court over DHCR.


That's a strategy decision, and in some cases it makes sense. It's one way to avoid the blacklist, and perhaps to get legal fees if you win. What you should be after is a) a determination of your RS status, and b) your legal rent over time, and c) overcharges and penalties.

spideysensetingling wrote:Housing Court doesn't seem to be an option since "other half" just wants me out. They haven't made any moves to legally evict me, maybe because they wanted to avoid court, (but found themselves in court anyways!)


Generally Housing court is a) LL's suing tenants in non-pay, b) LL's suing tenants in holdovers, c) Tenants suing LL's in HP actions (for repairs) and a few other minor scenarios. Generally to get a RS determination, that's usually DHCR or Supreme. It might be possible for Housing Court to decide RS status, but that would be in the context of a Non-Pay or Holdover. That means the LL would have to commence the proceeding.

spideysensetingling wrote:"Other half" did post 30-day termination letters on everyone's apt doors at one point but that was BS and another scare tactic.


Just make sure to deal with any Petitions/Notice of Petitions that get sent. Also, a 30-day termination is usually for Month-to-Month tenants, not RS. RS tenants often (but not in all cases) get a Notice to Cure before the Termination notice. All those little details will be known by tenant attorneys.

spideysensetingling wrote:Nobody has been collecting my rent in months (but I am saving it up just in case).


Be VERY careful about that. It is so easy to spend it.

spideysensetingling wrote:The "other half" just wants me out and the "LP" hasn't been involved since becoming co-owners because of the "other half"'s continued obstruction and why "LP" has taken "other half" to court.


This is still confusing. Are there 2 halfs plus the LLC?" What's an LP?

spideysensetingling wrote:Yes the tenants in Supreme Ct. are represented by lawyers and Legal Aid org's and I have been speaking with some of those attorneys for advice and to keep abreast of how the cases are proceeding while also looking up the cases on eCourts WebSupreme.


You can also follow in SCROLL. See http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/iscroll/

spideysensetingling wrote:I just recalled there was a task force from the NYS Attn. General's office sent here a few months ago and both DOB and HPD must've been here along with Special Investigators etc. The Attn. Gen's office, has supposedly taken an interest in the case brought by the tenants in my bldg because of the alleged harassment and discrimination.


The politicians are pandering a lot about harassment. I can't say at this time if the AG's task fore, or DHCR's Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) are any good.

spideysensetingling wrote:I don't think there's any structural damage as of yet as far as I can tell, though along with plaster there was some concrete that fell in. I can see all the way up to the upper floors through the hole in my ceiling and it still looks sound so far. I hope.


A user on this forum "Sky" has a lot of experience with DOB and stuctural issues. Just search for "Sky" in the forum. You can PM him.

spideysensetingling wrote:Yes 5-story tenement almost as you describe, but could be a different bldg?


I didn't want to cite the address on the forum. But it wasn't too hard to track down :)

spideysensetingling wrote:I will PM you the apt address as well as the court case index numbers if you want to check those out.
spideysensetingling wrote:
Yes, I'm interested.

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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Sat Jun 10, 2017 10:51 pm

I promise to keep my 3rd post short. Thank you for your patience.

TenantNet wrote:RS renewal leases must be on the RTP-8 form. If that's what the tenant has, it supports your claim to being RS.


the tenant's renewal lease seems to be on a Blumberg T-327 and not on an RTP-8 form, that says, "Apartment Lease-Attached Rider sets forth rights and obligations of tenants and landlords under the rent stabilization law".

TenantNet wrote:What you should be after is a) a determination of your RS status, and b) your legal rent over time, and c) overcharges and penalties.


Yes I totally agree. I've also been told by an attorney that if I'm RS then I shouldn't be concerned about the blacklist.

TenantNet wrote:That means the LL would have to commence the proceeding.


(re: Housing Court) Yes and why I believe my two options presently are Supreme or DHCR because I don't see either of the co-owner "LL's" commencing a proceeding any time soon, so I'll have to go on the offensive.

TenantNet wrote:This is still confusing. Are there 2 halfs plus the LLC?" What's an LP?


Sorry for the confusion, the bldg is now 50% co-owned by an "LP" (limited partnership, I don't think they're an LLC) and the other 50% by the "other half" of a family that originally a brother and sister co-owned 50% each of the bldg that the sister sold her 50% to the "LP".

TenantNet wrote:You can also follow in SCROLL. See http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/iscroll/


Thank you for that info i didn't know about it. I will check out SCROLL.

And Thanks again!
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jun 11, 2017 8:38 am

Renewal leases must be on RTP-8 form. See http://www.nyshcr.org/Forms/Rent/rtp8.pdf
As far as I know, renewals on other forms are not valid for RS rent increases, but I've not seen any cases on it. Renewals must also have the DHCR Rider at http://www.nyshcr.org/forms/rent/ralr1.pdf

The blacklist is usually for tenants being taken to Housing Court. It's a very real thing, whether you are RS or not. If you plan on being there another 30 years, it might not be an issue for you. But for those that move every 5 years or less, I'd not discount it.

There are thread on this in the Forum's Reference Section. Tenant attorney James Fishman (also an advertiser) is the go-to person for blacklist information.

However, some attorneys say they can avoid the blacklist by having the tenant commence a case in Supreme Court. Such a move can also be tied to an order from Supreme Ct preventing the LL from starting any Housing Court cases while the SC action is pending.

SC can be expensive (so can Housing Ct) if you have private attorneys. Aside from that, it's the strategy that counts.

Owners: let's call them Owner A and Owner B, not "other half." And from the papers I saw (from other cases in the bldg) it appears there are more than 2 owners.

SCROLL can be valuable, but don't discard Ecourts. For whatever reasons, there are times you can find cases on one and not the other. Ecourts will on occasion have filed documents, but SCROLL has them more often.

Another question ... do you know if any of these owners also own or manage any other buildings? If so, you should research what they are doing in those places. Owners have strategies as well. With the development issues in your area, it's entirely possible that one or more of your building's owners is also invested in other projects, and might also be harassing tenants elsewhere.

If you see a pattern, then consider talking with and working with tenants in the other buildings, much like the Croman Tenants or Shalom Tenants have done.

BTW, I saw this article this morning:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/queens-landlord-pushes-dhs-tip-line-scare-immigrants-tenants-article-1.3237351
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:37 pm

In the previous reply you mention SC and Housing Court can be expensive with private lawyers.
How expensive would you roughly estimate it could get trying to initially prove RS status with no DHCR history at all? (I understand there's always many factors. Just curious.)

Yes two Owners A & B, but there are two other people, (well...an Inc. and an LLC that are each just one person) that have Memorandum of Contracts with and for Owner B's 50%.
I'm not sure how that's supposed to work out.

I believe Owner A does own other properties elsewhere.
I have been informed that they own other buildings with apt's that could/should be RS and apparently haven't informed those tenants of their RS rights either.
I need to look further into their dealings and practices.

I do believe the strategy here with my building is to still just try and kick everyone out, Renovate and flip at Market rate.
They're still trying to tell me they have to do that with everyone out of the building.
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:38 pm

Leak Update:
I finally called 311 and HPD sent out an inspector pretty quickly to write up the violations.
Unfortunately the leak is intermittent and it wasn't leaking when the inspector showed up so i think he actually only wrote up "broken or defective plastered surfaces and paint in a uniform color at ceiling in the bathroom".
I may have to call them again for the ongoing but intermittent leak.
Should I do that since the leak doesn't seem to be specifically documented as a violation?

I do have documented pics and vids of the progression of the bathroom ceiling leaking and deteriorating over the past 5 months. Would it help to show them those?

It does seem that HPD only writes up violations for what they can see with their own eyes.
e.g. they won't write a violation for a complaint about bedbugs if you can't show them bedbugs
More on that as it progresses.
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 09, 2017 8:54 pm

You can check later on the HPD website to see if any violations were placed. Go here:
https://hpdonline.hpdnyc.org/HPDonline/ ... dress.aspx

I would also check on the "underlying conditions" legislation. See http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bil ... -1.2007538
but also Google "underlying conditions" and you might need to press your elected officials and community board to get HPD to do something. But in the end, they do need to see it happening, or long-term effects of such leaks.

Yes photos will help, nice big color photos.

Why not submit a skit to some weekend show? :)
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 09, 2017 9:06 pm

Didn't see your first post. Court can be expensive. If the LL takes you to court for non-pay or holdover, I suspect a private atty would charge $5,000 just to start, and it can grow much more.

They are supposed to have free attorneys for people in some areas of town (I think your area might be one of those targeted), but I don't know how successful that program has been, and to be honest, I don't know the quality of the attorneys or how much resources they have per individual tenants.

Taking the LL to court on a HP action (for repairs) can be done pro se. Actually non-pays and holdovers can be pro se as well, but it's better to have a good lawyer. Depends on how good the LLs lawyer is. And if they take you to court in Housing Court, you could end up on the blacklist.

You can avoid the blacklist by going to Supreme Court, but that's a strategic decision that's more than just about the blacklist.

As far as I know, RS status can't be brought by the tenant in Housing Court; that would have to be Supreme, or with DHCR. However Housing Court might hear that question if a tenant raises it in a defense of a NP or holdover. You should get a lawyer to tell you what's possible.

If you can get the same non-profit that is already helping other tenants in your building, I'd try to do that.

On the status, some courts might remand the question to DHCR (lazy judges). I've seen that happen.

In your case you have 2 owners fighting each other, and do they have unlimited resources? I suspect not. That might be part of strategic considerations to determine which court (or DHCR) to bring a case. Taking a status case to DHCR might take years. If the owner really wants a resolution, they might not want to litigate for years. (and if you're sane, neither do you).

Of course you don't have to leave.
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:49 pm

Haha yes a lot of this absurdity would make for a good late night sketch or few I'm sure.
Finding a way to keep a sense of humor is always important for sanity's sake if anything.

TenantNet wrote:On the status, some courts might remand the question to DHCR (lazy judges). I've seen that happen.


Yes a lawyer told me Supreme would be a good way to go, but even with taking the offensive and having discovery available, that you still take a chance on what judge you can end up with.

Also that some of them don't want to deal with Housing stuff and will kick it down the road and that most would rather not deal with Housing issues especially if you're trying to prove more than just RS status, like Rent Over-charges etc. that can scare them off remanding it to DHCR or say it's a case for Housing Court.

I found it quite disheartening when I was first told that, added to the fact that DHCR can potentially take years, and you're right I would rather not litigate for years.

And unfortunately with some judges making around $200K/yr I guess they can afford to be lazy and not do their jobs and then of course there's ideological judicial biases etc.
Justice, right?
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:21 pm

Hi again,

Quick Update and quick question:

Neither the leak nor the hole in my bathroom ceiling have been fixed nor have any of the other violations and repairs needed that I've logged with HPD to date.
I came home recently to find even more rubble etc. has fallen through my bathroom ceiling.

In the last couple months, the crazy unreasonable Owner B finally sold their half of my building to Owner A, who is now the sole 100% owner.
Owner A registered the bldg as a Corporation with HPD and lists someone as the Head Officer and Managing Agent of the bldg.
This person works for a Management company that everyone reviewing them on Yelp wish they could give zero stars and refer to them as "Professional Slumlords", "Horrible", "Refuse to Repair Anything" etc.

Looks like I was traded one slumlord for another. haha we'll see.

There is still an ongoing SC case involving other tenants of my building, but I'm sure the new owners & Management will be looking to renovate soon, MCI, IAI's etc.
I am still presumed to be RS and I'm still waiting to see how this case goes before taking further actions.

But in the meantime, I have quite a few other repairs etc. I need to still call in complaints about.

Question:
Should I go ahead and get everything possible documented with HPD complaints before being confronted with renovations that could end up being added to and raising my rent?

*I also just returned from being out of town to find the front door now has a Keyless Entry System and a Digital Code Door Lock that I haven't been given a key or code to (no one has tried to contact me at all) and came home earlier and was Locked out of my building.
How should I deal with that?

Thanks
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby TenantNet » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:35 pm

Just responding to last post - have not re-read the long posts from last summer.

Repairs. Have you filed a HP court action? Have you withheld rent to force LL to commence a non-pay proceeding (where your defense would be the lack of repairs)?

Can you send us the Yelp link via Private Mail?

When you say you are "presumed" to be RS, what does that mean? Either you are, you aren't, you don't know, or you think you are and the LL thinks differently.

Complaints - just keep notifying the LL, calling 311 and if need be, add them to any court proceeding that is going on.

Typical IAI's don't really apply to current tenants. That's mostly for new tenants where they can jack up the rent. You don't have to agree to any IAI rent increases (MCI's are imposed by DHCR and you don't have a choice other than opposing it).

Always document everything, all the time.

For being locked out, first contact LL/super, and ask other tenants. But I would consider calling the police as that could be considered an illegal eviction. See the thread on illegal evictions in the forum's reference section.

The police are supposed to contact the LL - through HPD's 24-hour number system, or the super if there is one.
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Re: Stuck between a bathroom leak and a hard place

Postby spideysensetingling » Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:59 pm

Thanks for your reply.
Sent PM

-Owners have been trying to kick everyone out since beginning of this year.
-I haven't been asked for rent since March.
-I have not filed an HP action yet.
-I and my lawyer believe I am absolutely RS but the LL/owner thinks differently.
-SC case involving other tenants still in court. Waiting to see that outcome before proceeding on RS and Rent Overcharge

-Thank you for IAI info and yes I'm always documenting as much as possible

-On being locked out, I still don't know who the LL or super is, I'll ask around the building and check at the precinct about illegal evictions

Thanks
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