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CO poisoning and landlord brushed it off, how can I sue?

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CO poisoning and landlord brushed it off, how can I sue?

Postby coleaktenant » Sun Feb 28, 2021 6:08 pm

Hi, hope someone can help!

Three of us have lived in this NYC apartment for a year and a half. Our landlord never provided a smoke detector or carbon monoxide monitor in any of the time we were here despite being asked by our roommate. Days before leaving for a holiday trip, our roommate bought a CO monitor on a hunch (due to headaches, etc), and closed their room door/window. Within two days, the unventilated room filled with the gas and when I went in to turn it off and evacuate, the monitor read 400. The two of us went to the doctor, texted the landlord, and informed our roommate. Our landlord texted back "be sure to open the windows a couple minutes everyday" and did nothing else for days. On our own accord, we called the fire department that day, who told us it was a leak from a broken chute and as long as the downstairs heating was on, CO was pouring into our apartment. If we hadn't had the alarm and stayed home all day, we would have passed. They cut off the source and that was that.

When our landlord visited the apartment days later, they were hostile, told us we were having an attitude and that our lease was ending anyway. We told them we'll go the official route then and filed a 311 complaint. The tune changed and our landlord was apologetic. Started plans for construction to fix the duct but still tried to cut corners by offering that we stay together in an empty apartment (with the people downstairs! during Covid!) during the day and sleep in our construction filled apartment at night. I had to threaten calling 311 again about unsafe conditions so they got apologetic again and offered a nice hotel while construction happened. They also waived our rent for January and halved the building's rent.

Fast forward and construction is finished and detectors and monitors are installed as well. At this point, we are having trouble sleeping, anxious as all hell, and my thoughts are consumed by the CO monitor reading anything but 0. It is winter and we have not closed a window for fear of any gas being trapped in our apartment. I have visited the hospital to test my blood and they give me paperwork on CO poisoning, tell me my oxygen levels are fine at the time and suggest seeing a neurologist for any possible long term effects. I now have a $600 bill and no insurance or mental space to see a neurologist.

Days later, the alarm goes off again. I call the fire department immediately and they confirm that there is still carbon monoxide leaking into the apartment. The construction never fixed it. Now, our landlord has moved towards humanizing themselves and telling me I should be answering their texts quicker because they're worried something happened to us in the apartment (from their neglect!!). They are letting me know that they have trouble sleeping and feel sad about the whole thing. They have decided that the whole building has to move out in order to fix the problem. It's hard to keep going back and forth with them so I just nodded along at this point. Super drained because I've lost my job during the entirety of this ordeal. Now we have to move out and do it ASAP because we feel so unsafe in the building and under the care of this landlord. It has been EXTREMELY difficult finding an apartment during these times and keeping our heads up after the near death incident.

The first week of February, I got texts from the landlord that were in the vein of "When are you leaving, I'm waiting". I tested positive for Covid19 that day and had a fever so I informed them. They wished me well and in that time, turned the heat off on the building twice that one week, one of which was actively snowing. They texted both times that they had no clue how it happened and took hours to turn it back on. At this point, I have such little trust in my landlord that I don't believe this.

Now, we are finally hopeful in final stages of securing an apartment for March 1st but I want to know what I can do to get some compensation for the horrid ordeal they have put us through. Our old roommate has expressed support in anything we decide (going to a lawyer, asking landlord for money, etc) but cannot really do much because the landlord is their family friend. They moved into another apartment in the landlord's next door building as an agreement despite being wary to just end the nightmare. We have all had intense bouts of nausea, headaches, and dizziness over the months but chalked it up to depression, pandemic blues, the restaurant downstairs, but never our own apartment. I don't want to let them get away with this. I cannot imagine that the landlord can just get away with all of this by waiving 2 months rent and offering to cover moving fees. I finally have the energy and wherewithal to speak to someone but I don't know who is appropriate for this.

I just told them we are contacting lawyers and they said they will too. I have the landlord being hostile as a recording, 311 reports, photos of the CO numbers, and official diagnosis of poisoning from the hospital.
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Re: CO poisoning and landlord brushed it off, how can I sue?

Postby TenantNet » Sun Feb 28, 2021 7:31 pm

You say you live in an unregulated apartment, so you don't have RS protections. While I think you can push the issue, it would be unwise to push it too far as the LL would simply refuse to renew your lease. But if - as you detail in your post - you have an active gas leakage, I would get an inspection ASAP and have the source shut off. Your health is more important.

Have you sent a letter to the LL putting the request in writing? If need be, send it certified mail, return receipt requested. Make sure you document everything ... all calls, emails, letters, personal visits, etc. Record everything.

These days you can find smoke and CO detectors in one unit. Make sure you get the Lithium powered unit that's good for ten years. The NYC Council changed the law on this a few years back. See https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/services- ... ctors.page

I had to threaten calling 311 again about unsafe conditions so they got apologetic again and offered a nice hotel while construction happened. They also waived our rent for January and halved the building's rent.


If he is serious about this, then this a a good step.

Health insurance ... are you not on Obamacare? Get some coverage.

Days later, the alarm goes off again. I call the fire department immediately and they confirm that there is still carbon monoxide leaking into the apartment. The construction never fixed it.


This is common in NYC landlords making ineffective repairs. Did he have permits from DOB for the work that was done?

LL neglect - always a big problem, not just now during COVID. But still they have big legal exposure if they know of a danger and do nothing or not enough to correct things.

Whole building move out? That's probably not warranted, and if you move out, fat chance you can come back. If it gets that far, make sure you have a tenant attorney and iron-clad relocation agreement or the LL's willingness to break the lease without further demands for rent. There are times when moving out temporarily during construction is warranted, but from what you describe (and I'm not an expert), I don't think this is one of those times. OTOH, if there's danger of a gas explosion, then I would urge vacating the space ASAP.

FYI, you do NOT have to move out unless there is a court order or DOB or HPD vacate order. Do not go along just because the LL wants it.

Now, we are finally hopeful in final stages of securing an apartment for March 1st...


But if you're already going along with a move-put (you don't say if it's temporary or permanent), then in my mind you should be compensated for the time and effort, for the increase in rent if any, moving and other expenses...

To do that you should consult with a tenant attorney who can tell you your rights in the existing apartment, possibly look into whether the unit should be RS (many landlord deregulated units illegally ... get a DHCR rent history ASAP). Talks with someone who knows how gas leaks work.

An attorney can help negotiate an exit package, but also prepare for court action if needed.

There are tenant attorney who advertise on this site, but that's not a complete list.
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