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Landlord Unofficial Request for Vacancy after flood

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Landlord Unofficial Request for Vacancy after flood

Postby bkprof » Tue Aug 16, 2016 3:40 pm

Questions (probably too many-sorry). Background below for a non-regulated apt in 4 unit place with a lease that ends next year:

Can I be present as I am told by 311 during a renovation?

Who is responsible for my belongings (this is his apparent concern) when the construction crew is there? Who is responsible for opening the door for the crew? Can he give the crew a key?

Does he have to give specific hours for construction?

I have already moved all my belongings to one side of the apartment (the rooms that were always dry - whole apartment appears dry to me now). I offered to move it all back to the other half once renovation is complete with his desire to renovate the entire apartment. He finds this unacceptable. I think I am being very accommodating.

Is there an official way to proceed with a relocation? I do not want to just take his word.

Can a city inspector be called to assess if ALL the floors need to be replaced? (He has not fully said this. He simply wants to replace all floors. I'd like a second opinion.) He also has not declared the apartment inhabitable. It is just inconvenient for it to have a tenant.

Do you need a permit for an emergency renovation or for later cosmetic repair following emergency?

The history:

Toilet hose broke at the plastic nut (LL liability) and flooded half the floors of apartment with 1/4 in of water. Landlord immediate vacuumed water and put in dehumidifiers. I removed all furniture and personal items from the floor of these two rooms (back office/bedroom and kitchen).

Landlord called to tell me to "find another apartment" as he wants to replace all floors "so they match" and "maybe are damaged" as well as replace bathroom and kitchen cabinets which are 6 inches off of the ground. I replied that I would contact NYC Housing Authority and discuss support and ways to proceed. He next texted on Sunday night that he would be "ripping up the floor and such" on Monday morning at 8:30. And that I would have to leave (this is four days later.) I told him that would be in violation of housing laws in NYC.

I opened door for him monday morning and accepted without complaint or without permits that he would be tearing up the floors. I called 311 and a housing lawyer both of whom told me that I had the right to stay and that if the landlord didn't want me there he would have to support relocation and storage. Aware of this, he had the floor ripped up to the subfloor. (It is dry in my opinion, but I am of course not an expert.) Insurance adjuster also visited along with the construction crew.
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Re: Landlord Unofficial Request for Vacancy after flood

Postby Sky » Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:11 am

"Questions (probably too many-sorry). Background below for a non-regulated apt in 4 unit place with a lease that ends next year:"

“Can I be present as I am told by 311 during a renovation?”

-Depends on the nature of the renovation. The nature of the renovations is going to dictate the nature of your response.


“Who is responsible for my belongings (this is his apparent concern) when the construction crew is there?”

Ultimately, you are. Even if the LL is responsible it’s going to be up to you to demand your rights and see that they are protected and enforced. The LL is going to need to protect both you and your possessions, as well as other occupants in the building who may be affected by the work.


“Who is responsible for opening the door for the crew? Can he give the crew a key?”

I would think that the LL giving the key to your apartment to a third party without your consent would be a violation of the law.


“Does he have to give specific hours for construction?”

There are NYS and NYC laws concerning times for construction work to take place legally.
Also be aware that different types of construction and renovation have different laws, codes, procedures, and paperwork governing their execution. Some work demands city issued permits and licensed contractors, other work does not.


“I have already moved all my belongings to one side of the apartment (the rooms that were always dry - whole apartment appears dry to me now). I offered to move it all back to the other half once renovation is complete with his desire to renovate the entire apartment. He finds this unacceptable. I think I am being very accommodating.”

Part of an agreement will need to be the scope of the repairs, the duration of the repairs, the nature of the repairs, how your health, life, and safety are protected during repairs, and how your possessions are to be protected during the repairs. In my opinion, this is all his responsibility.


“Is there an official way to proceed with a relocation?”

Yes. It’s called a ‘relocation agreement’. It’s a legal document either drafted, and/or approved, by your attorney.


“I do not want to just take his word.”

Are you in the market for a bridge? He might have one he wants to sell you.
In my opinion an ironclad relocation agreement in writing, drafted by, or with input by, an attorney representing your interests is essential for relocation.


“Can a city inspector be called to assess if ALL the floors need to be replaced? (He has not fully said this. He simply wants to replace all floors. I'd like a second opinion.)”

Yes, a city inspector can determine if defects exist which constitute a violation of the housing law and their extent.


“He also has not declared the apartment inhabitable. It is just inconvenient for it to have a tenant.”

Who cares what your LL ‘declares’?
He can declare whatever he desires until the cows come home, that doesn’t mean it bears any relationship to reality or to NYS/NYC laws governing the nature of the defects and the code compliant methods for remedying them, including how the occupants/tenants will be protected from noise, dust, debris, danger, safety of ingress/egress, if they can even inhabit the premises during the repairs, etc., etc. etc.


“Do you need a permit for an emergency renovation or for later cosmetic repair following emergency?”

It depends on the nature of the renovation. In instances where permits are required by law, emergencies do not obviate the need for permits; however a repair that qualifies to be designated as an emergency would allow a different permit process to unfold with a different timeline and deadline for filing documents.


“The history:

Toilet hose broke at the plastic nut (LL liability) and flooded half the floors of apartment with 1/4 in of water. Landlord immediate vacuumed water and put in dehumidifiers. I removed all furniture and personal items from the floor of these two rooms (back office/bedroom and kitchen).

Landlord called to tell me to "find another apartment" as he wants to replace all floors "so they match" and "maybe are damaged" as well as replace bathroom and kitchen cabinets which are 6 inches off of the ground. I replied that I would contact NYC Housing Authority and discuss support and ways to proceed. He next texted on Sunday night that he would be "ripping up the floor and such" on Monday morning at 8:30. And that I would have to leave (this is four days later.) I told him that would be in violation of housing laws in NYC. “

There are laws governing tenants’ access requirements for repairs in NYC. It would benefit you to acquaint yourself with them so that you know your rights. There may also be a time that it will be useful to quote chapter and verse to folks such as landlords or contractors who may not be familiar with NYS/NYC laws.

“I opened door for him monday morning and accepted without complaint or without permits that he would be tearing up the floors. I called 311 and a housing lawyer both of whom told me that I had the right to stay and that if the landlord didn't want me there he would have to support relocation and storage. Aware of this, he had the floor ripped up to the subfloor. (It is dry in my opinion, but I am of course not an expert.) Insurance adjuster also visited along with the construction crew.”

I do not know what the present situation is regarding repair/renovation work, so anything I can offer is just stabbing in the dark. But it sounds to me like your LL is a pushy sort, and is going to, or is already, pushing you around and he may be completely unconcerned with your health, safety, welfare, your rights, and the law. It’s up to you to demand your rights and to get the message to your LL that if he wants to disregard your rights, health, safety, welfare, and circumvent the law, then he will suffer dire consequences.

The following assumes that the renovations are in process.
1.) Lock your door, and deny permission for access until you can wrap your head around the situation and know enough about your rights and responsibilities to make effective choices.
2.) If anyone unlocks your door without your permission call the police and request that they be arrested for trespassing.
3.) Call 311 NOW. That is, as soon as you finish reading this. Tell the operator you wish to file a complaint to HPD. Tell them about all the conditions and defects present in the apartment. If you are missing floorboards because the LL has removed them, tell them your floor is broken, uneven, is missing boards, and is unsafe to walk on.
4.) If the subfloor is being removed, or walls, or electrical wires are being touched in any capacity, or any plumbing pipes are being replaced/removed, also tell the 311 operator you wish to make a complaint to the DOB (Dept. of Buildings) regarding: illegal plumbing work without a permit, illegal electrical work without a permit, illegal construction without a permit, etc. Do a search on the Department of Buildings website by entering your street, address number, and borough. You will see an online history of your building and all permit applications, either denied or approved. You will see the scope of any permitted work and which licensed contractor has the permit to perform the work. Just sanding/refinishing the floor does not require a DOB permit in my understanding, however I do not know the extent of the work being performed. On the other hand, a defective floor will be an HPD violation whether or not it requires a permit to repair. Two separate agencies, two separate jurisdictions. Furthermore, the renovations may require a Tenant Safety Plan (aka Tenant Protection Plan) from the DOB which states if the unit and/or building has residents in occupancy and how they will be protected from noise, dust, debris, unsafe conditions, etc. You could always include a separate complaint 'no Dept. Of Building’s Tenant Protection Plan,’ in your DOB call to 311.
5.) Is there dust due to the work? Is your apartment contaminated with the dust? Call 311 and lodge a complaint to the Department of Health for a dust violation and request an inspection. Ditto with DOB.
6.) Was the building constructed before the 1970’s? Are more than 6 sq. ft or so of walls/ceilings being repairs, scraped, replaced, etc? If so, the contractors will likely need to have EPA RRP certification. You can lodge a complaint to the EPA and notify the landlord of this requirement.
7.) You can refuse access for the above reasons. if you feel your rights, health, and safety are being severely violated and it's in process you can always call 911 and request the police come. Get a a copy of the police report.
8.) Take extensive photos. At all stages.
9.) You may want too write a letter and send it certified mail, as well as emailed, to your LL. Inform him that the work he is doing is being performed in a reckless manner and is dangerous to your health, life, welfare, and safety. Inform him he is violation of NYC the housing, health, and safety codes and you demand he cease at once. Inform him that you will seek compensation through the courts and you will notify all requisite city and state authorities and that they will inspect the premises for any and all violations of the housing laws, construction code, electrical code, plumbing codes, health laws, EPA laws, until all work is performed completely code compliant and to the letter of the law and if necessary you will assert your rights and seek compensation in court. Tell him you refuse access for this illegal work and will have any individual that enters the apartment without your explicit written consent arrested and charged.
10.) What about mold and mildew?
11.) Again, document everything thoroughly; keep a log of everything that happens. Decide if you will or will not permit access. Demand to see ID from anyone who knocks on your door whether or not you allow them to enter. You may wish to photograph the IDs or copy the info.
12.) You may wish to consult with a tenant attorney as to how to proceed.

Meanwhile have city inspectors come and view the place and write violations if any exist. This will be provide you with proof of the existing conditions (without having to reply and trust the LL’s possibly crafty spin) which may also possibly serve you well to inform you as to the extent of the defects, provide a public record of their existence, set in motion a mechanism for possible legal requirements to perform the repairs, set the stage for follow-up later inspection(s) and/or proof to determine if the defects have been adequately remedied, which may also be useful in seeking a rental abatement. If city agencies do not come and accurately write the violations for present conditions - which you can verify by going to their websites and viewing info for your building/apartment address (and/or calling them to verify the data) you rinse and repeat: call 311 to make complaints, etc., until they get it right, which may take a few rounds. Have patience. Many employees of city agencies are lazy, incompetent, and or corrupt, so you will need patience and perseverance.

When the LL receives the letter and calls you, you can say something like Muhammad Ali would say to his opponents: that if the LL wants to disregard your rights you’ll be happy to give him a lesson in what it’s like to have his neck tightened in the vise of numerous NYC and NYS agencies, with violations and many thousands of dollars of fines, and a lawsuit or two for good measure seeking compensation. Tell him that if he continues to piss you off you’ll exert your rights as a tenant and see to it that the building gets a cellar to roof inspection conducted with the participation of every NYC agency and a private engineer. Tell him when he wants to do things the right way and to respect your rights, safety, and welfare that you’re a reasonable man (or woman) and you and your attorney will be glad to work out method of moving forward that is satisfactory, safe, and protects your rights. Tell him if he desires that you relocate that you’d be happy to have your attorney negotiate and execute a relocation agreement with him.

Now, admittedly that’s got a little hard ball in it, but some situations call for taking a stand and telling a jerk to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine so they understand that you are not a pushover. I'm not necessarily implying that this is such a case. But, if your LL is flagrantly threatening your health, life, safety, and possessions it may be useful to reply with a strongly worded response so he gets the message in no uncertain terms. However, it’s probably useful to be a kind, objective, and come off as measured and reasonable, but firm, resolute, persevering, thorough, and knowledgeable of your rights. You'll need to work with him at some point as a partner to get this job done, but sometimes LL's need to know that a tenant has a strong hand. Assume anything you write will be seen by a judge at some point, so write it with that in mind.

Now as for a relocation agreement:

Here’s my final bit of advice regarding another tenant regarding a relocation agreement (his situation is a little different as he’s rent regulated). There’s other good advice in that thread so although it’s long, it may be useful for you to wade through it (viewtopic.php?f=3&t=12106):

“It's likely the work could be done with you living in the apartment (but that's not to say it would be expedient, uncomplicated, convenient, or desirable for either you or the LL).

I had extensive renovations performed while I occupied my apartment, magnitudes more invasive than anything you are likely to encounter with an electrical upgrade. I had a LL that was demonstrably untrustworthy and who wanted things done his way (i.e. cheap, unsafe, illegal, non-code compliant, and with complete disregard for my wishes and welfare) and who had the funds and incentive to engage in extensive meritless litigation in order to use the opportunity to try to wear me down, bankrupt me, uproot me, relocate me, and/or permanently evict me, as well as using all other sorts of tactics both in and out of court to run me out, wear me down, intimidate me, and make my life a living hell. In the end I did not relocate and the owner was forced to spend heaps of time and money to make it safe to work around me while I occupied the apartment and this was 'so ordered' by the courts. Both the legal battle and construction spanned several years.

If you consider your rent regulated apartment and lease a valuable asset to your life in NYC, and you wish to enjoy your home for years to come, you will need to have a good attorney who specializes in representing tenants draft an ironclad relocation agreement specifying all the terms of relocation and remedies available to you should the agreement be violated. I do not know the LL entity you are dealing with, but in my case I had to consider what options I'd have if the LL used the relocation as an opportunity to prevent me from returning to my apartment with his abundant funds and litigious nature. An agreement is good … but what happens in the event that it's violated? What's your remedy? How much and how long might it cost to enforce it to get you back into your apartment? What if it cost $40k to fight a brutal bare fisted legal battle to restore you to possession?

Books, pianos, pipe organs, your immense Etruscan egg collection, are all the LL's problem, not your problem. He wants to do the upgrade; he needs to reasonably accommodate you.

You'd want something that makes it clear the LL would cover all your packing/moving/storage/insurance/bond expenses for you and your possessions as well as your rental burden on your unoccupied apt, plus free rent for a relocation apartment. There should be a provision for you to continue living rent free for as long as the project takes no matter what the cause, source, or whose responsibility it is for any and all delays. You want a firm return date, with additional bonus penalties for each day beyond that it takes for you to be restored to your fully functioning and habitable unit, as an incentive to ward off any LL monkey business associated with dragging the work out for as long as humanly possible as a tactic to wear you down. You want no rent increase whatsoever, no IAI or MCI associated with the upgrade. You want complete clarity protecting the rent-regulated status of your apartment. You want the place you are relocated into to be comfortable should you be there for an extended unforeseen period of time. You want a mechanism to inspect and declare the work satisfactorily completed and the apartment fully habitable and not altered beyond the scope of work clearly agreed upon. You want your legal remedies clearly spelled out should the LL violate the agreement. You want the LL to pay the legal expenses you incur associated with drafting the aforementioned relocation agreement. You want something ironclad. A good tenant attorney can do this for you.

You obtain all of the above, or something as close to that as you are comfortable living with, or you continue with the status quo and tell your LL to stuff it.”


Your mileage may vary; I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice.
Last edited by Sky on Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Landlord Unofficial Request for Vacancy after flood

Postby TenantNet » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:35 am

Thanks Sky
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Re: Landlord Unofficial Request for Vacancy after flood

Postby bkprof » Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:48 am

Thank you Sky, for you incredibly thorough response.

This situation is definitely about a landlord who is fully unaware of the law and your responses are exceptionally helpful. The immediate scenario is more about the landlord wanting to do vastly more construction work than I believe is necessary, though he has left me with torn up floors waiting for his insurance claim. He wants to renovate all floors and cabinets. Your information on a relocation package development is a great start for me to begin investigation.

I had called 311 (And they forwarded me to 911) the evening that the landlord sent a series of texts asking me to leave the apartment, and then getting irate when I suggested we try avoid violating NYC housing laws and find a middle ground. I let them remove the floors (911 said to call them if they would go too far removing say subfloors or joists) just in case there was a mold issue - removing linoleum and parkay. The upper levels of the floor were only buckled in a few places slightly from the flood damage, but fully habitable. Now, it is less so: flat, but strewn with splinters etc. There are no holes. If they don't rectify quickly, I will call the DOB, as I have indicated to the LL. I expect any inspector will assess that outside of buckled linoleum, there was little flood damage in the apartment in the first place, that the flood quickly seeped through the floors to the basement and the work to the apartment done already was not necessary and that certainly removing kitchen and bathroom cabinets is also unnecessary. I lost very few belongings and I believe all the washer units in the basement underneath are still functional. I indicated to the LL, that either it is ok for me to leave my belongings in the untouched half of the apartment or I need help with the relocation (and yes, in a very iron clad way). He is waiting on insurance. In the mean time, I will ask that something be put down on the floors. It's not too dusty and only bottom 4 inches of dry wall in back "office" room were removed. (It is a 1930s house - that's a great point you make, I presume about lead paint etc.) My preference currently is to stay rather than put all of my belongings (and work - I'm a teacher - the books etc are needed) in storage, but I'll do what's best for health.

An emergency restoration company that works in conjunction with the insurance agency arrived initially to do the vacuuming of water and later to tear up the kitchen and office floor. They seem professional and noted that when they came yesterday to remove the dehumidifiers that the floors tested as dry.

The lack of clarity with the situation is very stressful. I am further upset that the insurance adjuster actually stepped back after completing his inspection and talking with landlord to tell me that I needed to follow my landlord's request and leave the apartment. It all seemed exceptionally shady.
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Re: Landlord Unofficial Request for Vacancy after flood

Postby Sky » Sun Aug 21, 2016 1:38 pm

I am further upset that the insurance adjuster actually stepped back after completing his inspection and talking with landlord to tell me that I needed to follow my landlord's request and leave the apartment. It all seemed exceptionally shady.


Don't get upset. Get even.

Is the insurance adjuster a magistrate with jurisdiction to issue binding decisions regarding your occupancy status, rental rights, and lease?
If the insurance adjuster stepped back to talk with the landlord, then afterwards solemnly and soberly instructed you that you need to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge - after emptying the apartment of your possessions - would you? Why would you give any weight whatsoever to what any of these clowns say? Maybe the correct response after the insurance adjuster muttered with the LL would be for the landlord to go to the bank, return with a large box of money to place on the floor before you after groveling at your feet, with a gold trimmed relocation agreement and keys to a habitable apartment to occupy, wrapped up in several layers of apologies.

If I were you, I would deny any access to the apartment, PERIOD.

I’d send a letter certified, return receipt requested, to the owner as mentioned in my earlier post to put the LL on notice IN WRITING. Nothing you say matters as it will go in one ear and right out the other, then into the insurance adjuster's ear and out his other ear, then right out the window into the atmosphere and perhaps landing in the Gowanus Canal where it belongs ... and the LL will under oath likely deny you ever said it.

Leave aside your emotions. They have no bearing here. Put your confusion, outrage, and frustration aside. This will go one of two ways: either you are going to be played for the Ignorant Chump that you are (the way that it's already going) or you are going to assert your rights. Right now you are an Ignorant Chump. The LL knows this. The insurance adjuster knows this. They'll feed you any bait that you will bite, and you will bite it because you are an Ignorant Chump looking for solid ground in an ocean of uncertainty. They have you where they want you. You're mind will get tweaked, you will lose sleep, you will be freaked out and worried. There’s an infinite well of disinformation, lies, half-truths, manipulations, forgeries, and corruption when it comes to landlords of a certain pedigree. They'll show you documents that the place has tested negative for asbestos but it’s a scam. They'll state they have 'special permits' to do the work. They'll gladly interpret the law for you. The fact that your landlord would even dream of doing all of this in violation of your rights and safety suggest that he’s cut from that cloth, and the fact that you've tacitly OK'd it suggests your cut from another type of cloth. I’d only trust what the LL says if he’s also your retained attorney.

If you want to assert your rights you will need to leave all of that aside and become informed. Nobody is going to do that for you. You need to make some moves here. The longer that you wait, living like an animal in uninhabitable conditions, the more you'll convince the LL that you are an Ignorant Chump and that he should do nothing whatsoever to accommodate you, plus pull the insurance adjuster in on the act for good measure. The LL obviously doesn't care about you whatsoever; he cares about his own interests alone. He cares about repairing his valuable real estate asset and doing renovations while he's at it for future rent increases to future tenants. If the price of that is to tread all over the current Ignorant Chump who happens to be occupying his apartment, then so be it.

Don't talk to the LL. Send him the certified letter and request a reply from him in writing. Remember that the letter will likely appear in court in the hands of a judge at some point, so compose it with that in mind. Call 311 right now(!) and make however many dozen(s) of precise, separate, clear complaints to HPD that are required by the situation (it takes time to process and schedule an inspector and the longer you wait and twiddle your thumbs playing Mr. Nice Guy [aka 'The Chump'] the more negative impact this situation will have on your life and/or metastasize into something far worse than it already is).

Example of separate complaints:
1) Defective wall at baseboard in room ‘A’
2) Defective wall at baseboard room ’B’
3) Defective wall at baseboard room ’C’
4) Defective ceiling in room ’A’
5) Cabinet missing in kitchen.
6) Damage to wall in kitchen where cabinet was removed.
7) Flooring defective and dangerous in room ‘A’
8 ) Flooring defective and dangerous in room ‘B’
9) Tiles cracked on south wall of bathroom ‘A’
10) Tiles missing on north wall of bathroom ‘B’
11) Water stain on ceiling room ‘A’
12) Concealed water leak at north wall in room ‘H’
13) Defective paint on east wall in room ‘F’
14) Baseboard defective and/or missing on all walls in room ‘G’
15) Holes in west wall in room ‘Q’
Etc., etc., etc.
(Separate rooms obviate any confusion as to where the defects are and which specific defects have/have not been repaired).

I'd also make a complaint to DOB for good measure to get them to inspect inside the apartment. Perhaps for 'performing extensive renovations without a permit' or something like that. It's likely that some of the work being performed needs a NYC Department of Buildings permit and licensed contractors. If they are fixing or altering the plumbing system it likely needs a permit. So you may wish to make a separate DOB plumbing and construction complaint, as those inspectors are associated with separate departments within DOB. It's no penalty to you if they insect and do not find the conditions or write violations. Err on the side of excess if you are unsure.

HPD will generally not write violations for conditions that you do not report (ex. if the LL is keeping a large elephant in your living room and the HPD inspector cannot pass by the elephant to get to the bathroom to inspect, the inspector will not write a violation for the elephant if there's no formal complaint). So you need to be fastidious and tally up everything and get it all reported and ON THE PUBLIC RECORD. You say you’re a teacher? There’s your homework.

Make a dust complaint to 311 for the Department of Health.
Furthermore are you marinating in lead dust? How would you even know? Are your 1930 ceilings constructed from asbestos mixed with plaster to increase the fire proofing? Have they released asbestos into the air of your apartment, which is now settling in your lungs? How would you know? The landlord is doing all this work by bulldozing right over top of you; do you think he cares one iota about your health, safety, or welfare?

Furthermore, anytime anyone comes to your apartment you should photograph them and what they are doing, record their ID info, and if they are licensed you should request to see documentation and record that as well. What if they dress up Charles Manson and Tex Watson as 'insurance adjusters' and send them into your apartment to assess things? Take some control of your own home!

The only one that is going to protect your health, safety, welfare, and rights is you. Don't relegate this responsibility to the LL as there's an fundamental conflict of interests at work.

You’d be advised to contact a tenant attorney: many will offer free consultations. You may have legal claims for damages. The owner has violated your tenant rights under NYC/NYS laws. You are entitled to a habitable apartment. You need a tenant specific attorney not an all-purpose attorney. Several advertise on this site, and there are many others out there who qualify. A good attorney will notify the LL and/or initiate a lawsuit with damages and claims, he/she will obtain the required repairs and that they be performed safely, make certain that any required tests for toxins (lead, asbestos, perhaps mold) are performed and that your apartment is certifiably habitable and safe before you move back in. He’ll make certain that you do not have to pay rent for the period that this goes on and that you are provided with free housing elsewhere. There are likely other monetary claims that will be made on your behalf to make you whole again. We are not attorneys. You need to get your act together and start making moves.

Frankly, your attitude strikes me as being dangerous to your own health and welfare. That you would permit this to all go forward right on top of your own head seems foolhardy and unwise to me.

Don’t be an ignorant chump.
Good luck.
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