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View Full Version : I don't know what to do! (long post)



SouthernFriedJulie
02-12-2009, 06:33 AM
Two years ago, my husband and I moved from an apartment that was very unhealthy. The sewer had backed up into our basement 3 times, the first time being two weeks after we moved in. We lost a lot of things in the basement flood including over $1,000 of new items we bought for our daughter with her first disability check. Much was in the basement as we were letting the inlaws stay with us until the apartment above us was ready to move in.

This was not just water. Previous tenant waste, turds floating all around my washer and dryer, waving at me. The water/poo mix was over 6 inches deep, then got to nearly 10 inches deep after a few days. Three times this happened! We could not get our deposit back, the landlord refused to cut us a discount on the rent or to replace the items that were ruined. We'd have been happy with 100 bucks off for a while, you know?


And this was a known issue, according to the neighbors. The reason the first owner of the house (upper and lower apartments) is because of the sewage pipe and tree roots growing into it. A plumber told us the entire driveway needed to be dug up and the pipe replaced AND that he had told the landlord this!

So anyway, after 6 months we get ticked at needing to chase this guy to repair anything. We don't complain over little things, those we fix ourselves. But a flooded basement, a window falling out, roof leaks, floor falling through in the bathroom...yeah. Eventually we had to call in the Health Department to get this guy to pump the sewage out of the basement. We tell the landlord that we are moving, 30 days in advance and unless we see some sort of action in repairing the place to a livable, healthy condition, we are not paying the rent that month.

He refused, then sent an eviction, that was cool because we already found this new house. We leave, blah blah blah, thought it was over. Last year we get a summons for nearly $7,000! We had no babysitter, mother in law refused to take off work, so I could not go to court. By default, this guy won a judgement against us.

Tonight a Deputy served us with another summons and a financial restraining order. We are not to make any personal transaction, such as selling anything or spending money on anything we don't 'need'. What the hell? This son of a bitch knows we have little kids and is going to try and take all of our possessions to pay off a bogus, trumped up bunch of lies. Even according to NY Renter's Law, we owed him nothing because he wouldn't repair things and had to be forced into the one repair he did make. All because my stupid mother in law couldn't take a day off of work so BOTH my husband and me could be at court. (tried to have it changed, they wouldn't)


I can't afford a lawyer but I can't let them take everything I have worked so hard to get for my family. We have only a few 'luxury' items that we own. I was so proud when I paid off the big TV I got my husband, with money I earned from freelancing. Just paid it off last month. For crying out loud, I do most of my shopping at thrift stores.

Has anyone ever had something like this happen and what did you do? Am I totally screwed? I'm so upset right now I can't think straight.

Susie
02-12-2009, 06:37 AM
I'm so sorry, Southern and I know that doesn't help much. Wishing you the very best and hope it works out in your favor. (((((((HUGS)))))) & ((((((PRAYERS))))).

Sarita
02-12-2009, 06:42 AM
I have no answers, but here's a link:

http://www.probono.net/ny/housing/

Probono lawyers who deal with housing/renters in NY. No idea if this can help. Sorry, this really stinks for you guys!

firedrake
02-12-2009, 06:52 AM
The probono lawyer is a good idea. You might also want to contact your local Environmental Health Department and Building Services/Code Enforcement Department and see if there have been other complaints about this landlord and this property.

The guy sounds like a slum lord and, if anything, he should be the one being sued.

SouthernFriedJulie
02-12-2009, 07:11 AM
I'm so sorry, Southern and I know that doesn't help much. Wishing you the very best and hope it works out in your favor. (((((((HUGS)))))) & ((((((PRAYERS))))).

Thank you, well wishes mean a lot.



I have no answers, but here's a link:

http://www.probono.net/ny/housing/

Probono lawyers who deal with housing/renters in NY. No idea if this can help. Sorry, this really stinks for you guys!

Wow, thanks! I'm so out of it pro bono didn't cross my mind. Thanks so much.



The probono lawyer is a good idea. You might also want to contact your local Environmental Health Department and Building Services/Code Enforcement Department and see if there have been other complaints about this landlord and this property.

The guy sounds like a slum lord and, if anything, he should be the one being sued.

the guy is in CA but owns things here. A rental upkeep company takes care of the properties but he refuses to let them repair anything without his approval. I didn't sue before moving because I'm not the suing type. Always felt wrong to me.

Now I know better.

<start vent>
My biggest beef with this right now is the unfairness. My inlaws moved into the upper apartment, never paid their rent on time and went without paying it at all for 3 months. He never went after them at all! They complained about every little ding in the wall, called the property manager every other day! Hubby and I only called over the major issues. Once during a freak cold period (google october 13th snowstorm in buffalo), our power went out and my son was a month old. No lines down, just the box was bad. He refused to put us up in a hotel and we spent $800 putting everyone in the whole house up for 4 days! (2 rooms, 8 people).

The inlaws then moved in with us when they were evicted from upstairs. Never paid us a dime towards rent or utilities. Ran up power and gas bill until we couldn't keep up. I wouldn't kick them out because one of my brother in laws is autistic like my daughter. They're still screwing us over, 2 years later. THAT is about to end, but I swear, do I have a big fucking sign over my rear asking for people to put a big one right on up it? WHY isn't this dude going after THEM? They get away with everything from welfare fraud to general thievery.

I hate people. Really. Life is just one big non-stop moron-a-thon.

/end vent

firedrake
02-12-2009, 07:17 AM
jeez, that really bites.

If you haven't already, write everything down, with dates if possible. Every little bit will help when you see a lawyer.

I have worked in City Government for nearly 7 years and absentee slumlords are the lowest of the low, our town is littered with slums owned by out-of-staters who just want a quick buck for minimum effort or investment on their part.

Good luck, I hope you can get this sorted.

brainstorm77
02-12-2009, 07:24 AM
any insurance? The landlord should have rental insurance on that property?

Beach Bunny
02-12-2009, 08:22 AM
There should also be a Legal Aid Society near you(though this might be the same as pro-bono in your neck of the woods.) They can help you get this mess straightened out.

You might need to countersue him for what you spent on repairs and such.

Good luck!

MoonWriter
02-12-2009, 08:32 AM
do I have a big fucking sign over my rear asking for people to put a big one right on up it?

I feel the same way. When the sign is not on you, it's on me. Sorry to hear about this. I think the pro bono route is the way to go. When the judge hears the reason for missing your court appearance, and the conditions you were living in, you'll probably end up with a settlement, and hopefully some cash for your troubles, in your favor. Good luck, SFJ.

Clair Dickson
02-12-2009, 08:38 AM
My guess-- this guy is going after you because he figures that you don't have hte money or the means to fight (or even to educate yourself.)

Maybe he didn't go after your in-laws because he recognized them as the same type of scoundrel? (Sorry, but anyone who freeloads and runs up bill without even attempting to help, they are scoundrels in my book. It's one thing to move in and need help, but if it were me, the folks I'm staying with would have a damn hard time finding and chores, repairs, etc, to do.)

Pulling records together is good. Also, talk. Ask questions. Open the phone book and start making calls to any city (etc) organization that might be able to help. Ask them if they know who to talk to, etc. You may get some dead ends, but in my experience, you might just find out more than you knew before. Get all the information you can on your situation-- renter's law, local codes and ordinances. Call the courts and ask them what you can do about the judgement... talk until you find someone who will listen. Someone will listen. (Sob stories and kids in peril are good bargaining chips.)

William Haskins
02-12-2009, 09:02 AM
http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/StateSubTopics.cfm/County/%20/City/%20/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/NY/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/iTopicID/281/sTopicImage/g-housing.gif/bAllState/0

cooeedownunder
02-12-2009, 09:19 AM
Ah, gee, if I was a lawyer I would take your case on for free.

Joe270
02-12-2009, 09:58 AM
I echo what others said about getting free legal aid, it's available, and you need it.

If you still live in the same town/city, can the news programs help? Here in Vegas there's a news show which does 'personal interest' stories like yours twice or three times a week. They'd jump for joy to get a story like yours, they'd be happy as larks to help. I recall a San Antonio station had a similar recurring segment.

Hopefully there's a news program like that in your area. They'll certainly want to interview you or your hubby, but they'll rip up the landlord--that's their specialty here in Vegas, pounding the bullies on camera.

I'm thought the process to appeal a default judgment was pretty straightforward, but you will need a lawyer. You will need all your documentation and you will go to the same judge who gave the default judgment. You'll be fine after dealing with some tongue-lashing on not showing up in the first place. If the other guy falsified anything, he's gonna see some serious wrath.

Judges really don't like people who abuse the system.

Yeshanu
02-12-2009, 10:33 AM
Julie, I'm going to echo what the others said about getting some form of free legal counsel, but I'm also going to say that if you can't get it free, get it somehow. You say you can't afford to get a lawyer--the truth is, you can't afford not to.

I'd also suggest that you (and your husband, if he's willing) see some form of counsellor. Once again, check for services that are available for free or geared-to-income. Your problems aren't just about the money here--you're letting people walk all over you, and it's costing you money, time, and heartache you can't afford. You need to start standing up for yourself, and learning to set priorities and find alternative means of doing what needs to be done. A counsellor can help you see the alternatives when all is foggy, and help you grow as a person so that you start making choices that work for you and your family.

As an example of priority setting, if your mother-in-law refuses to babysit for a court appearance you need to make, then you'll have to find another babysitter, not miss the court appearance. Either that, or your daughter comes with you. But missing the court appearance was a very costly mistake for you, I think you'll agree.

Anyhow, hugs. You're in a rough spot, and your problems won't be solved overnight. But have patience, stand up for yourself and your family, and things will get better. :Hug2:

Maryn
02-12-2009, 05:36 PM
I'm going to rain on the parade a little--but it's nice clean water and not raw sewage.

In New York (and every other state I've lived in), the landlord has no financial responsibility for damage to the tenant's property, even if it’s caused by some failure of the rental property, like leaking pipes or an electrical short--and even if his neglect led to or contributed to the problem. Tenants unwilling to “eat” any loss need to insure their possessions. A nice landlord might give you a break on rent when conditions at the rental property damaged a tenant's property, but he has no legal obligation to do that.

He does have a legal obligation to provide you with habitable housing which meets or exceeds all state and local codes. He did not do this--but the burden of proof will be on you to document the multiple sewer back-ups, the dangerous conditions of the missing window and broken floor, your attempts to get him to make necessary repairs, etc. Get the dates, line up witnesses to the conditions, gather photos, document phone calls seeking repairs, etc. now--you'll need this.

The landlord is taking you to court to collect judgment for the remainder of your lease. Undoubtedly he's hoping you lack the wherewithal to fight it. The courts will have to honor the terms of the lease, which commits you to paying rent for the year--unless and until the tenant proves the landlord did not honor his own legal obligations to provide a safe and habitable dwelling.

This is going to end up in court, so you need to hire an attorney. I hope the links you've gotten help you find one who will work pro bono, but even if you have to pay your lawyer a little every month for years, you need one.

Maryn, so sorry to hear this bozo is jacking you around

Wayne K
02-12-2009, 06:10 PM
Okay I've spoken to a lawyer and the good news-bad news thing applies. Vacating a judgement after 90 days is damn near impossible, but what you can do is to file a suit of your own. If you can prove the existing conditions-which you previously said you could-then the landlord cannot charge you rent, period. So legally (not probable) you can sue him for any rent accepted for the time you lived there. In court you can get arbitration, but as people have said, you need a lawyer. Usually the landlord will drop the judgement because he knows he'll pay more in lawyer fees than the money he'll ever get from you. Legal Aid doesn't do landlord tenant court in a lot of locations, but they will advise. You have a kid who is autistic, so you need to find advocacy groups who defend children. Letters and phone calls to politicians, local or state, will get you advice and or representation. The thing is this though. They can't force you to sell your things, and the only thing they can realistically keep you from selling is a house. Even that brings more hearings and more lawyer fees for the landlord. Matt seems to think you might have ticked this guy off by reporting him for violations, so you can also claim harassment. Oh yeah, don't get a baby sitter. Let the Judge see exactly who they are making a judgement against. This is as much against her as it is against you. Good luck with this, and best wishes from my wife and I. We've been through similar experiences and sympathize.

James81
02-12-2009, 06:52 PM
Sorry you are going through this. I have had shitty experiences with landlords as well, and it sucks. They suck.


I can't afford a lawyer but I can't let them take everything I have worked so hard to get for my family.

Seriously, you can't afford NOT to get a lawyer. Unless you have massive amounts of time to study the law yourself, you are doing you, and your family a GRAVE disservice by not getting a lawyer.

FIND. A. WAY. If you have to take loans. If you have to sell your body for sex to get the money. Get. a. lawyer. So maybe I'm exaggerating a bit with that last part, but seriously, it's SO important for you to find a way to get a lawyer.


A plumber told us the entire driveway needed to be dug up and the pipe replaced AND that he had told the landlord this!


Find this plumber and get him to testify in court.

Gather as much evidence as you can against this guy. Talk to the neighbors. Find other people who rent from him. The more people and evidence you have, the better your case is going to be.

In most cases like this, the landlord KNOWS the people don't have the money for a lawyer. They know you are struggling, so they have the upper hand in intimidation. Most of that shit is just intimidation. When you educate yourself about judgements and the law, you are going to find that it's not as urgent as these people are making you feel. Read up on the "Fair Debt Collections Act" and you'll see what I'm talking about. In fact, I bet you'll find that this landlord is in violation of some of those things.

Seriously,

1. Get a lawyer
2. Educate yourself
3. Find people who will testify for you in court (the plumber, neighbors, etc.)
4. Show this guy that you will not be intimidated.

In most cases like this, once you show that you are willing to fight this all the way through, they will back down because they KNOW they are in the wrong. They KNOW that if it goes to court, they are going to get fucked in the ass.

Trust me, show this guy you mean business and watch and see if the tone doesn't change. I know because I've been there and I've done these things and it's almost always worked out to where they backed down. Mainly because they simply can't be assed to go through the legal hassle (nor can they afford the negative publicity).

Good luck.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
02-12-2009, 07:30 PM
I haven't done it myself, but what's often worked in my area is when someone takes their story to the city newspaper. They're all too happy to publish it, it gets a whole lot of attention and it really puts the offender (in this case your ex-landlord) on the spot. I've seen investigations start happening either by reporters or the police, more people start coming forward, even help gets offered for the victim. There's nothing they hate more than when the scrutiny and spotlight is suddenly on them. Sometimes that's what it takes, and in turn you'll help anyone else who's been screwed by him.

324Melissa
02-12-2009, 08:21 PM
I think this is a great idea, take it to the local newspaper and tell them your story. People not only love local news but maybe others who have dealt with this same landlord will come forward. Maybe he has other buildings (or the same one you lived in) that are SO not up to code, you could have them inspected by the health department. If he has many places that are just as bad- who are they going to believe when it goes to court? Especially if other tenants can be on your side. Build up an army. Right now he thinks he is going against a submissive family just trying to get by. Show him that he's actually going to war. Ive dealt with slumlords and you have to be willing to fight tooth and nail.

I lived in an apartment for just 3 months, the toilet had a crack that i didnt notice when i looked through it the first time. It was a slow leak, but it filled the bathroom and SOAKED my bedroom floor. It was so absolutely horrible, the carpet molded and I had to leave the bedroom window open, and the door shut and kept a towel under the door. I got pnuemonia from breathing in the mold and finally had to move in with my father. My landlord refused to fix the toilet saying it wasnt broken when i moved in and it was my issue. I took photographs, called the health department ect... Turns out the reason the apt had been available was that the last tenant set the place on fire. reason for the toilet leak- and he even left the old dishwasher that had evidence of fire damage and was very dangerous. I didnt have to take him to court, the health department shut him down and I just moved on... :) So, there is hope for you too!


I haven't done it myself, but what's often worked in my area is when someone takes their story to the city newspaper. They're all too happy to publish it, it gets a whole lot of attention and it really puts the offender (in this case your ex-landlord) on the spot. I've seen investigations start happening either by reporters or the police, more people start coming forward, even help gets offered for the victim. There's nothing they hate more than when the scrutiny and spotlight is suddenly on them. Sometimes that's what it takes, and in turn you'll help anyone else who's been screwed by him.

SouthernFriedJulie
02-12-2009, 09:44 PM
Thank you to all of your replies. I was pretty freaked last night when the papers were served, had no idea about the restraining order and everything. Did some research and thanks to the posts here, I am sure of what I am going to do.

Fight.

Someone pointed out to me that I never ask for anything and give everything I can. So now I'm going to go about some asking and calling in favors. Not to mention putting my writing to use.

At first I was confused, scared and felt helpless. Not now. I'm furious and refuse to let this SOB get away with this, not just for my family but anyone else dealing with him or the property managers. It isn't pretty when SFJ gets angry offline. Not one bit. This guy is about to find out just how ugly it is.

Thank you all for your posts and Wayne for your PMs.

SouthernFriedJulie
02-12-2009, 09:45 PM
Just so you know, the purple platypus has no bearing on my mood. I can still be mad and cute. :-)

Mela
02-12-2009, 09:47 PM
As a newspaper reporter I was called in few times to public housing to report on bad conditions, so there's nothing wrong with you ruffling a few feathers in a public forum. ALSO: go to your local governing body to complain and make sure you do it during a public meeting, so it gets on the record. Make sure you have everything documented.

And now for the second of your problems: Landlord takes you to court but turns a blind eye to the inlaws? And then mother-in-law refuses to take off so you can attend court? RED FLAG. Not only are they siding up to the landlord behind your back but they seem to be as toxic for you as that muck floating around in the basement which, by the way, is an INCREDIBLY HUGE health violation if I ever heard one.

Get as many people on the record as you can and fight this guy.

Yeshanu
02-12-2009, 11:38 PM
Oh yeah, don't get a baby sitter. Let the Judge see exactly who they are making a judgement against. This is as much against her as it is against you.

While getting a babysitter is your call, I've personally found that taking my autistic son along does indeed help in some cases, and I'm thinking this might be one of them. Especially if you have to explain why it is so hard to get a babysitter, even for an important court appearance. The judge will quickly realize that not any babysitter can manage your child--you need to have someone very skilled and special, and those types of sitters are in short supply.

And Julie, furious is good. Glad to see you're past the shock and into the fight phase. We're here for you. :Hug2:

324Melissa
02-13-2009, 08:53 PM
Im glad to hear that you are ready to fight. No one should ever have to live in those conditions and especially not a child! You should be furious, I would be so livid veins would be pulsating out of my forhead lol I will send tons of positive vibes out your way!

Wayne K
02-13-2009, 09:01 PM
Thank you to all of your replies. I was pretty freaked last night when the papers were served, had no idea about the restraining order and everything. Did some research and thanks to the posts here, I am sure of what I am going to do.

Fight.

Someone pointed out to me that I never ask for anything and give everything I can. So now I'm going to go about some asking and calling in favors. Not to mention putting my writing to use.

At first I was confused, scared and felt helpless. Not now. I'm furious and refuse to let this SOB get away with this, not just for my family but anyone else dealing with him or the property managers. It isn't pretty when SFJ gets angry offline. Not one bit. This guy is about to find out just how ugly it is.

Thank you all for your posts and Wayne for your PMs.

Go get 'em kid. You don't have to thank me. I used to have rent control in NYC and I left that apartment after 13 years withoutr owing a dime. But since then I've been forced to move eight times in five years because of what a lousy person I am. Deregulation in the housing market extended to landlords is biased racist and demoralizing, so It's my duty to the people who have helped me along the way to help you.

TheDude80
02-18-2009, 10:15 PM
Just joined the board and read this. It is terrible, I feel for you and your family. I agree with what the others said, fight as much as you can, take your kids with you to court proceedings if you can't get a sitter. I actually would've liked to see you do that the first time around so they can see the precious life that was put in danger by your landlords lack of care and action. Good luck with all, keep us updated.