How Do I Force My Unresponsive Landlord to Make Needed Repairs?

If a landlord or management company is not paying attention, tenants have a few options. Here’s how you can start the process. Q: I live in a rent stabilized apartment in a prewar building of medium size in Brooklyn. My shower ceiling began leaking a few months ago. The ceiling above the leak began to collapse. The super covered the hole in cardboard, but never fixed the ceiling or leak. I called him numerous times and he always said “tomorrow”, but never fixed it. I have also called management twice, and they have sent me pictures. The wall is becoming moldy. The cardboard is beginning to crumble. What can I do? A: There are many things you can do. Call 311 to request an inspection by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. A violation would most likely be issued by an inspector. While it may not resolve your problem immediately, it would leave a paper trail of evidence. Samuel J. Himmelstein, a Manhattan attorney who represents tenants, said that generally, getting violations placed does not do much. “Landlords rarely respond.” You can also file what is called an HP proceeding in the housing court. This is a lawsuit against the landlord that asks the court to order repairs. Mr. Himmelstein stated that this is the fastest way to get the repairs done. These cases move quickly and the landlord usually settles and agrees with the repairs. This should resolve your ceiling. It might take longer to resolve the mold. Mold remediation can be costly and sometimes take a lot of time. Your photographs will not suffice to prove you have mold. Mr. Himmelstein stated that you would need to hire a professional to assess the extent of the problem, and make recommendations for remediation. Mold can pose serious health risks, so you might want to hire your own expert to assess the situation and make recommendations for remediation. Ask your landlord for one. If you are denied, which is likely to happen, you can withhold rent completely. If you are taken to housing court by your landlord for nonpayment, you can argue that the conditions violated your state’s warranty of habitability. If the landlord took you to housing court for nonpayment, your defense would be that the conditions violated your warranty of habitability, a state rule. Follow us on Twitter at @nytrealestate.