The M Condominium in Brooklyn needed to raise funds to repair and restore several storm damaged building systems. The Board did not want to impose special assessments on the unit owners. In order to raise the money necessary to do the capital repairs, the special assessments would be too high and would impose unfair financial burdens on the unit owners.
A small leak developed in the closet ceiling of apartment 15L, a coop apartment. The Coop's engineer's opinion was that it was caused by a leak from the bathroom in apartment 16L. The 16L apartment owner retained our firm and an engineer whose opinion was that the leak was not emanating from our client's bathroom but rather from pipes higher up in the building.
Many coop tenants whose apartments were damaged by Hurricane Sandy are wondering if they have any rights to financial compensation, in the form of an abatement of maintenance, resulting from their apartments being rendered partially or totally uninhabitable. This post does not address issues regarding property damage or relocation costs if the apartment is completely unlivable. The amount of a particular abatement will depend upon the extent of the damage to the apartment and how long the conditions exist. The cooperator must notify the coop board or agent of the damage, preferably in writing, and demand immediate repairs and provide access if requested. Conditions such as mold should be remediated according to Department of Health guidelines by a qualified expert.
If my apartment was damaged do I have to pay the full rent? NO. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may be entitled to a rent "abatement" or reduction of the rent that you were required to pay. Under New York law the landlord must provide you with a habitable apartment. It does not matter if the damage to your apartment was not the fault of the landlord. This is called the "Warranty of Habitability." In order to get a reduction in your rent, unless the landlord is willing to reduce your rent voluntarily, you have two options, one requiring going to housing court. To get a rent abatement through housing court you will have to withhold all or part of your rent. The landlord will then bring a proceeding in housing court to evict you for not paying your rent. When your serve your "Answer" to the court proceeding, you will list as a defense that there are repairs that have to be done. You will also list as a "counterclaim" that you are entitled to an abatement of your rent. You will have to prove to the court that there is damage to your apartment and that the landlord had notice of the damage. It is always better to have an attorney if you go to housing court. But even without an attorney you could get an abatement of your rent.
Like spores brought to life by a new leak, mold cases are back after 4 dormant years, due to the March 2012 Appellate Court decision of Cornell v. 360 West 51st Street Realty LLC.
Housing Part or "HP" actions are great tools for tenants, shareholders and, in some cases, even condo unit owners, to obtain needed repairs in their apartments. This blog is a general introduction to this effective tool. In future blogs, I will address HP actions from the various perspectives of tenants, tenants associations, shareholders and condo unit owners.)