Approximately 95% of tenants in housing court are not represented by attorneys. One of the results is that tenants often enter into agreements (or "stipulations") to give up their apartment even when they may have a strong defense to the case against them. In a recent Kings County housing court case, Wilson v. Burda, NYLJ 8/7/13, Judge Finklestein set aside an agreement to vacate that the tenant entered into three years before. The landlord had brought a case to evict the tenant solely because he had not provided access for extermination of bedbugs. Rather than defend the case, the tenant agreed to move out. The tenant never did move out but instead made a motion to set aside the agreement. The court, in setting aside the agreement, found that it was unduly harsh and one-sided, signed inadvertently, improvidently and worked a severe prejudice and detriment to tenant. Even though the tenant was successful in this case two key lessons are - do not deny access for extermination of bedbugs (unless you have a very good reason and have consulted with an attorney), and if at all possible do not sign an agreement to move out of your apartment without having an attorney look at it first.
Landlords commonly request access from tenants for repairs both parties agree must be done. Work usually is completed with cooperation and communication on both sides. But sometimes, claims of "no access" are created by landlords and boards to pressure a tenant or shareholder to do something unrelated to a bona fide repair. For example, tenants have been asked to let an "inspector" in who turns out to be an appraiser for a bank, an adjustor for an insurance claim, or even a prospective buyer. Sometimes a landlord needs access to a tenant's apartment for work in other areas of the building but won't tell the tenant the real reason (knowing the tenant might not be obligated to comply), so he fabricates a reason. Most conflicts arise when landlords send workers without prior notice, workers do not show up, do a bad job, or are unlicensed. Tenants may rightly view such requests as "harassment" and disregard them entirely. Disregarding a request for access can be dangerous, however, no matter how suspect the request might be.
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.