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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 36235
Experience:  16 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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I've been renting a house for $2,100 per month for almost

Customer Question

Hi, I've been renting a house for $2,100 per month for almost five years. 4 years ago a tree hit the roof during Hurricane Sandy. One of the skylights was dislodged and the roof has remained in the same state since the hurricane. The landlord said the insurance adjuster came to the house, but the landlord (who owns a roofing company) never fixed the roof or any of the gutters, pipes, patio, etc. that were damaged. He hasn't renewed my lease since the first year, and he hasn't repaired anything in the house since the hurricane. The interior drywall in the house is infested with mildew because of the gutters and roof. I've paid him every month anyway, with a hole in the roof, a mildew infestation, on and on. I'm fed up. What recourse do I have? Can I sue him for the rent from the hurricane forward?
JA: Because real estate law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: New York, Sagaponack on Long Island zip code 11962
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: No, I've been tempted to go to the town was hoping this would be resolved. There are also a lot of code violations with the construction of the house, which he built (basement stairs not to code, Washing machine water routed through a waste pipe, etc.).
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I'm not a litigious person, but I've paid a ton of money to this landlord and I can't even have people over because of the condition that the house is in. I'm fed UP.
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 7 months ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply,but rest assured, I am working on your question.

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Have you sent him a written notice of the problems and requested repairs?

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Is there some reason why you stay there if you are not under a lease and the conditions continue to deteriorate?

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Have you contacted the city regarding the condition of the property?

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I've sent him photos, he's been on site at the house. He is well aware of the problems.
There aren't many rentals in this area, and my boss is purchasing a house that I will rent from him, but it's taking some time.
I have not contacted the Town of Southampton, I'm hesitant to start an action until I have someplace else to go. My fear is that the town will say that the house isn't fit to live in and I'll be living in my car.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
p.s. my landlord is also on a local school board and used to be a local village trustee, I'm not confident that I can trust the code enforcement division at the town level to follow through.
Expert:  Barrister replied 7 months ago.

Ok, that makes sense as to why you wouldn't want to take formal action.. But here it the thing.. if you call Code Enforcement and they condemn the place, the landlord has a legal duty to pay for a hotel for you until he makes repairs so the house is habitable. He would be breaching his legal duty to provide a habitable dwelling and you could hold him liable for failing to do so.

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Another recourse is to withhold rent or "repair and deduct" by having repairs made and then deducting it from the rent. You just have to send the landlord written notice stating that if he doesn't make repairs within a reasonable time, maybe 10 days, then you will have repairs done and deduct from the rent.

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And finally, you can sue the landlord for breach of contract for the judge to order him to make repairs and for damages that the judge would determine to be the value of the property with the problems vs. the property without them. It could result in a retroactive rent reduction in the form of damages awarded to you. So If I was going to sue, I would ask for the statutory max in small claims court of $5000 or if you are going to hire an attorney, for the max in a higher court.

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
What would the max be in higher court, and what are typical attorney fees for this type of action? Would the landlord have to reimburse the attorney / legal fees to me?
Expert:  Barrister replied 7 months ago.

You can sue for as much as you want in higher courts... if you want to sue for a million dollars, you can in the proper court.

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As for costs, it depends on the attorney, how much you are suing for, what court you are suing in, etc. But for example if you were suing for $10K in City or District court, an attorney might charge you a couple thousand up front to get started as a retainer. And you can always ask the judge for attorney fees and it is up to him as to whether or not to award them. But since this is malicious and intentional neglect, it is likely the judge would award them to set an example and deter future similar behavior.

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Interesting, mildew is a health hazard, as are the methane fumes from the incorrectly plumbed waste valves pipe and the improperly contained carbon monoxide exhaust from the gas hot water heater. A plumber that I hired pointed all of this out to me. I've paid him over $100,000.
Expert:  Barrister replied 7 months ago.

Yes, that is correct that the conditions are hazardous... But a judge is also going to look at the fact that you are not under a written lease and could have moved any time you wanted to with a 30 day notice. So a "voluntary assumption of the risk" argument could be made by the landlord, although I don't know how successful it would be..

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So getting $100K is not a realistic outcome here..

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