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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 30382
Experience:  Attorney
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I've been living in a basement apartment for almost 3 years

Customer Question

Hello. I've been living in a basement apartment for almost 3 years now in Brooklyn Nyc. At first I was the only tenant the owners had. Eventually they leased out the two upper apartments in this private home. The tenants upstairs from me apparently weren't paying their rent and eventually ended up vacating the apartment. They obviously weren't keeping the apartment clean and left a lot of garbage behind. I've always paid my rent on time and kept my apartment immaculately clean. I started seeing a few roaches in my apartment. I began to start panicking. I've never had roaches in my apartment since I moved in. At first I didn't really react or make any complaints to my landlord until I noticed someone threw a mattress outside in front of building. Must have been the people upstairs when they moved out. The next day I went to sleep and started feeling itchy. When I got up I turned on the lights and saw a couple of bugs on the wall. I took a picture of them then I googled the description of the bug. From the images they turned out to be bedbugs. I was hysterical. I immediately called the landlord to bring it to their attention. They didn't respond to it immediately. As a matter of fact the landlord just stopped by rang my bell and passed me a can of bug spray as if that would solve the problem. I ended up having to seal any crevices that I noticed in my apartment to prevent any bugs from entering. The landlord just delayed the situation telling me they were waiting for Marshalls to allow access to apartment upstairs in order to take care of the problem. Months went by and nothing. I've also had flood problems in my apartment. Every time there was a downpour of rain my bedroom turned into a swimming pool. As many times I've complained it was never taken care of. Also I started seeing signs of black mold. Never taken care of. I had enough of everything I've had to deal with in an unsatisfactory unhealthy conditions and the landlord just brushed it off. They left me no choice so I called 311 to make a complaint. While I was at work I guess a city inspector stopped by and tried to get access twice. The third attempt they made they contacted me. I didn't allow them access in because someone told me that the apartment I'm living in is illegal because it's a basement. At the time the inspectors were outside the landlord just so happened to be outside The inspector brought it to her attention about the complaints that was made. They told her she had to fix any problems in the house and possibly warned her about illegal basement apartment. Well making that complaint backfired on me. She immediately started to fix whatever the complaints were then told me that because I made the complaints that she wants me to move and vacate the premises. She wrote out a letter herself and gave it to me stating that I have 30 days to vacate the premises. I have all my rent receipts I've been paying $1000 a month for almost 3 years. I need consultation. Do I have rights? Can she actually force me out the way she's doing? Just because I called 311 because they weren't attending to my complaints?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.


I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm very sorry to hear that this happened.

It is actually illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for calling 311 in good faith. NY Real Prop. Laws, Section 223-b. You have a right to sue the landlord for any damages you incur as a result of that illegal behavior. But your damages are limited by the fact that you're not supposed to be living there. The ordinary remedy is that the tenant is allowed to stay, and that can't happen here.

The biggest problem that you're facing is that the apartment is illegal. That means, if the landlord sues for eviction, a judge has no legal authority to allow you to stay. The place is illegal. You're not supposed to be living there. If the inspector had been allowed into the apartment, they'd have said as much. And that means there's unfortunately no law that would allow you to avoid moving out. You do have a right to force her to go to court to complete the eviction, and you can sue for a refund of rent for each day the property was infested and every time the property flooded for the past three years. The statute of limitations for breach of contract is 6 years, so you're within that time period.

Also note that since it's illegal for you to be there, the landlord could not sue you for any unpaid rent between now and when you move out. And you can call 311 back and let them in. They can take fine the landlord for renting an illegal unit.

I apologize that this was probably not the Answer you were hoping to receive. However, it would be unfair to you and unprofessional of me were I to provide you with anything less than truthful and honest information. I hope you understand. Please rate my answer positively to ensure I am paid for the time I spent answering your question. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. Thank you.

Good luck.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Did you have any other questions about this?