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Yep. But getting the money back is hard.

Posted by Dayann on August 09, 2001 at 14:45:59:

In Reply to: entitled to refund? posted by AMB on August 07, 2001 at 12:58:51:

Take pictures of the problems so they're documented, and in the pictures include a copy of the daily newspaper. Save both the pictures and the newspaper you may need them later.

There are a bunch of different ways to do this.

First, send the landlord a detailed letter via certified mail, like Callie said. In the letter, outline your full understanding of the rental agreement, including any repairs that have to be made. At the end of the letter, ask the landlord to contact you in writing if your understanding of the agreement is different from his. Tell him, in the letter that if you do not get any written correction in 30 days time that you are going to assume your understanding of the rental agreement is correct. Make the letter extremely friendly and extremely gracious.

Then wait 30 days. If the LL doesn't respond, send another letter. In the letter say you haven't heard back from him since you sent him the outline of your rental agreement so you're assuming the terms you outlined fully and accurately describe the terms of your living arrangement. THEN mention at the end that he promised to make the following repairs as a condition of your taking the apartment (list them) but the repairs haven't been made. Ask him when he plans to make the repairs and if there is something you can do to help expedite the repairs. If you are willing to make the repairs yourself if the LL reimburses you, then say in the letter that you would be happy to make the repairs yourself with his written permission but that you would be saving the receipts and deducting your expenses from the next month's rent. Give him another 15 to 30 days to respond.

If the LL then doesn't respond, agree to let you make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent, or make the repairs himself (like he is supposed to), then send another letter. "Please make the repairs you agreed to make as a condition of my tenancy within 30 days or I'm going to have to withhold my rent." Then give him not 30 but 45 days to correct the problem. If he STILL doesn't correct it, when the rent is due, send him a letter certified mail, RRR stating that you have given him ample time and have bent over backwards to help him to make the necessary repairs but he hasn't responded or made the repairs requested and so you are withholding the rent until repairs are made. TEll him that once the repairs are made, you'll give him any rent that is in arrears. Put the rent in a seperate interest bearing account, and manage your finances as though you were still paying the rent, depositing the rent in the seperate bank account instead of giving it to the LL. A wise thing to do would be to set up the account FIRST and put your rent money in it, and then when you send the letter to the LL letting him know you are withholding the rent, send him a copy of the bank statement to prove that you are holding, rather than refusing to pay, his rent. DONT spend it.

If youre lucky the LL will make the repairs, you can give him his rent, with interest. If you aren't lucky, he'll try to evict you for nonpayment, at which time you have all these letters and escrow account bank statements, photos, etc., to prove that the nonpayment is due to LL's failure to make repairs and you can offer to deposit your rent in Court until such time as repairs are made, and he can't toss you out for nonpayment and the Court will send an inspector to verify the need for repairs.

You can also tell the court that since the repairs were promised as a CONDITION of your taking the apartment, you are entitled to a discount (rent abatement). The court will then look the matter over and decide if your entitled to money back and if so how much, and the judge can order the landlord to pay you back a portion of your rent money.

NEVER just withhold or stop paying your rent. Always cover your ass first.

There are other things you can do in this situation:

1=look for a new place to go
2=call HPD and have an inspector come, fine his ass, and tell him to correct the problem or get hit a few more times in the pocketbook
3=go to Housing Court with your photos and letters and start an HP action, which will result in a Court order to fix the problems. (This will really piss your landlord off so if you do this be prepared for the nonsense that will follow.)

Which route you take depends on your situation, and there are upsides and downsides to each route. Don't immediately withhold the rent and take the LL to Court, wait a bit, try to negotiate the situation and try to give the LL enough time to address the problem.

Was the washer/dryer there when you took the apt. and did the LL say it was included in your rent and that it worked or he would fix it?
If so, include this in your letter (the first one that outlines your agreement with him) because the Court may not see that as a housing code violation or a necessity, but if you can prove that it was included in your rental agreement then at least you can argue breach of contract.

UNTIL THE REPAIR ISSUE IS RESOLVE ALL LETTERS SENT TO THE LL SHOULD GO CERTIFIED MAIL, AS SHOULD ANY RENT PAYMENTS, UNLESS YOU HAVE A CANCELLED CHECK OR RENT RECEIPT PROVING YOU PAID. Save every letter you get from your landlord and if there is a phone conversation or face to face discussion, write it down in a diary or logbook, or tape it. (In NY State, only one person who is a party to the conversation needs to know that the discussion is being taped, and that one party can be YOU.)

Good luck./

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