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Boiler problem

Posted by Tomoko on January 02, 2002 at 15:47:29:

I live in a rent-stabilized, 100-year old apartment in NYC for 2 and half years. There are 10 units in the building. I believe 2 of them are still rent-controlled, and 8 are rent stabilized. There's no super. Only a person hired by the landlord is coming every morning to take care of the garbage.

We have heat/hot water problem every winter. The boiler in the basement is very old and is often broken. Almost every week, we have to call the landlordfs agent (whom we only deal withc.we donft know even who the real landlord is) to tell him we donft have heat and hot water. I did not have a heat until middle of December. When I called him, he said itfs been warm and takes time to get the whole building warm (I know itfs illegal not to provide the heat/hot water, and itfs not true).

Then, a night before Christmas Eve, again we were out of heat. I called and left a message on the agentfs machine. Then, smoke came up from the basement and quickly filled the entire building. My apartment was the worst, because itfs on the top floor of a 5-story walk-up building. I could not breath, and had an asthma attack, which I never had before, and called 911. The firefighter came, shut down the boiler and opened a small window to the roof(but there's nothing else they could do). At that time, I realized why I have had skin and eye irritation for last several weeks and saw black powder/wax-like substance everywhere in my apartment. It was soot. Now everything (in the closets, drawers, curtainsc) in my apartment was covered by soot.

When I called the landlordfs agent, he knew what the problem was. The plumber who came to fix the bathroom saw soot before the smoke happened and reported it to the landlordfs agent too. The plumber said the same thing. The agent knew what the problem is but does not do anything until the last minute. He said he will send someone to clean up the chimney and fix the pipe.

It took a whole day to clean my apartment on Christmas day. The landlordfs agent said he vacuumed the chimney and should not have a problem. Then, next day, I still smell smoke, and got new soot. I also have headache and coughing. I am afraid if I have some kind of poisoning because I keep inhaling soot. I complain everyday about this situation to the agent, but who hasnft figured out why I keep getting soot. It seems that other tenants do not have this soot problem.

I have hesitated to file complains to the DHCR, Cityfs Complain Beureau, etc. because I have a bad experience. When I first moved to this apartment, I did not have a gas (line itself) for the first 3 months (previously the unit was rent-controlled, and the tenant was here forever. It seems that the agent did not know that a gas meter/line did not exist) and electrical outlets were broken (and other so many problems). I kept complain, and the agent reluctantly (and orally) agreed to reduce the rent until the gas line was set up. There were so many problems and sloppiness of the landlord. Someone recommended going to the DHCRfs office to ask for the help. They said the landlord might not register the unit properly, and recommended to file the request to check the status and complain. I did. The agent discovered, and got so angry. He sued me for the non-payment for the period I was paying a reduced rent (even I included a letter explaining why I was paying a reduced the rent and asked to respond if he does not agree every time I paid the rent). I went to the court several times, submitted the counter argument and series of proof, and talked with the landlordfs lawyer. It was obvious (even for the landlordfs lawyer as well) that therefs a fault on the landlordfs side. But my mistake was I did not get the agreement in writing. And I learned that I have to go through long, draining process to claim my rights and prove that I am right. The lawyer convinced me to settle. I paid.

So, I was worried about the landlordfs retaliation again this time. But, this situation seems too dangerous. I havenft done any actual step to report the problem until today, and am paying a full rent now. First of all, I want to stop this recurring soot problem. Also, I want to make sure our boiler in the basement is safe, and if not, want it to be replaced (in this regard, I think other tenants all agree). Living in NY is so tough! Will anybody give me any idea what I can do to secure a safe apartment, without going into ugly fights with the landlord?
Thanks.

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