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Water Leak - Tenant Rights

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Water Leak - Tenant Rights

Postby johnsmith123 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 2:56 pm

(NYC, Brooklyn, Primary Tenant on Lease)

My ceiling leaked dirty roof water all over my bedroom, completely soaking and destroying my bed. I made multiple attempts to contact our landlord the night of the leak, but they never responded. As I had nowhere to sleep, I left them a detailed voicemail indicating that I'd need to sleep in a nearby hotel, and that I'd expect reimbursements from them for doing so (or, at the very least, a rent deduction for the night I did not sleep here).

I have reordered a new bed (as the last is damaged beyond repair) and it will take several days to get here. Until then, I have nowhere to sleep, so I will need to sleep in a hotel until it arrives.

In speaking with my landlord, he has made it very clear he would not be compensating for the hotel the night of the leak, nor will he compensate me for any future hotel stays. He also indicated that he did not agree to a deduction of rent price for any of the nights. His point of view was that I should sleep elsewhere in my apartment (on the floor..? unsure what he has in mind, but it feels besides the point to argue that)

As a tenant, I've been operating under the assumption that I have a right to a habitable place. If I cannot sleep there due to water damage, the place is not habitable. Once the damage is repaired and I have a bed again, it will be.

1. Are my assumptions accurate, or are they flawed in any way?

2. What is my recourse on settling with him for the night of the leak?

3. What is my recourse on settling with him for subsequent hotel stays, while I wait for a new bed to arrive?
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Re: Water Leak - Tenant Rights

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:22 am

I was just doing some research in this topic. First thing to understand is that you do not indicate you are rent regulated, so all of your rights depend on your lease. Sure, some provisions of a NYC tenant lease might be unenforceable or illegal, but without rent stab protections, a landlord can decide to end your tenancy for any reason when your current lease expires.

The point is you don't want to piss them off too much (unless you're planning on moving anyway). Better to keep talking and hope they start to understand your predicament.

Second, while a LL is required to have insurance, that insurance covers his building, not your contents or possessions.

Take a look at this page:
https://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumers/help_f ... _insurance

Third, in terms of a LL's liability to cover your possessions, the exceptions to the rules are in the case of fraud or neglect. Basically if he knew there was a problem and if he neglected to make repairs, then that's neglect. But that is often hard to prove. How did the roof get to the point where the water accumulated? Was he aware of it?

Given all that, it behooves a tenant to obtain renters insurance. The cost isn't that high (around $150 per year) and it solves a lot of problems.

In particular with a renters policy, look at the Loss of Use provision. It used to be that companies covered the loss of use of an apartment for actually loss sustained (in some cases with a 24 month cap). While I've never made a claim, I believe that covered things like temporary housing (or a hotel), cost of extra food, etc.

Now companies are pulling back on that coverage to a defined dollar amount, and in our opinion, the coverage is a pittance compared to what it formally covered. That's why we recommend you shop around for a policy. One agent told us companies were going to a defined dollar amount coverage due to an increase in claims related to broken water or steam pipes (and possibly mold).

As for your situation, well, it depends. Is your bedroom temporarily uninhabitable, or the entire apartment? If just your bedroom, then yes, it's not completely unreasonable to sleep on a sofa, especially if the question of landlord liability is debatable at best. As for the replacement bed, can you get expedited delivery?

In a situation like this, it might be better to negotiate something with the LL. I understand you would be out various costs, but I just don't know you can get the LL to cover anything and probably you don't want or need a court fight. You probably have some leverage in that you could make things into a mess for the LL, but overall not a lot of leverage.

Your rights under the Warranty of Habitability requires the LL to make repairs when something goes wrong; it does not necessarily mean the LL has to cover all losses.

One other things to consider ... if you are not RS, then you should get a rent history from DHCR and see if there might be a basis to claim RS status. The rent histories contain registration provided by the LL and not checked by DHCR, so don't believe everything in the history. Still it can tell you about any improper increases or deregulations. That would give you some leverage.
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