Q. My husband and I have a month-to-month market-rate lease for an apartment on the second floor of a four-story walk-up; a nail salon on the floor below is undergoing renovations. In the shower, I noticed a crack between the tub and tile floor through which I could see into the salon below. I have concerns about the building’s structural integrity and our safety because of this new construction, recurring leaks and shoddy repairs. We called our landlord, but he is out of state and will not send anyone to look at our unit. We’ve had issues in the past, including bedbugs, and our landlord has refused to pay for or fix any of them because he “keeps the rent low.” We don’t want to move, but how can we effectively deal with our landlord and make sure our apartment is safe?
A. As a rule, you should not be able to check out the manicures in the downstairs nail salon from your bathtub. Call 311 today. Tell the operator that you would like an inspector from the Department of Buildings to inspect your apartment because you are concerned about the structural integrity of the building. You should also ask that an inspector from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development be sent to look at the leaks and shoddy repairs. In extreme cases, the city could make the repairs and bill the landlord, according to David Kaminsky, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. At the very least, a citation from the city might get the landlord’s attention.
You could request a rent abatement for the problems you’ve endured and also could bring what is known as an HP proceeding against the landlord in housing court to get a judge to compel him to do the work. Regardless of how much (or how little) rent you pay, a landlord must keep an apartment in good repair. He might think someone else would pay a premium for a unit with peepholes in the floorboards and a history of bedbugs, but I wouldn’t bet on it.