Despite Claims of Repairs and Rats, Landlord Wins Trial
Judge Finds that Tenant Failed to Provide Access and Therefore Landlord has no Duty to Make Repairs.
Tenant claimed that she deserved rent abatement for six full months due to conditions in her apartment. The tenant was a graduate of Columbia University and was very well spoken, charming and tenacious. She had collected over two dozen photos showing alleged evidence of alleged needed repairs and mouse droppings, as well as pictures of dead rodents and roaches. The tenant was not allowed normal access for the exterminator and refused to sign off on repairs being made. She claimed that the apartment was so unlivable that she had to temporarily move out.
Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C had recently been hired by one of Manhattan’s largest landlords, and the firm immediately smelled trouble upon hearing the facts. It was obvious that the tenant’s goal was to avoid paying rent and her actions made it appear that she knew the “system.”
Ergo, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. started building its case. Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. asked the superintendent to keep a log of his visits to the apartment, including how many times he knocked on the door. He wrote two letters a week asking for access to do any necessary repairs. If he could not obtain access, a letter went out. If he obtained access, he inventoried her list of repairs and took pictures when he could of the alleged problems and of any completion after repairs. He also scheduled times when he could complete repairs. Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. made sure that the exterminator visited tenant’s apartment every time the company visited the building. Because of construction next door, some mice had intruded upon the building.
The tenant had not paid a number of months’ rent, and she hired an attorney and tried every tactic to delay the proceeding. Then the trial began.
The tenant testified that the mice were all over the apartment, and that she saw them and they traveled in packs. She complained and submitted numerous letters she had sent to the landlord complaining of repairs, in addition to phone bills of her calls to management. She cried on the stand and spoke of her horrible living conditions.
Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C’s strategy was to demonstrate that the landlord promptly attempted to make repairs and was not responsible for making repairs when it could not gain access. Between the super and exterminator’s logs marking every attempted visit, over a dozen letters to gain access and pictures of the repairs, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. overwhelmed the court with evidence. The pictures were very informative as they also showed bread crumbs, dirty dishes and food left out and uncovered, which the exterminator testified would have attracted bugs and mice.
Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. submitted the repair logs showing that very few apartments in the building complained of repairs and all repairs were done promptly, and these logs included the attempts to gain access to tenant’s unit. Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. caught the tenant in numerous lies. For instance, the tenant stated she had seen packs of mice.
Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. obtained pictures of the dead mice, and mice do not travel in packs, only rats do and she did not see any rats. Clearly, this showed that she was lying about seeing mice in packs. Letters and logs demonstrated that the tenant also lied about providing the building’s employees with access to make repairs, removing all remaining credibility that the tenant still had.
The tenant’s credibility was further weakened when the super mentioned the tenant’s complaint about the ghost she called a succubus in her apartment which visited her and touched her while she was sleeping. Her testimony was further damaged when her tantrums about the lack of service were contradicted by the several witnesses that all had the same difficulty gaining access or access dates from her to inspect and repair the apartment.
On the second day of trial the judge called the attorneys to the back of the courtroom and told the tenant’s attorney that she was losing the case, advising that the tenant should settle at that point and pay all the rent due rather than to incur further attorney fees both on her behalf and on behalf of the landlord. The landlord was paid in full within five days and the tenant never complained about anything again.
Adam Leitman Bailey represented the landlord in this proceeding.