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My boyfriend and I lived in a basement apartment for a year. From November 2011 to November 2012.


It was such a horrible experience that almost destroyed our relationship.


My landlords lived next door, and their daughter and crazy alcoholic boyfriend lived upstairs.


Upon moving in, the bedroom was blue and yellow. Old and chipped. The kitchen and dining room was a turquoise. Our lease said we were allowed to paint as long Landlord approves colors.-She did. We painted the bedroom a blood orange, and the other large room a beige that she agreed to. We payed for the paint and painted ourselves. Perfect job.


We befriended the couple upstairs at first. Biggest mistake of my life. They were just toxic. I can't even tell you how bad it was. EVERY day they screamed at each other throwing things. Cursing at each other until 4am. This was daily. You could hear everything. We could barley watch TV at times it was so bad. Lost sleep. The few times we had guests over, they asked how we lived like that. Our lease stated noise level had to be low after 11pm. My landlords knew, but I guess didn't care. At my 30th birthday party this guy was so drunk he started screaming out racial slurs at my friends, threatened to kill them. It was a nightmare.


My boyfriend worked nights, and this guy would stomp on the floor screaming things about my boyfriend for me to hear. I didn't even feel safe there.


During the year, there were several bad leaks. The sump pump over flowed several times. Due to leaks, mold developed in my bedroom closet. I had to throw away a couple of hundred dollars worth of shoes and clothes. My cat developed an eye infection from the mold. I told my landlords and they didn't care.


My landlord would come in and out the apartment when we weren't there to do laundry. She never asked me. The girl upstairs texted me a couple times to confirm this. (In our lease, the girl upstairs only was allowed to do laundry) We had an agreement. For some reason my landlord didn't have a dryer so when we weren't home, she would use ours They have so much money, I don't even know why they didn't have a dryer. But that was a breach to our privacy.


Finally in October, we gave them one month notice. (We were on a month to month lease) The girl and guy upstairs apparently broke up, and the guy was living there by himself. When I told my landlord we were leaving, she said "is it because of XXXX upstairs? He will be gone November 1. )


We still wanted to leave. Since the guy upstairs was leaving and I knew they were putting their house on the market to sell, I asked if we could have 1 or 2 weeks grace period to leave. Mainly because I just wanted to wait for him to be gone, and didn't want to be moving out the same time. My landlords response was "Of course. After everything you have been through, whatever you need"


Ok, at the end of October we had hurricane Sandy. Since we lived on the water, I stayed with my mom during the hurricane. The power was out at my mothers as well as the apartment. Thank god no damage. However, I went back a few times to stay the grace period they allowed, and the sump pump was overflowing from upstairs and the apartment smelled like human waste. The toilet didn't work at all, since the sump pump needs power. I could not have stayed there if I wanted to. It was unsanitary. They came in to clean it a few times. There were wet waste filled towels everywhere. And the guy upstairs was still living there! he did not leave Novemeber 1. They got back together and she moved back in. We did not reside there once in the month of November.


We had all of our stuff out of the apartment on the 7 of November. The apartment was 10x cleaner from when we moved in.


When we gave our keys back, our landlord was REALLY nasty. Saying we just left with hardly any notice. She said she was painting the bedroom because it was not a neutral color, and she was taking $200 out of our security deposit. AND she took out half months rent. (The color before was not a neutral color and it was chipped.)


She gave us back $650 of our $1500. I told her the lease said nothing about painting back. She was so rude saying I must know "NOTHING" about renting. Then as far as the half months rent, she said I wanted to leave 15th and of course she would charge me. I asked them several times if it was okay for one to two weeks. They said nothing about charging me.


Then my boyfriend and I went next door to speak with her husband. He said "if we want to take it to court, he will find the most expensive painter to paint the whole apartment, and WE WILL LOSE and end up paying a couple thousand dollars.


Last month I wrote them a nice letter explaining everything I said here, and I signed the letter saying please send a check for the paint and rest of security deposit. $950 If we don't receive it by February 1, we will need to take legal action for all of the above" I thought they would send the check. They didn't.


If I take this to small claims court, do you think I have a chance getting the $950? Can I also sue for the noise level, harassment? Damage from the mold? The only proof I really have is text messages, a cat bill, and witnesses of the mold and the condition of apartment after Sandy. I have also pictures of the paint before and after.

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A lot of things depend on where you lived and what state you reside in. Before doing anything try to contact your local city/state Housing Department or Rent Control Board and find out from them if there's someone you can talk to about what your options are and if they have an attorney on premises or can put you in touch with one. For instance when I lived in Los Angeles a few years ago they have a rent control board and I was able to pay $100 for a half-hour consultation with an attorney experienced in such matters after my landlord turned hostile due to her daughter moving in and making unfounded complaints against everyone in the building. It was so worth it and I did get my security deposit back after getting an attorney to draft a formal letter to the landlord just before I moved. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth then although up to then she'd been complaining about various little things that she claimed would take all of my security deposit. So really you do need to talk to someone who knows the laws in your area. It's good that you took pictures and have some documentation in writing as well as witnesses who can testify for you. About the painting though, unless the landlord specifically okayed it in writing that one may be harder to prove although showing a judge the before and after pics should indeed help make your case on that.


Unfortunately too many unethical landlords know that unless things are put in writing, and unless you carefully documented the state of everything when you moved in and out the chances are not as good for getting your money back. However you need to speak to an attorney who is knowledgeable about landlord-tenant issues in the area you lived. It may turn out this landlord is well known for being trouble or that there is something that lets you take him to court. Or maybe just a letter from your attorney with a list of the evidence against the landlord along with a notice to pay or go to small claims court might just do the trick. Regardless this isn't a case you want to do blindly hoping for the best, so get a legal expert who knows the area of tenant-landlord law in your city and state to help you. Good luck.

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Thank you!


Well, I live in New York. I would take it to small claims court. I don't think you can use a lawyer in small claims? Even if I could, I wouldn't use one since it's not a huge amount of money.


I do have a text from my landlord approving the paint color, as well as a lot of texts from the girl upstairs and my landlord about the leaks, mold and harassment.


I would basically just pay $100 and take it to court myself. I just don't know if I have a good chance of winning, and how it really works.

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I agree that seeing a lawyer in your area (even for a free or cheap consultation) is the best course of action if you want reliable advice. We can talk in generalities, though.


Usually in small claims court, the burden is on you to provide proof. So - it really depends on what proof you have.


For the paint - do you have proof they agreed to the colors? If not, you are out of luck. It was in the lease, they can probably take part of the deposit to repaint.


For the rent - do you have proof they agreed to a "grace period"? You may or may not be able to get your money back here. It doesn't matter that you weren't there - your stuff was there which is basically the same thing. They couldn't rent out the place in that time.


For the damages (mould) - definitely. Do you have texts or something where you spoke about your damages? Receipts for things? Pictures of stuff you had to throw out? Anything?


For the vet bill (mould) - maybe. Is it something that can ONLY be caused by mould and is the vet willing to write a letter to that effect?


For the noise? No.


For the tresspassing? No. If you had broken the contract and moved out right away because of it, maybe you'd have cause - but I don't think you can get "damages" after the fact. You didn't really incur damages.


PS: $1500 - $650 = $850


For me, it would all come down to whether you could get something for damages for the stuff you had to throw out + the vet bill. IMO, the rent and the paint is a wash.

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Sorry, she gave us back $550 Took $200 for paint and $750 half months rent.


In my letter I sent them on October 1, stating we were leaving I put exactly:


"If we could have a one to two week grace period, we would greatly appreciate it. If not, we completely understand"


I do have a text saying "Those colors are fine" And nothing in the lease states we needed to paint it back. Just that we can paint. It needed to be painted regardless.


As far as damages from mold. I have texts to the girl upstairs how i had to throw so much stuff out. I spoke with my landlord in person. I have credit card statements but no receipts. The cat infection could have been from "allergies, mold, infection"

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Ah New York, you should honestly be in a pretty good area to have help. Check out this link to the NY Attorney General guide to Tenant Rights. link removed I hope that helps and good luck. I still personally would at least call around and see if you can get help from one of the state agencies or tenant rights groups before you just try to fly blind on your own. Having the text that says, "These colors are fine" though pretty much is proof that the landlord approved the paint job. Also check your lease carefully to see what the terms and conditions were though even there they could have written things in that are actually illegal. Do yourself some research, arm yourself with your rights first, then decide how to proceed. Good idea on reporting the landlord regardless for code violations since a slumlord is still a slumlord and regardless of whether you get your money back at least you may save someone else from the same hellish experience. Good luck.

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That is what my boyfriend said. There was only one meter as well. Which is one reason why I thought they would just send the check. If it was illegal though, does that mean I automatically would win?


That would be a question to ask an attorney. However if the apartment was not up to code or illegal, I'm sure they would have a lot to answer to.

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I think you need to file this in small claims court. You have all the texts ( thk god) to prove the landlord approved you painting the apt. Also the text from your neighbor regarding her illegally entering your apt without prior written notice! That is illegal Im sure NY is pretty much the same as California so I think you have a strong case!

I wouldnt even bring up the neighbors or noice level becaus you might need them to write a notorized statement regarding the landlord entering your apt which will totally help you in court. Plus, it will look like your just bringing this up because you didnt receive all of your deposit back.

As for the mold I had a very simular situation if you want to PM I will tell you about my experience.

Good luck you have a good chance of getting your money back

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Thank you everyone. I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to call the court tomorrow and see what I need to do. My boyfriend doesn't want to be bothered. He said it is just 950, and to let it go.


I guess i am more stubborn lol. We have a baby on the way so every penny counts, plus it's not right what they did. It's the whole moral of it.

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*******s like this are mainly blowhards. You get photos of EVERYTHING, including sewage and sump pump and then you neglect to pay your last months rent. Then just move!!!! You had a worse case scenario situation and it's really a bad thing to deal with. Giving them so much for a rent deposit on a bad apt is simply a waste of cash. Unless you get a housing attorney you won't usually get it back. So sorry this happened to you! But you should have moved at the first unauthorized trespass.



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  • 1 month later...

When you do file, you will be asked to state the dollar amount of your damages, which you can itemize out. Definitely include not only the rent, paint, damaged clothes, and vet bills, but also the legal costs for filing (a lot of people neglect to ask for their filing fees to be reimbursed, and therefore don't get it). You can even ask for punitive damages. Basically ask for EVERYTHING and expect to get SOME of it --- but if you don't ask for it, you'll never know.


When you file, you will choose a method for serving them. The methods of service vary by state. I know in MI, we have the option of having the court send them a registered letter, or having the court send an officer out to personally serve them. In a case like yours, I would suggest sending the officer - just for the intimidation factor. If they know the apartment is not up to code, they will be more inclined to settle with you outside of court for the amount you originally asked for versus go to court with it.


Also, I am confident you would win on at least a portion of the claims. After you win, the challenge is collecting on the judgment. You are dealing with a landlord who does not want you to have the money - maybe because they like money, but also out of spite. If you win and they do not pay up, the next step is taking it to collections, which will require a discovery process. You will need landlord's banking information (so get the copies of your voided checks so you can see what bank they deposited them at) if you want the court to order collection from their bank accounts. You will need to know their place of employment if you want to garnish their wages. You will need tax information on them if you want to collect from their tax returns. You can also do a garnishment of property. This is a fun one. I sued a company that was supposed to provide me with lawn mowing and snow plowing services, but neglected to do so. The court sent a company to take their equipment and sell it at auction, reimbursing me for my damages. I guess I just felt this was my version of vigilante justice.


Even if you don't win much, just have fun with it!

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I am a landlord in New York State.

First of all, it sounds like you did everything right.


What I suggest is:


1. Have a copy of the lease

2. Do you have any written documentation about the painting job that you did, and that it was okay with the landlord? OR, does it specify in the lease that it is okay to paint?

3. Text messages aren't really admissable in court...unless they are official, but you can try. Small claims court is a little different and they might be admissable.


Send me a message so we can talk. Maybe we can figure something out.


Thank you!


Well, I live in New York. I would take it to small claims court. I don't think you can use a lawyer in small claims? Even if I could, I wouldn't use one since it's not a huge amount of money.


I do have a text from my landlord approving the paint color, as well as a lot of texts from the girl upstairs and my landlord about the leaks, mold and harassment.


I would basically just pay $100 and take it to court myself. I just don't know if I have a good chance of winning, and how it really works.

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