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Joe vs. the Landlord….or “How to beat your landlord in court for fifty bucks”

This is quite possibly going to be the second most ridiculous thing I’ve ever posted.

(The first being last year’s expose on the clown that is Graig F. Weich and the resulting stupidity that followed from his multiple personality disorder defense of himself, including a pseudo-threat sent from a masked computer after I’d exposed his IP posting scam…but that’s another story)

Strap in, everybody. This is going to be long, but worth it...I hope.

The management company that handles my apartment complex is comically incompetent. We’re talking people on life support because there’s no brain activity levels of stupid. People who are unqualified to flip burgers at Wendy's. That bad.

By way of example: after moving in here five years ago, we were given a rent credit because of a previously successful lawsuit against the company over the lack of the promised guard at the security desk which was supposed to be manned 24/7. Cut to New Year’s Eve when a city marshal showed up claiming we were being evicted for non-payment of rent. After going to court and providing both the company’s invoices and copies of the cashed checks their lawyer, with much egg on his face, informed me the complaint was withdrawn and all was well.

So. Last October there was a massive leak in the kitchen of my apartment. The story I was told by the guy upstairs was that he’d had a water pipe replaced and the contractor used a plastic fastener instead of a metal one. Pipe bursts, floods my kitchen and soaks everything. By the time the water was turned off there was two inches of nature's soda on the floor and every cabinet was saturated.

The next day my silverware drawer fell apart in my hand. Literally. Like I pulled it out and the whole thing broke apart like the Bluesmobile at the end of The Blues Brothers. The manager for the property and the super both showed up after a very angry call from me, inspected the damage and assured me it would be handled within a week.

Three weeks later, the super had successfully dodged three phone calls asking for a status. I called the manager and was told he wasn’t a point of contact and to deal with the super. When I told him the super wasn’t answering his phone, he told me to keep calling the super and not to bother him with this again. Okay.

Over the next four months the super ignored my calls. He was never in his office. In the meanwhile, the hinges for my cabinets rusted. The doors sagged and bulged, having been thoroughly soaked and warped. They stopped closing. Shelves started to buckle and crack. I ran into him right before Easter and he told me we would be getting new cabinets. He’d come up and measure and get things moving. Then he disappeared again.

At a tenant meeting in late April I brought this up to the tenant lawyer, who gave me the name of a higher up to escalate this issue to.

“And if that doesn’t do anything you’ll file an HP action. A judge will review the case and if he decides they need to be replaced he’ll order the building to do it and probably force a rent reduction until they comply.”


So in May I sent a letter asking for help before I made this a legal issue.

A month later the super shows up and measures for the new cabinets, telling me they’d be ready “in July.”

At the same time, the contact info in the lobby changed, removing the super’s phone number and replacing it with an email address.

In July I decided to email the account asking for an update. No response.

I sent another a day later. No response.

I sent a third. That begat a voicemail in something approximating English telling me the cabinets would be ready “in a couple of weeks.”

Cue August. My silverware has been sitting on the kitchen table for ten months. The cabinets had been cleared out because of fears the shelves would collapse if a fly sneezed on them. I emailed the maintenance account again for an update. Nothing.

The next day my wife was approached by one of the maintenance workers telling her the cabinets were in and could be replaced next week. I emailed the account to nail down a timeframe since it could be a long project.

One to two hours, I was told. That's it? How can all that work be done so fast?

Because they were replacing the kitchen sink cabinets. The ones where the drawer had collapsed. The other ones? The ones the super had looked at in June? The ones that were bare of dishes and barware and showing cracks and bulges?

Those were fine. No need to replace.

I scheduled the cabinets to be replaced on Thursday. Because something is better than nothing. Then I called the building manager. I got his assistant and left her a detailed message asking for a call back.

Now this guy is notoriously difficult to get hold of. Example: a couple of years ago, in the middle of October, we had one of those cold spells on a weekend in the middle of the month. Instead of the heat being turned on as of October 1st, we spent the weekend wearing coats and gloves because it was ice cold inside the apartment. The super didn’t answer his phone, the manager didn’t answer his phone, and building residents gathered in the hallways trying to figure out who was the next escalation point before everyone froze to death.

I took to Google, and managed to track down a landline for the manager that turned out to be his mother’s apartment in Alphabet City. That finally got his attention.

“Don’t call my mother again. Call my cell.”

“I did. Eleven times. You didn’t answer.”

“I would have called you back.”

“I called you Saturday morning. It’s now six o'clock on Sunday night. When were you going to call me back?”

“Still. Don’t call here again or else…”

“Or else what? We won’t have heat? Here’s how you do a threat. Turn the heat on because I know the address associated with this phone number.”

The heat was turned on a couple of hours later.

But I digress.

So he never calls back regarding the cabinets. The maintenance guys show up to install the new ones and take one look at the existing cabinets that aren’t being replaced and shake their heads.

“That’s some straight up bullshit, these things gotta go,” said one.

The super showed up too. I pointed out the cabinets they weren’t replacing.

“We no can replace. Denis say no. Denis say they fine.”

(Denis is the building manager.)

I tell the super I’m going to call him about this again. The super laughs.

“He no answer. I call twice. Leave message. He no call me.”

I called anyway. Left a message. Explained the situation was unacceptable and if I didn’t hear from him by the end of the day this would become a legal issue.

Of course he never responded.

So of course the next day I wound up at 141 Livingston Street to file an HP action. I spent an hour in a waiting room populated with people who made the room look like the cantina scene from Star Wars.

Eventually my number was called, I filled out some paperwork, had a judge sign off, and paid forty-five bucks to have it processed and was given a confirmation date of the following Friday for a city inspector to review the cabinets.

The woman at the window handed me back two copies of the paperwork with this instruction:

“Now make sure this is sent to the building management firm with a return receipt and a delivery confirmation. You need to show that to the judge on the day of the court hearing.”

This was the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Oh the joy this was going to be.

The paperwork was mailed out on Friday afternoon and confirmed delivered on Tuesday.

On Wednesday the building manager showed up and asked my wife if he could come in to take pictures. Having anticipated this, I left one simple instruction to be relayed to him:

“My husband asked that you not come into the apartment until after 5:30 when he’s home because he wants to be present while you’re in the apartment.”

The manager didn’t like that answer.

“I just want to take pictures.”

“We have pictures. Come back after 5:30.”

He didn’t.

The inspector showed up on Friday, took one look at the cabinets and said “Oh hell yeah. These need to be replaced. This is awful. But it’s how this company works, I’ve done a lot of inspections here.”

I showed him the photos we’d taken of the cabinets and the pockets of water hanging from the ceiling that started this mess.

“Show these to the judge, this is a no-brainer,” he said, wishing me good luck.

Ten days later I had my day in court. That was earlier today.

I showed up with copies of the court papers, the letter sent to the management company outlining the problems, the emails between myself and the super, and, most importantly, a binder purchased from Staples for two bucks filled with photo pages that cost less than a dollar total. Inside those photo pages were the pictures I’d ordered from Shutterfly that cost me three dollars in shipping and nothing else; as a first time customer I was entitled to fifty pictures free.

The tally:

$45  - HP action filing

$3 – picture shipping

$3 – binder plus photo pages

Okay, it’s $51. Plus cost of a metro card in both directions. Sue me.

Anyway. I spent an hour sitting in court doing nothing because justice is a slow moving thing that has little, if anything, to do with a disobedient whale.

During that time I watched a Russian woman demand justice using only the words of English she spoke: NO, YES, and CLEAN BEDBUGS, along with a tenant/landlord dispute where the tenant was accused of throwing feces and urine on a neighbor’s door, an accusation that almost started a fight.

Finally, mercifully, I get called in to meet with the building’s lawyer.  The same douche nozzle I fought with two years ago. The building is not contesting anything I say and ask for a date to come measure for the new cabinets. The clerk is taking notes and arranging the details.

The catch: my pal from the city only put down a violation for one set of cabinets. I’ll need to file a new action for the others. Fine. I don’t mind a fight.

Once we set a measurement date I start peppering the lawyer with digs at his client.

“Your client really likes sending you here unprepared, don’t they?”

“Last time I had a confirmed date for having the cabinets measured was March 29th. The guy showed up on June 15th. Think this time will be quicker?”

When he asks for 30 days or more to get the cabinets replaced, even the clerk knew enough to call bullshit.

From here on out, I’ll refer to their lawyer as Asshole McGee. Because you’ll see why.

Clerk: “This is a class B. It has to be resolved within thirty days of today. October 16th.”

Asshole McGee: “Bullshit. No. That’s not enough time.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s only taken eleven months to get this far. Let’s not rush them or anything.”

Clerk: “The thirtieth or thirty-first of October is not acceptable.”

Asshole McGee: “We need time to measure.”

Me: “They were already measured in June.”

Asshole McGee: “I don’t know who did it. Maybe he doesn’t work there anymore.”

Me: “The super measured. His name is ***** ***. As of today he’s still the super. Try again.”

Clerk: “So the sixteenth?”

Asshole McGee proceeds to grab his bag and storm out, loudly proclaiming he had to call his client and would get his thirty days. I didn’t know from where and the clerk was shocked.

“I know he’s an asshole but I’ve never seen him be that much of an asshole.”

I laughed and told her of our backstory. Of how he’d been made to look foolish last time I was in court against the building. That got a laugh from the other clerk.

Unfortunately, his temper tantrum and departure without signing an agreement meant I had to wait. And wait. And wait.

Finally, another lawyer showed up in his place. Asshole McGee requested he take over because he “had to go.”


So an agreement is in place: measure on the first and replace by the twenty-fifth. Otherwise they get penalized to the tune of whatever rent reduction the judge orders.

My expectation: I’ll be back in court on the second, pointing out that they no-showed on the first. But we'll see.

At least I made a lawyer so mad he had to leave the building. Pyrrhic victories are still victories.


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