A few days ago the ceiling in the living room of my apartment collapsed. I live with roommates and we all rent month-to-month. The roommate who has been here longest collects our rent checks and writes a single check himself to the landlady, who lives in the building and is 83 years old.
The collapse was during some especially rainy days, and my room, off the living room, was the most directly affected. When I say collapsed, I don’t mean a little bit of plaster. I mean huge chunks of stucco that shook the wooden floors when they fell. Left a hole of about four feet. Could have very seriously injured someone, and I am not exaggerating on this point. I was home alone. I collected my landlady and my roommates within the hour, and then we were all there to witness how a second huge chunk came crashing down. This was about 6 pm, and the landlady called the maintenance guy she uses for the building. At about 9 pm he arrived to say that he could do nothing that night and that whoever was living in the room off the living room (that would be me) should sleep elsewhere. The landlady refused to put me up in a hotel and since I had nowhere else to go, I camped out in my own room, stepping over the rubble.
There had been water marks in the living room stucco ceiling even before I moved in (about 3 months prior). Within a couple of days of this collapse, my roommates reported that two other rooms in the apartment were experiencing leaks. The landlord apparently knew that these leaks existed (a couple of us are quite new to the apartment) and had done nothing about them. I have heard tell that there had been some issues with the roof when the previous tenants were here, but it seems that the modus operandi of this landlord is to do as little as possible in such circumstances. All indications would suggest that the living room ceiling collapsing is also due to the obviously badly leaky roof. My landlady wants to claim absurdities like: the ceiling collapsed because someone had drilled a hole to install a light fixture (this can’t possibly be the reason, as the light fixture had been installed for many months before the collapse). She has denied the wooden beams underneath the stucco being wet so forcefully and repeatedly, even before anyone suggested this, that it has to make you wonder.
They’ve since slapped on some sheet rock to cover the moldy, wet beams. I don’t care to think about what’s really under there or how long it will be before we see more rot or collapse. As background: this building is filthy and decrepit in every way. The bathroom tiles are falling out, exposing swatches of years-old moldy gunk underneath. No one had taken a vacuum cleaner to the stairwell in years, until I very recently and very loudly complained about it. There is simply NO maintenance of this building, period. In addition, my landlady’s dealings with me are clearly in bad faith. She has often, and absurdly, denied problems which I can plainly see with my own eyes. â€œI don’t see a water stain thereâ€ she answers when it is pointed out to her. Come on!
Clearly I need to move out and quickly. Clearly, I have little faith that issues can be negotiated as though among reasonable adults. My question is: do I actually have to have had a piece of stucco fall on my head in order for the danger to my health and safety to be eminently clear? I feel that some serious abuse is going on here and would like for the landlord, at minimum, to acknowledge the ordeal of the past days by paying my moving expenses to a new place. An inspector came by to see the premises at the stage in the disaster when workers had already scraped off the entire stucco ceiling and left the naked beams above. The landlord was issued a class B violation , and now, as a result, the workers slapped on this layer of sheet rock. Ostensibly, this is supposed to fix the problem and get the inspector to go away.
What I’d like is for the landlord to pay the broker’s fee for my finding a new apartment and the cost of hiring a truck to move my things, so about $3000. Does anyone have any advice for how to achieve this? I’m a pragmatist and would just like to find a way of negotiating my exit out of this nightmare. Clearly the landlord and her family have no intention of paying anything unless they feel some greater financial threat. Advice?