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Woman Lives In Spacious Brooklyn Loft Rent-Free For Past Six Years
cbslocal ^ | June 8, 2012

Posted on 06/14/2012 7:56:50 AM PDT by JoeProBono

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – How would you like to not pay your rent, year after year, and get away with it?

A Brooklyn woman has done just that for the past six years.

Artist Margaret Maugenest, 60, stopped paying rent for several years, but instead of getting evicted, the state’s highest court said she was justified, CBS 2′s John Slattery reported.

“Yeah, I feel very good about that, John. I feel very relieved,” Maugenest told Slattery.

Since 1984, Maugenest has lived in a loft — a converted manufacturing building on Nevins Street in Gowanus – with rent of less than 600 a month.

Several years ago, however, Maugenest began withholding rent because over no maintenance and safety concerns.

“The wooden pillars in the basement were rotting,” Maugenest said.

Under the city’s 1982 Loft Law, former commercial buildings could be rented to residential tenants if safety issues were met. But this tenant says a gas leak in the building wasn’t fixed — it was just shut off.

“We didn’t have gas for about a year-and-a-half,” Maugenest said. “That meant I couldn’t cook.”

She also said she had no hot water.

After six years of non-payment with the landlord trying to evict her, she was forced to pay 2 1/2 years of court-ordered rent. The landlord won two lower rulings, but now, the state’s highest court said that since the landlord missed deadlines for building improvement, there’s no eviction, and back rent can’t be collected.

The landlord’s lawyer, David Berger, counsel for Chazon LLC, citing an overburdened Loft Board, said, “”The result is that the tenant may live rent free in a very large apartment, that she obviously feels safe in, under the guise that she is just trying to get the Landlord to make her apartment safe, with no end or limit.”

Maugenest gets to keep the back rent for the past 6 1/2 years which amounts to roughly $35,000.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Cheese, Moose, Sister; Chit/Chat; Society
KEYWORDS: apartment; brooklyn; buildingcode; contractlaw; rent; slum; slumlord
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1 posted on 06/14/2012 7:56:56 AM PDT by JoeProBono
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To: JoeProBono

It’s amazing what people can rationalize.


2 posted on 06/14/2012 8:05:33 AM PDT by andyk (Go Juan Pablo!)
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To: andyk
Rent control is an abomination ~ so are the alternatives in high density urban areas.

I suppose the problems there could be resolved with requirements that all leases be for 20 year minimum periods, but that's not the issue here.

This is a BUILDING CODE ISSUE. The landlord agreed to "maintenance" in order to get occupancy permits so he could rent his space to people to live in ~ remember, even New York has its standards, minimal though they may be, but they got 'em and he agreed to it.

He didn't keep up his end of the bargain ~ he violated the terms of the contract ~ he loses.

She lived in a crummy dump of an apartment for free.

I have no problem with that outcome at all. You sign an agreement with someone (he with the zoning folks) you should abide by it or GIT OUT THE BIZNESS

3 posted on 06/14/2012 8:14:30 AM PDT by muawiyah
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: JoeProBono

“Artist Margaret Maugenest, 60”

Another 1 of those, eh? Based on the story, the LL was not able to fix/replace what the tenant asked for, ending up in this mess.


5 posted on 06/14/2012 8:18:07 AM PDT by max americana
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To: muawiyah

pretty much what you said. Although the apartment doesn’t look like a crummy dump by Brooklyn standards.


6 posted on 06/14/2012 8:18:38 AM PDT by babble-on
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To: andyk

Yeah, that woman had some nerve to expect the landlord to provide gas and hot water in her apartment in a building that isn’t on the verge of collapse.


7 posted on 06/14/2012 8:18:42 AM PDT by Fresh Wind ('People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.' Richard M. Nixon)
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To: andyk

I actually side with her (so far). No gas? No hot water? Sounds like the textbook slum lord.


8 posted on 06/14/2012 8:19:36 AM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: MrEdd

A $600/month rent? In NYC....I don’t hardly see how the LL is ‘bum’....any way you look at it ‘value’ is ‘value’ and a $600/month rent has to assume some inconveniences. Automatically assuming that a landlord is assuming the tenant cannot fight it legally is absurd - she did, and with the legal mentality in NYC, she won.

Rent control is socialism, just like progressive income taxes. If you can’t see that, then I don’t know what to tell you. I sure as hell wouldn’t rent anything I own to you.


9 posted on 06/14/2012 8:22:06 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: JoeProBono

No hot water? She never showers?


10 posted on 06/14/2012 8:26:41 AM PDT by DonkeyBonker
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To: babble-on
She said there's some rotting support members ~ New York is pretty rough on all kinds of support members. I recall going with a survey team down in the bowels of the Farley Station in NYC (a postal facility). The stray electric current from the various electrified rail systems there was sufficient to have helped corrode away the base on steel girders! The whole huge heaping building was no longer tied to the bedrock!

We responded to that problem by making plans for other, newer, better buildings to move to ~ one of which was the New York Bulk and Foreign Facility. They pushed some pilings down too deep and tapped NATURAL GAS. That required spending $60 million on gigantic fans to blow the gas out from under the half billion dollar structure so it was safe to work in.

Just all sorts of things happen around there.

BTW, by Brooklyn standards her apartment looks great ~ it has a ceiling, fire safety system (those water pipes), windows ~ I know a young lady who's a friend of the family who lived for 8 or 9 months in an INTERIOR room that'd formerly been the hallway entrance for half a dozen other one room apartments. No airflow, no heat, no cooling, no independent control of the lights, and so forth. New York thought that was just great.

11 posted on 06/14/2012 8:27:32 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: JoeProBono

Here in Indiana one has to actually move out of the premesis in order to use landlord non-compliance as an excuse not to pay your rent. You either leave or you owe the rent. (less any monetary damages)


12 posted on 06/14/2012 8:27:40 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: MrEdd

In a Free Market, I’m with you 100%.

However, this is NOT a free market. Rent Controls dictate that the apartment goes for less than $600, when it’s entirely possible that the property taxes on that apartment are that much. There is no money for the landlord to pay to maintain his building. Certainly you don’t think the landlord should be forced to pay money from his pocket, to enable someone to live in the building.

In a FREE Market, the rent would be placed at market value, by the sq. ft. plus ammenities. There would be ample profit for the landlord to hire a maintenance person/team to oversee repairs.

As such, the Landlord is held hostage to getting “something” out of his building, or giving it to the city for failing to pay taxes.

I blame “Rent Control” bought to us all by the “Rent is too damn High” party.


13 posted on 06/14/2012 8:28:58 AM PDT by Hodar (Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.- A. Schopenhauer)
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To: JoeProBono

I remember when I was in college, my cheap landlord didn’t turn on the heat until November 1. I live in Minnesota too!


14 posted on 06/14/2012 8:34:04 AM PDT by MNDude ( Victimhood is the Holy Grail of liberalism)
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To: Gaffer
I really can not find it in myself to care in any way shape or form what some idiot who thinks no gas or hot water (in a city that gets to thirteen below zero in winter) thinks about anything.

As to renting to me, it wouldn't matter who your tenant was, any non corrupt judge like the one in this story is going to have you not receiving rent if you pull the stupid crap the landlord in this story pulled.

You personally are expressing your basic distaste for the very concept of reciprocal responsibility. It doesn't work that way.

I suggest a different policy than the one you espouse: If you don't intend to fulfill your end of an agreement, don't enter into one. Clearly that would be an entirely new concept for you, but you should try it anyway.

15 posted on 06/14/2012 8:36:35 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: Gaffer
Rent control is socialism, just like progressive income taxes. If you can’t see that, then I don’t know what to tell you. I sure as hell wouldn’t rent anything I own to you.

What does this have to do with rent control?

16 posted on 06/14/2012 8:38:17 AM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
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To: andyk

Yeah, rotting wood and no gas for 1 1/2yr, what is she thinking?


17 posted on 06/14/2012 8:39:46 AM PDT by stuartcr ("When silence speaks, it speaks only to those that have already decided what they want to hear.")
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To: muawiyah

“You sign an agreement with someone”

that they were forced to sign via government guns. Walter Williams’ article was spot on the other day. Fascism is when the government can force property owners to take certain actions and then they can blame the property owner for the problems that are caused.....


18 posted on 06/14/2012 8:39:49 AM PDT by CSM (Keeper of the Dave Ramsey Ping list. FReepmail me if you want your beeber stuned.)
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To: Conscience of a Conservative

Okay...have a nice day...


19 posted on 06/14/2012 8:40:57 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: MrEdd

You get what you pay for.


20 posted on 06/14/2012 8:42:49 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: JoeProBono

Artist = bum


21 posted on 06/14/2012 8:43:33 AM PDT by Greystoke
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To: MrEdd

“I really can not find it in myself to care in any way shape or form what some idiot who thinks no gas or hot water (in a city that gets to thirteen below zero in winter) thinks about anything.”

Yep, it was so bad she could barely survive SIX years of it!


22 posted on 06/14/2012 8:45:54 AM PDT by CSM (Keeper of the Dave Ramsey Ping list. FReepmail me if you want your beeber stuned.)
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To: muawiyah
BTW, by Brooklyn standards her apartment looks great ~ it has a ceiling, fire safety system (those water pipes), windows ~ I know a young lady who's a friend of the family who lived for 8 or 9 months in an INTERIOR room that'd formerly been the hallway entrance for half a dozen other one room apartments. No airflow, no heat, no cooling, no independent control of the lights, and so forth. New York thought that was just great.

According to the New York City housing code, windowless rooms can can't technically be classified as a bedroom (although, of course, people flout that rule all the time).

23 posted on 06/14/2012 8:49:35 AM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
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To: Gaffer
I understand that the rent is very reasonable, even given that the rent started in 1984 when the tenant moved into the loft.

That being said, The law states that the owner/landlord is required to do repair on the building. A building without gas and with structural damage is the responsibility of the landlord to repair. If he is unable to repair the damage himself, he should hire someone to repair building for his tenants.

She not only had the right to with hold the rent, she had a responsibility to do so in order to force the landlord to remedy the situation. If the landlord can afford a lawyer for several years of litigation, he could afford to repair the building and maintain adequate facilities for the rent he agreed upon.

24 posted on 06/14/2012 8:52:48 AM PDT by Jim from C-Town (The government is rarely benevolent, often malevolent and never benign!)
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To: JoeProBono

So if you are living in an apartment that you say has rotting structures and no heat/hot water, wouldn’t these be serious code violations that would cause the city of NY to make you leave the building for your own safety?


25 posted on 06/14/2012 8:54:49 AM PDT by mom.mom
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To: Gaffer
Okay...have a nice day...

There is no indication that this apartment is rent controlled. In fact, according to the article, this woman moved into the apartment in 1984, which means that the apartment can't be rent controlled (in NYC, rent control only applies when an occupant has lived continuously in the apartment since 1970 or 1971).

26 posted on 06/14/2012 8:56:30 AM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
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To: MrEdd
"I really can not find it in myself to care in any way shape or form what some idiot who thinks no gas or hot water (in a city that gets to thirteen below zero in winter) thinks about anything."

The health department should have moved her out long ago and declared the place inhabitable.

27 posted on 06/14/2012 8:56:40 AM PDT by Baynative (REMEMBER: Without America there is no free world!)
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To: Jim from C-Town

And I maintain, that her withholding of the rent was a forced continuation of a rental agreement that likely would not have been renewed had her withholding action not been in force. So in my mind, her rent may have been reasonable in 1984, but nowhere near reasonable in 2012. She had no right to expect to continue to pay that price. She evidently talked to a smart lawyer who told her what to do.


28 posted on 06/14/2012 8:56:40 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: Conscience of a Conservative

It was defacto rent controlled by her action of withholding rent for defects and non-maintenance. Had this not been the case, the LL would have been increasing the rent but likely could not because of her action.


29 posted on 06/14/2012 8:58:46 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: JoeProBono
Maugenest gets to keep the back rent for the past 6 1/2 years which amounts to roughly $35,000.

Are you kidding me? That amounts to $448.72 per MONTH! For a loft?!!! In NYC?!!!!!

I paid twice that for a 900 sf. apartment in central New Jersey 18 years ago.

Rent control is absolultely criminal. She should be paying that rent every month with a big fat smile on her stupid face.

30 posted on 06/14/2012 9:00:49 AM PDT by Sicon ("All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." - G. Orwell)
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To: Gaffer

And the slumlord got what they paid for. They didn’t bother to maintain the building, so the government didn’t bother to collect back rent through the power of the state.

What went around, came back around.


31 posted on 06/14/2012 9:03:36 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: MrEdd

Have it your way, then....I’d have evicted her the first month she didn’t pay rent....wait, she probably didn’t pay the rent, and added the diminished living conditions on advice of her scumbag lawyer.....if you can honestly tell me $600/month in 2012 for what looks like at least over 1000 square feet, even in the Bronx, isn’t a steal, then I’ll shut up. You don’t live somewhere for two decades because you like living like a caveman (according to her).


32 posted on 06/14/2012 9:07:45 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: Gaffer
Apparently she started with holding rent only after problems occurred and repairs not done. This is what the court believed and I also believe it.

Had the landlord addressed and corrected the p[problems, she would have been forced to make restitution in the form of back rent and interest. As is the case, the landlord was forced to accept zero rent for several years totaling 35K as restitution to the renter of the property. He has also been orderred to correct any problems.

She used the only recourse available to her, with holding rent. That is a moral and legal way to handle a reluctant landlord in almost any area of the country.

33 posted on 06/14/2012 9:20:40 AM PDT by Jim from C-Town (The government is rarely benevolent, often malevolent and never benign!)
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To: CSM
Hmm ~ Walter doesn't argue against the legitimacy of covenants, nor of land use regulation through zoning, in highly congested urban areas.

In fact, he'd probably agree that if you want to have residential and industrial properties butt up against each other there probably ought to be some agreed upon rules for doing that.

You might ask him next time you see him.

In this case we had a change of use from industrial to residential. The guy got the zoning to agree to the change and he prepared the property for rental to residential occupants.

NYC does not now nor has it ever allowed folks to just throw up what they wanted to throw up ~ and I mean EVER. When they built the Wall at Wall Street if you wanted to live North of the Wall they wouldn't come to help you when the Indians attacked. So everybody lived South of the Wall.

So, that's New York City. They can and do deny services, and zoning, unless you agree to certain stipulations ~ one is that you make your building safe ~ they don't want them simply falling over like urban ruins in an ancient abandoned city. That damages your neighbor's property rights for one thing, and it might kill someone. Better a little safety now than a dead guy's heirs calling for your head eh! I think even Walter would end up on my side in any debate about building codes ~ as would virtually all building owners.

Ever been to New York City? When you go think about how the owner of one of those buildings would feel if the city let the guy next door mismanage his building and it fell down into your building.

Now, out in East Central Oklahoma, there's plenty of land so you could put these things up all over the place a half mile apart and nobody would care, probably not even if one of them fell over. As long as it didn't scare the livestock that'd be OK.

As much as some people would like, you can't have a large city like New York City that runs in a state of nature. You must have the rule of law ~ and some rather precise zoning and land use controls. They already went through those days and had horse manure piled up in the streets such that wagons were difficult to draw and people wore mufflers to avoid choking on the dust.

This guy agreed to do business in New York City according to their laws. He violated the law. He should not profit from that.

34 posted on 06/14/2012 9:20:54 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Jim from C-Town

I’m done with this. Not worth arguing about.


35 posted on 06/14/2012 9:22:19 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: MrEdd
Yes, great point. She didn't sue the slumlord. He went to court and asked the government to send out some jack booted thugs to take her money away and give it to him.

He sue screwed up this time didn't he.

36 posted on 06/14/2012 9:23:37 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: DonkeyBonker
Spent a good long time in Germany at a US Army base and we usually didn't have hot water ~ but we showered anyway ~ in cold water.

You get used to it.

37 posted on 06/14/2012 9:26:48 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: JoeProBono

My uncle rented out half of his duplex in Pittsburgh to a couple who just quit paying their rent. When he moved to evict them Family Legal Aid gave them a free attorney (my uncle had to pay for his). This dragged on and on and they ended up living there close to 2 years for free. Eventually they moved out voluntarily and for other reasons...the legal system made no effort to force them to go. And they never paid the back rent or utilities.

After regaining control of the place my uncle found evidence of massive drug activities going on in there. Oh, and the deadbeat family had some ties to a Democrat member of the City Council. I’m sure that did not help matters.


38 posted on 06/14/2012 9:27:31 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: circlecity
Sometimes it's not that easy ~ the elderly, handicapped, sick and so on will need public assistance of some kind to make good on the deal.

I grew up in Indiana and I've seen more than my fair share of rental trailers that just burned down after the tenant moved out.

All in all that standard is just a scam to fool the insurance companies.

39 posted on 06/14/2012 9:30:33 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Hodar
In NYC not every apartment is rent controlled. You have to meet some standards to qualify (yes, there are advantages to it ~ turns your building into a sort of blue chip bond with a guaranteed income ~ nobody moves in, nobody moves out ~ ask Charley Rangel) and you make your profit on the deductible depreciation you get against the costs incurred providing higher rent commercial space elsewhere.

I suspect this loft was rented at an above market rate!

40 posted on 06/14/2012 9:35:28 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah
"All in all that standard is just a scam to fool the insurance companies."

Call it what you want but it's the law in Indiana. One must vacate the premises to maintain a claim of constructive eviction.

41 posted on 06/14/2012 9:38:51 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: Gaffer
BTW, the lady did not win in NY courts ~ she lost twice before she won at the highest appellate level (they have a court higher than their supreme court BTW).

I say a deal is a deal and this landlord should be expected to live up to the deal.

42 posted on 06/14/2012 9:38:55 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Conscience of a Conservative
This is UBC. Failure to update their campus buildings to meet modern standards left several dozen students trapped inside a bulding with a madman with a gun at VaTech.

He frustrated the front door closure mechanisms with nothing more than a chain (prohibited under UBC) and the cops were delayed in getting into the bulding to save the students.

UBC is always something to check out to see what more you need to do.

43 posted on 06/14/2012 9:49:37 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: DonkeyBonker

Metal pans! A tea kettle? Put kettle on stove, bring to a boil, pour hot water in pan. Add cold water to desired temperature. Take washcloth and a little soap. Wash up.

There was a time not so long ago when that was all we had. Then once every week or two, we had a large galvanized tub where we enlarged on the smaller metal pan/tea kettle method.

Yep. Times wuz hard.


44 posted on 06/14/2012 9:57:10 AM PDT by Twinkie (Isaiah 53)
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To: Conscience of a Conservative

Yes but you can pass on a rent-controlled apartment to someone else (family, friend, or person who wants to pay you a bunch to get a rent-controlled apartment) and fulfill that requirement.


45 posted on 06/14/2012 9:58:47 AM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I can neither confirm or deny that; even if I could, I couldn't - it's classified.)
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To: Sicon
This is Brooklyn, not Central New Jersey. What they do in Jersey stays in Jersey (as far as NYC is concerned).

Market conditions in the region are different in the many sub-markets.

46 posted on 06/14/2012 10:07:53 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Buckeye McFrog

That’s Pittsburgh.


47 posted on 06/14/2012 10:13:45 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: JoeProBono

The LL didn’t live up to the terms of the contract, but she’s a stinky, out of work artist. Artists are always libs. For that reason alone, I’m positive that she’s full of BS. So I side with the LL.


48 posted on 06/14/2012 10:20:09 AM PDT by albie
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To: Gaffer

She paid the rent up until several months after the building ceased to be maintained. So in her market, no you wouldn’t. It sucks to be you in a municipality where compliance with your obligations is a prerequisite for legal standing in a dispute of this type.


49 posted on 06/14/2012 10:20:44 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: Gaffer
It was defacto rent controlled by her action of withholding rent for defects and non-maintenance. Had this not been the case, the LL would have been increasing the rent but likely could not because of her action.

The LL apparently had not increased the rent between 1984 and 2003, when the tenant started withholding rent. No reason to think the LL would have started increasing rent after that, and there's no suggestion that the LL attempted to do so.

Are you suggesting that the tenant should have been required to continue paying rent, but that the LL should NOT have been required to perform necessary maintenance and repairs? If not, how else would you ensure that the LL does the maintenance/repairs?

50 posted on 06/14/2012 10:20:59 AM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
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