Harlem Tenants Fight Landlord Who Allegedly Won’t Make Repairs

The New York Daily News reports three Harlem residents were sued for $4.25 million for defamation and interference for their complaints to politicians about their building’s poor construction and repairs.

Madison Park Development Associates says the three 1831 Madison Ave. residents gave false information in a 2012 letter to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and politicians.

What should you do if you’re in a situation where your apartment really needs repairs, and you’re not getting cooperation? If you’re in a situation where your landlord won’t make needed repairs, and your living quarters have become uninhabitable, there are a few things you can do.

RELATED: It Pays to be a Landlord

NOLO, a legal information website, says you can do the following:

– Call your state or local building or health inspectors.
– Withhold the rent.
– Repair the problem, or have it repaired by a professional, and deduct the cost from your rent (called “repair-and-deduct”)
– Move out, or
– Pay the rent and then sue the landlord for the difference between the rent you paid and the value of the defective premises.

However, NOLO warns that you should only use these methods after you’ve exhausted all of your other options and one of these conditions is met:

The repair is major. Says NOLO: “The problem must be serious, not just annoying, and must imperil your health or safety.”
You’re not at fault. If you are at fault, taking drastic measures won’t cut it.
You followed state rules while notifying your landlord. Make sure to check your state’s law for the notification requirements.
You are current with your rent. NOLO reports that most rent withholding laws will not allow you to you withhold rent if you are behind or you have violated a significant lease clause.
You’re willing to risk termination of your tenancy. Not all states prohibit your landlord from retaliating against you.

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