Landlords Pay $415,000 For Renting Squalid Apartment

PREMISES LIABILITY SETTLEMENT REPORT – INTERFERENCE WITH QUIET ENJOYMENT, FAILURE TO MAINTAIN HABITABLE APARTMENT, UNFAIR AND DECEPTIVE BUSINESS PRACTICES, NEGLIGENCE

In this case, a group of developers, landlords and property managers rented a squalid apartment in a large complex to our clients, a mother and her teenage son.

Shortly after renting the apartment, the landlords and developers began a condo conversion project that involved the demolition and renovation of over 200 apartments. Noise pollution in the tenants’ unit caused one of the tenants to suffer hearing damage. Crews hired by the developers created deafening noise for 10-12 hours a day with heavy equipment, huge cranes, jackhammers, electrical saws, grinders and other construction and demolition activities. The demolition activities, which included the removal of asbestos and lead paint, caused a constant dust problem. The landlords were repeatedly cited by the housing inspector for dust related violations, but they failed to correct the problem. The tenants lived in the center of this noisy and dirty demolition zone for nearly 3 years.

In addition to the constant noise and dust, the tenants apartment was flooded with water on more than a dozen occasions. Not only did the flooding cause more than $30,000 in damage to the tenants’ property, but it caused an outbreak of hazardous black mold that was detrimental to the tenants’ health. Although the landlord was ordered to correct this problem by the housing inspector, it failed to do so for more than two years.

In addition to the noise, dust, flooding and mold, the landlord caused the tenants ceiling to collapse by illegally dumping construction materials on their ceiling from the upper floors of the building. One of the tenants was trapped in the unit when the ceiling collapsed. As a result of this incident and other dangerous activities of the landlord, she developed post traumatic stress disorder. The tenants were displaced from the unit for two weeks while debris was removed and repairs were made.

In addition to the noise, dust, flooding, mold and ceiling collapse, one of the developer’s workers drove a construction vehicle into the tenants’ ground floor apartment, smashing their windows and sending shards of glass into one tenant’s bedroom. The worker then fled the scene of the accident. When the tenants complained about this incident and demanded that the property manager take action, the property manager told one of the tenants to “shut the f__ up.”

In addition to the noise, dust, flooding, mold, ceiling collapse and the vehicular intrusion, the landlords installed a defective bathtub in the apartment and refused to correct the problem when the tenant complained. One of the tenants fell and was severely injured in the bathtub, requiring surgery on her hip.

In addition to the noise, dust, flooding, mold, ceiling collapse, vehicular intrusion and defective bathtub, the landlord and developer sent workmen into the tenants’ apartment and cut holes in the tenants walls and ceiling while the tenants were present in order to provide upgraded plumbing for newly renovated luxury condominiums in the building.

When we learned of these violations, and many others, our firm mailed a letter to the defendants asking for compensation for the emotional distress, medical bills, pain, property damage and diminished rental value that the tenants suffered. Although the violations were well documented and the defendants had a duty to make a good faith settlement offer under state law, the defendants refused to make any offer of settlement. It was only by filing suit and relentlessly pursuing the case against the defendants that we were able to secure a substantial settlement.

Interestingly, when we initially attended a mediation in the case, the mediator insisted that we would never be able to settle the case for more than $150,000. We declined to settle the case on that day because we estimated that the settlement value of the case was significantly higher. Although we were still not able to settle the case after a second day of mediation, the defendants relented as we were getting ready for trial, settling the case for a total of $415,000.