I’ll spare you the long and gory play by play. But just know that this door has been broken since the fall of 2009. Thats right, the FALL OF 2009?!!??!?! For me that has been three boyfriends and five jobs ago. As a renter in NYC you can feel like you are a prisoner. Its expensive, its dirty, its cramped. You just want to put down roots and enjoy the city you love without having to move every twelve months because rents keep going up but inexplicably your income doesn’t. You keep your head down and make do because once you’ve found a place to live where your landlord leaves you alone with your pets, and roommates, and sublettors, you do not under any circumstances want to rock the boat and jeopardize the home you have struggled penny by penny to lovingly create.
But know this renters. Your landlord is required by law to provide a security door to your building that locks. You should not have to live in fear that one night you will come home to a darkened stairwell because once again the landlord has failed to pay the common electric bill and there will be a stranger following you in who exposes himself while you hold the security door shut and pray that your calling the police will scare him off and not further anger him into escalating harassment into a full on with feeling episode of Law & Order SVU.
You will reach your limit. You will beg and plead and finally file a formal complaint in writing to your landlord demanding that he uphold his responsibility as a property owner. Be warned this may not fix the problem. He/She may raise your rent to an absurd amount in retaliation (which is also illegal) which will in turn force you to give notice to vacate and begin the hunt for your next home.
BUT… you are at this point within every right you have as an NYC tenant to withhold your rent until the problem is resolved. Its called the Warranty Of Habitabilty, and your landlord is violating it by refusing to provide you with a locking security door to a multiple unit dwelling built or converted to such use after January 1, 1968. Be aware if you have a SUPER crappy landlord this may prompt him to retaliate in anger. He will send you threatening messages and scream at you that YOU are in the wrong. He is incorrect. Stay calm. State your exact reasons and maintain silence. If you have an even crappier landlord you will come home from work to find that your electricity has been turned off. This is also illegal. Illegal to the point of being a misdemeanor. Only a sheriff, marshal or constable can carry out a court-ordered warrant to evict a tenant. At this point you call the cops, yes those cops, at 911. They come, inspect the situation, and they leave a message with your landlord that he has 24 HRS to restore electricity to the apartment or he will be arrested for illegal eviction.
Then, maybe then your door will be fixed. Your neighbors whom you might have never spoken to will stop you and thank you in the stairwell. You will smile and thank them back. You will make sure that they know why & how this happened, so that when you move this will hopefully never happen again.
Good luck to you NYC. Its tough out there. Fighting your own battles is emotionally and physically exhausting, but you’re a mother fucking New Yorker after all and we don’t take shit from anyone. Correct?
***All statements in this story are true and unexaggerated. I share this out of my deepest concern and respect for my fellow New York City renters. Because you are human beings and no one should make you feel less than you are just because you don’t own your home. Please read the New York State Attorney General TENANTS’ RIGHTS GUIDE and educate yourself. I am eternally in debt to a certain co-worker for jumping to action and putting me in touch with a Real Estate attorney so I could fully understand my rights and the correct course of action. Three cheers for the ‘Rooms & Google for providing me with the necessary links and screenshots I needed to support our case when shit hit the fan. And the hand-holding-man-friend for allowing me to come crash overnight and listen to me bitch and moan for almost an entire month. You all are incredible human beings and I am so grateful to have you in my life each and everyday. Dear 2012, we’re coming for you and we’re going to make this the best year yet!***