It was clear from the beginning there were serious problems with the new apartment.
The 52-year-old woman was scheduled to move in March 1, but the apartment was full of trash and unlivable.
She finally moved in March 10, only to find a host of other problems. The apartment was infested with ants, roaches and bed bugs. There was mold in bathroom, the bathroom, and kitchen sinks flooded and the toilet often backed up.
Those conditions would have been tough for anyone to tolerate, but the woman also had an anxiety disorder, which made her situation unbearable, said Jennifer Collins, Esq., the housing attorney for the AIDS Law Project.
“To have this chaos where she lived, it was incredibly stressful,” Jennifer said. “There were lots of tears..
The woman had gone to a meeting of a tenant’s rights non-profit, where she was advised to write to the landlord and threaten to withhold the rent. When the problem weren’t fixed she started putting her rent in escrow, so she could prove later she intended to pay it.
That was the right thing to do, but by the time she came to the AIDS Law Project the situation had spiraled beyond her control and understanding.
The woman received a housing subsidy for people with AIDS that is administered by a local non-profit agency. The landlord told the agency the woman had stopped paying rent – without mentioning the letter she had sent. The agency, believing she had violated the terms of the subsidy, terminated it. . Without the subsidy, the woman whose sole income was $750 a month in Social Security, could not afford the apartment.
The landlord also filed an eviction action in Municipal Court demanding $3,293 in back rent.
Our housing paralegal Michael Gluk, supervised by Jennifer, took on the case.
“Every time she called she was very distressed,” Michael said. “She would often call in tears..
Michael reassured her that he would help her through the complicated process.
Michael appealed the housing subsidy loss with the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD).He worked with the non-profit agency to resolve the conflict. The OHCD ordered the agency to continue the subsidy until the appeal hearing.
Michael advised his client to contact the city’s Licenses and Inspections department and request that they visit the apartment to document the conditions. Armed with the L & I report, Jennifer successfully represented the client at the eviction hearing. The eviction was denied and the landlord agreed to fix all the problems with the apartment.
With the denial of the eviction complaint to bolster him, Michael successfully represented the woman at his first OHCD hearing. Her housing subsidy was restored, giving the woman a sense of security and a safe, clean home.
“It felt good to be able to help her,” Michael said.