All You Have To Do To Live Rent-Free For 6 Years Is Go Without Gas & Hot Water

Would it be worth having no hot water or gas to cook with for a year and a half, if it meant you could withhold rent for six years? It was worth it for one Brooklyn woman, who has been justified in not paying rent on her loft because her landlord didn’t keep up with basic maintenance or address her safety concerns.

According to the city’s 1982 Loft Law, former commercial buildings could be rented to residential tenants if safety issues were met, reports CBS 2 in New York. But the 60-year-old woman who has been living in her place in a converted manufacturing building since 1984 says that’s just it — her landlord hasn’t been cutting it.

Six years ago she started withholding her rent of less than $600 a month, because she claims there was a lot wrong with the building, including rotting wooden pillars int he basement and a gas leak that wasn’t fixed, just cut off.

“We didn’t have gas for about a year-and-a-half,” she said. “That meant I couldn’t cook,” adding that she also had no hot water.

The landlord kept trying to evict her, and finally she was ordered by the court to pay 2.5 years rent. But now the state’s highest court said because the landlord missed deadlines for building improvement, there’s no eviction and no back rent can be collected.

The woman will keep the roughly $35,000 in back rent she’s set aside, half of which will go to pay her lawyer.

Woman Lives In Spacious Brooklyn Loft Rent-Free For Past Six Years [CBS 2 New York]

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  1. maxamus2 says:

    I’m so glad the lawyer will take half of this. How heartwarming.

    • cosmic.charlie says:

      I agree everyone should work for free.

      • VintageLydia says:

        +1

      • taaurrus says:

        No one said the lawyer should have done it for free. But taking HALF is taking advantage.

        • cosmic.charlie says:

          The lawyer probably made a deal with her to split whatever she saved. In this case half of the full amount. If the court rules against her and she was ordered to pay everything back the lawyer would have gotten nothing.

          I am all for keeping things “fair,” but we all need to keep perspective on these.

          • kobresia says:

            Precisely. The best way to look at this is that she had set-aside the money, had she not had a lawyer, the lower courts were basically telling her to pay all that back rent to the landlord. So now she’s $17.5k ahead, which is better than not having $17.5k in the bank, and the lawyer’s share made the work he or she did pay off as well.

            Everyone but the slumlord came out ahead.

            • maxamus2 says:

              Except the original article said the $35k is HALF of what she owes (i.e. $70k). In today’s “reporting” and “fact checking” no one will ever know if the lawyer is due $17.5k or $70k.

        • eldergias says:

          So a person agrees to a pay schedule before work is done, then the work is done. How is it “taking advantage” for the person to pay as agreed? No one forced her to use that lawyer. She agreed to a specific fee schedule before the lawyer did anything else.

          If you agree to pay $X for someone to do a job for you, how are you being taken advantage of when it comes time to pay up? You knew the price/ fee schedule ahead of time. If you didn’t want to pay, you could have done without the service or gone elsewhere.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          The lawyer undoubtedly told the plaintiff before going to trial what his/her fee would be, whether it be a percentage of funds or an hourly rate.

          She (the plaintiff) went in knowing what she would get from it.

          • Bsamm09 says:

            You are correct. You can pay the hourly rate or a percentage of the judgment. Sometimes you have a choice, sometimes you don’t. By choice I mean that the contingency option is not always offered. You always have a choice to shop around for other lawyers.

            Depending on what the potential judgment is and the number of hours needed to see the case through the most beneficial way to go is hard to tell. If you are offered a contingency option, the lawyer thinks you have a good shot a winning an amount that would be greater than the number of billable hours he would need to put in. But there still is a risk of not winning or getting a smaller judgment which the lawyer is bearing when working on contingency.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          If you do the math, and assume that the lawyer worked 2 hours a week, or 104 hours in the year, for 5 years to bring the case through two different appeals including the original case, that breaks down to $35 an hour. From what I understand, that’s a pretty damn good rate for any licensed professional.

        • OutPastPluto says:

          Do you work for free?

          Then why do you expect the lawyer to?

          You get paid by the hour or on salary. Why do you think a lawyer should expect any less?

          The kinds of contingency arrangements you like to complain about grant access to legal services that poor people like you would not otherwise have.

          • RocheCoach says:

            Cool strawman, bro. No one said the lawyer should work for free. They’re saying he shouldn’t be taking HALF.

      • ferozadh says:

        Nice fallacy. That’s some great lawyering there.

    • Bsamm09 says:

      She should have handled the case herself then.

      • who? says:

        If someone needs surgery but can’t afford it, should they just handle it themselves?

        • castlecraver says:

          According to Ron Paul and people who attend Republican debates.

          Oh wait, nevermind. They wanted him to just die.

        • eldergias says:

          So if I can’t pay for a mechanic to fix my car, I shouldn’t have to fix it myself, they should just do it for free?

          I don’t think so, and I doubt you do either.

    • Marlin says:

      Hi maxamus2,

      Can you come cut my grass, clean my gutters, and clean my house for free. I’m a nice guy, so you don’t mind working for free do you?

      Thanks
      Marlin

      • maxamus2 says:

        Didn’t you read my post, I said I am GLAD the lawyer will make out. And of course I won’t cut your grass for free.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      The lawyer has been handling this case for how many years? It’s gone through at least three different courts and appeals. But let’s say that the case has been going on for 5 years.

      That is $17,500 / 5 years is $3,500 a year. $3,500 / 52 weeks is ~$70 a week. It costs $199 to have the Geek Squad look at your computer. If this lawyer only charged her $50 a hour for work, that means he was putting in a little over an hour a week, to handle a case that went all the way to the highest court in New York State.

    • AcctbyDay says:

      No lawyer does work for someone without a fee arrangement ahead of time. When a lawyer takes a case on a “contingency basis” that normally means their fees are contingent on the plaintiff winning the case.

      No fees for a lost case, x amount for a won case. Perhaps it is a little shady, but she agreed to it. Also, who knows how much work the lawyer had to do in order to win the case. Perhaps that lawyer worked so much that 17.5k was insufficient. Have you thought of that? Lawyers are in a profession to make money not make the general public heart them long time.

      • who? says:

        I have a friend who was one of those sleazy personal injury lawyers for several years, the kind who advertises on bus benches and daytime TV. He nearly always worked on contingency. He said that it was the only way most people in this kind of situation could get legal representation. 1/2 sounds high (usually he took 1/3), but this lawyer probably did a *lot* of work for his $17,500, and the tenant got $17,500 from a slumlord that she wouldn’t have gotten on her own.

        My friend eventually got out of the business because the risk/reward ratio was not in his favor. He had one too many cases where he worked on the case for 6 months, then lost at the trial, and couldn’t buy Christmas presents for his kids.

        • do-it-myself says:

          “…couldn’t buy Christmas presents for his kids.”

          Lucky him to be able to work for 6 months, not get paid, and still afford to eat and have a roof over his head.

      • maxamus2 says:

        Didn’t you read my post? I said how GLAD I was the lawyer gets half, it is very heartwarming…..

    • chiieddy says:

      Actually in the original article the $35k is only half of what the lawyer is owed…

    • eldergias says:

      http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_1_5_fees.html

      Either the lawyer violated the MRPC of he/she did not. If he/she did, then they should be held accountable and have done something wrong. If he/she did not, then there is no issue.

  2. CrazyEyed says:

    I do my own lawyering from home

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Since the money was in an escrow account, did it in interest while it was “int he” account?

    As for not being able to cook or have hot water while the gas was out, from what I hear out of NJ and NYC, these two crackpots named Edyson and Tessla have been doing some funky things with this stuff called “lex-tris-city”. I wonder if that would help.

    • AcctbyDay says:

      Could be the problem of gas appliances?

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      “did it in interest while it was “int he” account?”

      LOL, so meta.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        I admit I make that typo all the time, but then again, I’m not being paid to write on a website…

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        I admit I make that typo all the time, but then again, I’m not being paid to write on a website…

    • BBBB says:

      “Since the money was in an escrow account, …”

      Legal escrow accounts have strict rules about access and accountability. How interest is handled would depend on the state’s laws and the court’s final distribution instructions.

  4. DanKelley98 says:

    “Half of which will go to her lawyer”. What a guy/gal…..

    • eldergias says:

      In your opinion, how much do you think the lawyer should have received for his/her services?

      • Mark702 says:

        A swift kick in the balls and a “pass that onto your lawyer friends”.

        • eldergias says:

          So what you’re saying is that you are willing to work for free, since you don’t think someone should be paid for the work they did.

          Let me grab your contact info, because there is some work I would like done without having to pay anyone.

      • Jawaka says:

        That depends on how many actual hours of work he put into the case.

        • eldergias says:

          I agree, and since we have no idea how many hours of work he/she put in (considering this was over several years and through multiple appeals) it seems odd for people to say, “$X is too much money, though I have no idea how much work the lawyer did!” If we have no idea how much work the lawyer did or how much time it took them, how is it possible for anyone to reasonably assert that the lawyer was paid too much?

      • Cicadymn says:

        Actually, the 35k is about half of what she owes the lawyer. It’s at the bottom of the article. MBQ read it wrong.

        She actually would have been better off paying the rent on the bad apartment rather than getting a lawyer to “help”.

        • eldergias says:

          True, but just because you spend $5K on fixing up a $500 car doesn’t mean your mechanic doesn’t deserve to get paid.

  5. rugman11 says:

    This is actually pretty common in rent-controlled apartments when the owner wants to convert the building to non-rent controlled units. Make conditions really crappy for the residents so they move out and you can bring in new tenants who will pay market rates. Of course, that doesn’t account for people willing to live without basic services.

  6. xanxer says:

    This is where the woman countersues the landlord to cover legal fees.

  7. daemonaquila says:

    Good for her.

    So sad to see all the people griping about her lawyer getting $17k. That case was going on for years, and made it all the way to NY’s high court. That’s a bargain price for that many hours of legal work. If you wouldn’t work for free, don’t snark that a lawyer isn’t working for free either.

  8. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Mary Beth, according to the linked article, she will NOT keep the money. It equals HALF of what she OWES to the attorney:

    “Rather than pocket the $35,000 that she set aside on the advice of her lawyer, it’s about half of what she owes to her attorney for the lengthy court fight.”

    • Cicadymn says:

      Sorry, but reading the article is too much work. From now own we’re just going to read the title and spitball what we think it’s about based on that. Maybe skim for a few keys works or dollar signs.

  9. cosmic.charlie says:

    Whoa, I just RTFA and according the the second to last paragraph the $35k is about HALF of what she owes the attorney for the court battle.

    Ironically the last paragraph is a question: “Do you think she should continue to live in the loft for free? Agree with the court? Sound Off below.” Ha.

  10. AllanG54 says:

    I don’t even want to know what she smelled like for the 18 months that she had no hot water and I’m figuring didn’t shower much during that time.

    • mbz32190 says:

      You can shower in cold water ya know…

    • lvixen says:

      She DID have electricity I’m guessing. I’ve been without gas for a while (not THAT long) and you can heat water up to be able to clean yourself. Or as another poster put, you can take cold showers. I preferred doing the tepid bath myself.

  11. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I sure the lawyer earned his money, but I wouldn’t live without hot water for half off my rent. 100%? I’d consider it.

    I think this speaks more towards it being a bad way to get a discount than the lawyer charging too much.

  12. Bor&Mitch says:

    “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.”

    I know this area – when she moved there in 1984 it was a ghetto but now it’s well on it’s way to gentrification. $600/mo for a ‘spacious loft’ in that neighborhood today is an outrageous steal. It’s guaranteed that her unit is rent-controlled and there’s no way she was going to leave as long as she had water and electricity. I sure as hell wouldn’t with that kind of deal. The landlord was looking to make life as miserable as possible for her and lost.

  13. meh_cat says:

    This apartment is so dangerous to my life that I’m going to stay in there but demand that I don’t pay my rent!

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah, that was my question as well. I mean I would support her 100% if she wanted out of a lease because of the conditions, but to keep living there without paying just seems like taking advantage of the situation.

  14. BennieHannah says:

    Oh boy, we are going through eviction proceedings with a “renter” of ours at the moment — dude hasn’t paid rent in two months, is krazy with a k, neighbors complaining…. At this point we don’t even want the back rent, because he cannot pay (’cause he’s too krazy to work), and we’re not into putting the hurt on sad sack people….we just want him out! There are definitely some problems with the house that need to be fixed but we can’t fix them because he won’t return our phone calls and we cannot depend on him to open the door for any repair person we schedule. I’m just waiting for him to show up in court accusing us of deliberately refusing to fix any issues.

    I understand that within rent controlled environments things might be different, but in most parts, if the rental situation is bad, uncomfortable, not what you thought it would be….the sane tenant moves on searching for a happy living situation with a tolerable landlord, and it’s only the krazy ones who work the system and hang on for dear life. (BTW…we never wanted to be landlords…this is a property we sort of inherited.)

  15. guspaz says:

    Apparently cooking without gas is impossible now? I guess they don’t have electricity in New York City.

  16. canaguy says:

    As usual, TYPICAL…….the human suffers and the lawyer reaps the benefits….!
    The lawyer never suffers, takes a hit, or a loss……always takes the winnings…….
    after all the waiting, the sleepless nights, and extra work to live………..humans still mange yo survive among lawyers…….

  17. makoto says:

    Sounds like someone should not be a landlord anymore…