New York City rental zone construction forced tenants out: lawsuit
Construction work inside an Upper West Side townhouse has sparked a dispute between the landlord and tenants in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Olga Ginzburg for the New York Post
The listing described this apartment as “bright and beautiful” – a full floor in a “stunning historic townhouse” on the Upper West Side. Her listing added that the rent was $5,950 per month — a “deal not to be missed.”
During the FaceTime tour, the Compass agent mentioned construction work on the building, but reassured tenants that the work was mostly limited to the unit directly below it and would be completed within two months — by the end of 2022 — according to Manhattan Supreme Court papers. Last month.
Instead, tenants found themselves living on an active construction site, experiencing noise, vibration, dust, odors, and water and electricity outages.
When the water went out one day, the tenants allege in court papers, the landlord offered alternatives: “There’s bottled water. You can pee in the toilet but you have to wait for the water to flush.”
The landlord is now suing for nearly a year’s worth of unpaid rent. The tenants – a young couple who paid only one month’s rent and were evicted after several weeks – are demanding constructive eviction, as the landlord created unbearable and unlivable conditions, forcing them out.
The tenants fell victim to the agent’s “fraudulent inducement to sign the lease” and “negligent misrepresentations,” they say in court papers.
The owner, Diana Campuzano, bought the building at 130 West 81st Street about two years ago for just over $5 million, and is renovating the ground-floor unit for her own use, according to court papers. It is also adding an elevator and redesigning the building-wide heating system.
Last fall, the tenants agreed to rent the two-bedroom, two-bath unit “as is,” and “the tenants were well acquainted with the construction,” according to paperwork filed by the landlord’s attorney, Eric Peter.
But the Compass agent told them much of the work would be done by their move-in date, the tenants wrote.
When tenants complained, the landlord “addressed all concerns,” adding air purifiers and plastic coverings for doors and windows, and after “professionally dust testing to allay concerns of the severity of the matter,” the landlord’s attorney wrote in court documents.
Tenants said they were so afraid of breathing in construction dust that they wore N95 masks in common areas. The plastic shield covering the door requires pulling and unscrewing it whenever it comes or goes.
“Tenants did not feel safe living in the building,” they wrote, so they sometimes stayed in hotels or with relatives.
According to the tenants, the landlord said over the phone that they could move out. According to the landlord, the agreement to terminate the lease must be in writing. The lease, as stated in court documents, states that “even if the tenant gives the keys… and they are accepted by the landlord or representative, this lease does not terminate.”
The apartment was later relisted on StreetEasy, then taken off the market. It has not yet been re-rented, court papers say. The tenants moved into a one-bedroom nearby.
The landlord is suing for nearly $60,000, plus back rent and additional legal fees. “Discontinuation or reduction of service(s) shall not be grounds for Tenant to stop paying rent, file a financial claim, or seek constructive eviction,” the lease states.
The lease also states that the apartment is intended for “living purposes only and for no other purpose,” yet the tenants “intend to use the building as an office,” according to the landlord’s complaint.
Having a home office is not a violation of the lease, the tenants wrote in their response.
The building has several active permits – including those for interior renovations, elevator installation and plumbing installations. The permits expire in 2024 but are renewable.
The landlord’s lawyer and agent did not respond to messages, nor did the previous tenants. Mediation also did not respond.