Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hardball with Perry Eidelbus

After what happened earlier this month, when my landlord's repairman friend caused a small leak in the hot water heater that gave me two days of headaches, and another issue with my landlord, I decided it was time for more "aggressive negotiations" (something for you, my fellow Trekkies). Without going into details, I'll say that the other issue doesn't affect the habitability of my apartment, but it is a repeat issue that inhibits my enjoyment. As of late, it's started to make me quite angry.

Instead of the expected check, earlier this month I sent a letter stating plainly that I was withholding rent, starting with this month, until this condition is rectified. I did this fully aware that my landlord most likely has Christmas bills to pay, so this is a particularly bad time of the year for his income to drop. It was clearly not a letter my landlord expected, and it certainly got his attention. He's now promised to rectify the situation for good by month's end. We'll see. Tomorrow I'll give him this month's rent, but if the situation remains unchanged...

He has said that if I don't pay, he'll have to tell me to leave. Yet he should be as aware as any landlord in the state that, in New York and most other states, landlord-tenant law makes it difficult to evict tenants. A judge may not agree with me that this one condition justifies my withholding rent, but the one thing in my favor is my written willingness to resume rent payments (including any past due amounts) once my landlord satisfies what is a very specific term of the lease. Besides, I could easily drag this out for a few months, during which time my landlord would not receive a penny from me.

Would it really be "fair" for me to do that? Clearly not, but it is not "fair" for my landlord to shirk an obvious responsibility. If necessary, I will not give up my advantage, that the law is slightly biased toward me, because my ultimate aim is to achieve what is right and proper.

I've really liked my apartment for the last four-plus years, and I am more than reluctant just to give serious thought to moving. It's such a pain, and I would lose the convenience of a quiet neighborhood that's within walking distance of the train station.

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