EP07 S01: NYC Tenant FAQs: Do I Need to Keep Records of My Complaints ?
It is very important for you to keep a record of the complaints or conversations with the management company or the landlord of your apartment building, especially when it comes to possible safety violations. Learn more in our last podcast episode!
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Welcome to Trial Stories an informative discussion of civil justice with a focus on the human story. I’m your host. Arkady Frekhtman a New York City trial lawyer passionate about helping serious injury victims and their families.
New York City tenants often ask “How important is it that I keep detailed records of my complaints or my conversations with the management company or the landlord for my apartment building?” And I would say it’s very important, especially if it’s a safety violation and it leads to an injury. And here’s why, because under the law in New York, someone cannot sue their landlord unless they can prove notice. And notice is usually proved three ways.
First, you can actually notify the landlord. So for example, if I see a leak from the ceiling and that’s causing a puddle, because a specific crack in the ceiling is dripping, let’s say in the hallway as I go out to the elevator, I could tell my landlord or my super, “Please fix that, that’s happening.” And they could say, “Yeah, sure. I’ll take care of it. I’ll fix it.” And then they don’t and then someone falls.
Now I have actual notice. I have notified them, but where’s my proof? It’s just my word versus the landlord’s word. I’ll say “Yes I told the super, I told the landlord” and they’ll say to their building accident lawyer, “No, you didn’t, we didn’t know anything about it.” So now it becomes an issue of credibility where perhaps the jury will believe me and I win, or perhaps the jury won’t and I’ll lose. So it’s very important when communicating with your landlord, with a management company, to get certain information like email addresses. If you send an email, now it’s in writing. Now, if they don’t fix it, you have that email. You have the date stamp, you have the solid proof that you notified them. And now it’s on them that they, if they didn’t fix it, they’re liable.
A second way to prove notice, is constructive notice. That just basically means that the leak in the same example of the hallway ceiling leaking, the leak just existed for a period of time. Say it existed for two months that you see a little crack in the ceiling and it’s dripping. You never complain to anybody, but you could document that it existed. Maybe you have a videotape that you took with your cell phone or a photo of it that’s also date stamped and timestamped from two months ago. Well, now, if you could show that, or if you have a witness who will testify that “I saw that leak two months ago,” the very fact that the leak exists for a long period of time like two months, should mean that the landlord being a diligent landlord, should have found it and should have fixed it on their own. So that’s another way that you could prove notice in a safety violation in a lawsuit.
And the third way is if the landlord or somebody who works for the landlord or the management company, caused and created the condition themselves. So for example, if somebody is mopping the floor and they leave a puddle and then someone else slips, they’ve caused and created the condition, so you don’t need to prove notice of notifying them or showing that it existed for a period of time, because they created the very condition. So those are the three ways you can prove notice. And documentation is very important with all of the technology today, including cellphones, videos, photographs, simple emails, or text messages, all of that should be preserved in order to prove that you did notify the landlord about a condition. And then if the landlord fails to remedy the condition and an injury occurs, it’s no longer a, “he said, she said” battle, but rather it’s concrete proof that you have, and it will be more likely that you win your case.