Brooklyn Woman Wins Nine Years of Rent Free Living (In a Death Trap)

rent Brooklyn Woman Wins Nine Years of Rent Free Living (In a Death Trap)

Housing court rules! (rubenerd, flickr)

So many New Yorkers have lofty dreams when it comes to real estate, but who would have imagined  that a Brooklyn loft-dweller would net nine years of free rent?

We didn’t even know that was possible without moving back into one’s childhood bedroom! But, as The New York Times reports, one lucky woman has won her fight against eviction and the right to nine years of free rent in a move the grandest of New York rental coups—landing a rent-controlled apartment—look kind of lame.

And all she had to risk was her health and safety living in a firetrap!

Artist Margaret Maugenest has lived in her Gowanus loft at 280 Nevins Street since 1984, a few years after the 1982 loft law was passed that allowed building owners to rent units to tenants if they brought their buildings up to fire and safety codes.

Ms. Maugenest’s landlord, however, never brought the building up to code, so Ms. Maugenest started withholding her rent of approximately $600 in 2003.

“In the absence of compliance, the law’s command is quite clear,” said the decision, written by Judge Robert S. Smith, according to The Times.

The decision should scare the bejesus out of the owners of other non-compliant lofts, which number about 300, that have not managed to receive residential certificates of occupancy 30 years after the law was passed.

The moral of this particular story seems to be that if you’re renting out a space that’s not legal, you may not be able to collect rent on it. (Tenants in sub-par living conditions take note).

And Ms. Maugenest, unlike her landlord, was always careful to follow the letter of the law, and stowed the rent money away all those years in an escrow account, building up a nice bundle of cash that’s now hers free and clear.

May we suggest a down payment on an apartment that meets fire and safety codes?

kvelsey@observer.com