Q: I am a senior who has lived quietly in my rent-stabilized Brooklyn apartment for 22 years. For the past three years, my home has been infested with biting gnats. I have disposed of infested possessions — furniture, rugs, clothing, bedding — but the insects continue to bite me throughout the night. My complaints to management have gone unanswered. I paid an exterminator $200, to no avail. Another exterminator said my landlord had to make the request, not me. After I called 311, a city inspector visited my apartment and contacted the landlord, who reported that the problem was resolved. I challenged that, but the case was closed anyway. I opened a new complaint and have yet to get an inspection. What can I do?
A: You should not have to live with vermin, including insects. It is your landlord’s responsibility to resolve this problem. So escalate the pressure.
Keep calling 311, and call often. It’s possible your latest request was routed to the wrong city agency (this should be handled by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development), or you missed a call from an inspector.
“There is no harm in filing multiple complaints,” said William Fowler, an HPD spokesman. “All of that helps build a paper trail and increases pressure on the owner to resolve the issue.”
Since the insects are biting you in your sleep, request an inspection for bedbugs as well, as it’s possible you have more than one infestation and you may need more than one type of inspection.
While your 311 calls work their way through the system, you can file what is known as an HP proceeding in housing court. This will bring your complaint before a judge, who can order the landlord to correct the problem. You don’t need a lawyer to file a housing court case.
“Now the landlord has to stand in front a judge,” said Samuel J. Himmelstein, a Manhattan lawyer who represents tenants. “It’s very unlikely that they claim the problem has been resolved if they haven’t done it. Then they’d be committing perjury; they could be held in contempt.”
Call your community board and your local City Council member’s office, and ask them to advocate for you. On June 6, HPD is hosting a training program on Zoom where residents can learn how to deal with pests and vermin. You can sign up for it online. It might provide some useful information.
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