Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Buggin’ Me Again

with 3 comments

Total Black: $1,026.10
Total Red: $228,920.93

They’re back. No, not the bedbugs!  But close.  The landlord’s management company and their attorneys.

I arrived home last night to those salmon-colored slips I’ve come to dread. Well, the United States Post Office claims they’re peach.  But I digress.  Those little slips used to tickle me pink because they meant a package awaited me.  Now they make my heart skip a beat.  It’s nearly always some official letter delivering official news about official business.  Last night’s card didn’t list the sender in the upper right-hand corner.  That told me it was probably from the landlord.  When I retrieved the letter this morning, turned I out I was correct.

Just like last time, as chronicled in Bring It On, the landlord’s attorney pulled the same shenanigans in mailing out the rent demand.  This time the attorney who drafted the letter dated it February 3, 2010.  The letter wasn’t postmarked until February 11, 2010, however, curiously the Thursday before a long weekend.  And as before, the letter was mailed from a post office in Yonkers of all places.  And, since the post office does not deliver on federal holidays, the first delivery attempt was not made until yesterday.  The rent demand was dated for February 16, 2010.  Honestly, it’s circumstances like this that make me ashamed and embarrassed of the practice of law.  Law is about justice and fairness and using a process, albeit a flawed one, to uncover truth, albeit legal “truth” at that.  But it’s not about one-upping each other or checkmating each other or tricking each other.  Adequate notice and time to respond is a cornerstone of the mechanics of law.  Attorneys aren’t supposed to short-cut each other by writing a letter and holding on to it for eight days and then mailing it out over a long weekend.  Or worse–backdating the letter.  But I digress on that point.  I’ll put my soapbox away for the moment.

Back in September when this happened previously I telephone the landlord’s law firm in a frenzy the morning when I retrieved the rent demand letter, leaving a message on whomever’s voice mail I could find.  Not surprisingly, the law firm’s telephone system was also shady.  Later that night, I pulled up the law firm’s website, found an email address on their site, and then assumed all firm emails used the same format and sent off a carefully-drafted letter to the attorney listed on the rent demand.  Obviously, none of it mattered because we ended up in court anyway, as noted in Landlord v. Laid-Off Lawyer.  We stayed in court, however, because the occasion provided me with a vehicle to seek redress for the bedbugs I inherited when I moved into the apartment.  I noted in Wise or Unwise that the judge ultimately dismissed my counterclaims because I had paid my arrears in full before the first court appearance.  In effect, I mooted my own case.  Silly, eh?  And I’m not sure that was exactly correct of the judge to do.  He should have converted the case into a separate action or let my counterclaims proceed regardless of the underlying action having finished.  But, it’s New York City housing court and judges do what they want.  And I’m back on that soapbox.  For a split second today I thought about resuming the bedbug counterclaims.  But I just don’t have the time or energy, frankly.  They’re gone.  And though that doesn’t exempt the landlord from liability for breaching the lease at the time I signed it, I don’t know that I want to dredge up all those emotions and deal with shady lawyers just to get a few thousand dollars knocked off my rent.

At any rate, today instead of calling, I emailed the attorney who signed the rent demand and copied in someone from the management company.  A voice mail message awaited me as I exited the gym this afternoon.  I returned the call.  Turns out, the management company returned the check I sent for $500, reflecting part payment for January 2010 rent.  It was in the mail today when I got home too.  That’s why total black still shows those funds.  I can’t imagine why they’d return the checks.  Nor did the woman I spoke with explain why.  But copying her on my email to the attorney elicited some response.  I also noted in that same email that I’d be walking over tomorrow with a check for the balance owed for January.  Maybe that’s what caught her eye.  At any rate, it’s just another pesky annoyance to deal with.  Yet another debtor who doesn’t show any awareness of the difficulties we’re all supposed to be getting through.  I wonder if it was like this during the Great Depression.  Did landlords attempt to evict people so quickly?  Who do they think they’re going to get in their stead?  Not like droves of people are flocking to New York City lately.  Not to live at least.  So yeah . . . fixing this apartment fiasco is my top priority.  And by that I do not mean paying back rent, but rather getting a roommate or subletting it once the weather warms.  Something’s gotta give . . . and I’m tired of it being me.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

February 17, 2010 at 22:42

3 Responses

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  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the updates. I’m not a lawyer, so I hope you can clear up a few quick questions about your situation.

    How long does your landlord have to evict you? Does partial payment slow down this process? Has the eviction process started?

    Does your lease allow you to sublet? or to have a roommate without the owner’s permission?

    As a frequent reader I’ve gotten to know your situation over the last few months and really do sympathize and appreciate your hard work. However, if you’re not paying the rent in full. . .isn’t that unfair to the landlord? Why wouldnt’ they rather have a tenant that pays the full amount on time?

    oh yea, FYI:
    As a lawyer I guess you learned this in law school, but I dunno, other readers may find this helpful for background.


    February 18, 2010 at 09:23

  2. Your landlord is a shyster. Get out while the getting’s good!

    Jim in Chicago

    February 18, 2010 at 10:27

  3. Basically once they have filed in court for a rent demand they cannot take partial rent payments – the whole amount has to be paid off.

    If they filed for Jan. and Feb. they will not take partial rent for those months. At least, that’s what happened to me when I was but a kid in NYC – back in 1999.

    It took them about four months to issue a formal eviction notice. They issued these rent demands and court dates, but I was new to New York so I let them slide [thinking I would find a job and all would be well] and never showed up in court. Finally four months later I received a marshall’s notice, went to court to show cause, date was set a month later and even from that court date they give you a little time. I am not saying this happens for everyone. I had a really nice management person and I was in a rent-stablized apt. from which is it harder to evict. But I found a job in between so I never got evicted. Plus when I did go to court to show cause I burst into tears – I was petrified – the judge was really nice when I explained that I was looking for a job. He asked me my education and experience and I showed him a resume, Ivy League undergrad, good work experience etc. He was very sympathetic and said the economy must be really bad if I could not find a job with that education. The court attorney, another really nice gal, really helped me negotiate with the landlord’s lawyers. Again, I am not saying this happens for everyone – but it took them quite a while to send me the marshall’s notice.

    If you do go to court, dress well, be respectful, explain your situation to the judge, take a resume etc. As a lawyer, I am sure you know all that helps.


    February 18, 2010 at 11:56

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