Brooklyn woman wins fight over rent

June 8, 2012 5:34:20 PM PDT
The loft apartment is 23-hundred square feet and the rent? 600 dollars a month.

For about 6 and a half years, the tenant here refused to pay because the landlord didn't make repairs. Wooden stairs weren't replaced in the hallway outside. Also the fire escapes were rickety and a boiler wasn't fixed.

The landlord tried to evict Margaret Maugenest, but this week she won big in court.

"I feel fantastic. And it was well worth it although it was not easy," Maugenest said.

Margaret, an artist, moved here in the 1980's. A former landlord invited her to live in the old manufacturing building as part of the city's loft regulation. She never left, and then things got tough with a new owner.

In the past, two lower courts ruled against Margaret, but the highest court in the state ruled in her favor this week saying the landlord didn't make repairs fast enough so not only did she win, but she also gets to keep all that money she put in escrow over the years, about $40,000.

"That's nice because it can go to my legal fees. You don't do this in order to save money. You do it, in my case, I felt I had to," Maugenest said.

A lawyer for the owner calls the decision unbelievably unfair.

"His reaction is I don't understand in a capitalist country such as America we have a socialist law where literally the landlord has to bear the burden," the attorney said.

Margaret and her neighbors are still fighting for repairs, but now her case will go down in loft law history and could affect dozens of other buildings across the city and hundreds of other tenants who refuse to pay rent.

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