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For those living in co-ops or condos – legal liability

My co-op is forcing all shareholders to have their apartments exterminated every month. Even though I told the managing agent that I have severe allergies and asthma, they sent the exterminator to my apartment without prior notice. He put some sort of gel in the kitchen and bathroom. I immediately had a severe allergic and asthmatic reaction that continues to this day. I sent an urgent email to the agent regarding this issue and left 2 urgent voicemail messages but neither the agent nor anyone from the Board of Directors has responded.

Has anyone faced a similar situation? I am now faced with having the apartment deep cleaned in order to eradicate the allergens caused by the exterminarion, which will cost $1000.00+.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  • Kathy P

    Wow Paula – I'm sorry that you are having to deal with this and that no one is responding to you. Is there a hierarchy of who to contact on the condo board if the director is not responding? Is there anything in your contract about extermination procedures?

  • Megan Roberts

    I would second @Kathy P's questions and keep following up. So sorry you have to deal with these allergens in your own home (and the cost to deal with them is not cheap — on your health or your wallet). Is the gel treatment still in its original state in the kitchen and the bathroom or have you been able to have some of it removed? I'm wondering if there are some ways to help reduce your exposure immediately (other than leaving your home). 

  • Paularose

    Kathy and Megan. I am at my wit's end! I keep emailing the managing agent, even copying the emails to the CEO of the company but receive absolutely no response from anyone, including the board of directors. I have appointments with two allergists this Friday and Saturday. As soon as I get my asthma and allergies under control with medication I am going to NYC housing court to find out my legal options.

    I have not had the gel removed yet since any exertion on my part, such as walking around makes my asthma worse. I have remained in my bedroom just trying to breathe and not keep inhaling the allergens now in the rest of my apartment.

    Thank you so much for your replies and kindness. I am frankly beyond hysterics due to the situation.

     

  • Kathy P

    Ugh…I hope the allergist can help and you can get guidance from the housing court. 

    Is there a friend you could ask to try to clean some of the gel up? Maybe that would lessen the effects for you. 

  • Paularose

    Unfortunately no. The technician ran through my kitchen and bathroom opening and closing cabinet doors and I did not see where on earth any of the gel was put. So I can't have anybody help me remove it. But I do appreciate the suggestion. Thanks.

  • K8sMom2002

    That's a tough situation! I really feel for you as you struggle past all the obstacles this has put in your way: money, time, corporate and government bureaucracy … here's hoping that asking the experts (allergists and the housing court) will help give you a plan forward. 

    What triggered this move to mandatory pest control? Was it a change in your building's policy? Or has this always been in your HOA contract? 

    Hugs as you figure this out. 

  • Paularose

    Thanks for your reply. The managing agent came to my apartment and stated that the building had a 'roach infestation' and due to that the  Board was insisting that all apartments be exterminated on a monthly basis.

    Because I live in a co-op, there is no HOA. Only a Board of Directors.

    I am first going to Small Claims Court to sue the co-op and managing agent for all my medical expenses due to the extermination.

    I have sent yet another email (unanswered of course!) to the managing agent stating that I will not have my apartment exterminated again until the Co-op's attorney discusses this issue with me. I am literally hoping that they take me to court over this. I have it in writing that the managing agent and the exterminator were first to examine the apartment and then determine how to proceed. This never happened – the exterminator just showed up and treated the apartment. I am also looking into suing the Co-op with respect to negligence in this matter.

    Thanks for the virtual hugs! God, do I need them.

  • K8sMom2002

    Well, here's another hug, then! I Sending good that you will be able to get this worked out without having to go to court, but if you do, I'm wishing you the best.

    Could you ask the exterminator to come back in and show you where all the gel was put? 

  • Paularose

    No! That is part of the whole problem. Despite numerous emails and voice messages to the managing agent I cannot get any response from them so I have no idea of the name of the exterminator even though I demanded that it be provided to me in an email. As a shareholder it is my legal right to have that information too. I am frankly at my wit's end. I am considering at this point not paying my maintenance charges. Believe me the co-op will be on my back about that one second and I'm thinking if we wind up in court where I really want this to be heard then everything will come out about the lack of response from the managing agent and the board of directors. I can explain why I withheld my maintenance payments and I can demand that I be reimbursed for my medical legal and cleaning charges that have accrued due to the extermination. Not to brag but I am a **** good writer and I can summarize the entire situation and provide all the documentation the court would need. I might however first go down to New York City's Housing Court. They have free legal advice there and I may want to run it by a lawyer there first. But thank you so much for the virtual hug! It is most appreciated.

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, I definitely think your idea of consulting with the housing court is a good one, especially since it's free. This has to be extremely frustrating for you.

    Could you call around to the various exterminator companies and see if they serviced your building? They might tell you. It's worth a shot.

  • Paularose

    There are simply too many extermination companies in New York City for me to call. If I can't get to talk to a free lawyer at Housing Court I plan on stopping my maintenance fees. This will force the co-op to take me to court where I can lay out the entire situation. I doubt the judge will rule against me once he/she reads my entire summary of the situation along with all the documentation I intend to provide.

  • K8sMom2002

    Yikes, yes, forgot about you living in a mega city. I'm hoping that you do get a chance to meet with someone with some expertise. 

    How long would it take for a court case to wind its way through the system? I'm hoping you will get this resolved sooner rather than later!

  • Kathy P

    I'm sorry this has been so challenging to get sorted out. I hope you can make some headway. 

    How are you doing? Is you asthma still flares? Getting any better?

  • Paularose

    Thank God I am doing better I am on 4 medications including antihistamines and an inhaler. It is helping to control the allergic reactions and Asthma. Thank you so much for your concern. I have just received a very nasty letter from my coops attorney I responded in kind and told him my next appointment is with my allergist on the 30th and he can go blank himself until then.

  • Megan Roberts

    @Paularose I'm glad the four meds are giving you some relief. But I can hear your frustration in this situation and don't blame you at all. Your home should be a safe space for you, and I would be frustrated too to feel that I've lost the ability to control my own home environment to keep it safe from allergy/asthma triggers. Hoping you are able to hang in there until the 30th, and that your allergist can help you come up with a plan to at least improve your situation until it is (hopefully) also addressed by the co-op. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, my goodness. That letter can't have been very helpful for you — I'm sure it has added loads of stress.

    It's really great to know that despite all the challenges you've had, you ARE making some progress. Here's hoping that your allergist will have some good suggestions on how to continue your improvement! 

  • Paularose

    Yeah, the attorney was a blank, blank, blank you know what. But I told him off in the letter. And I know I've said this a million times, but thank you so much Cynthia for all your encouragement and thank you to everybody in this forum for their encouragement and suggestions.

  • Paularose

    Megan, I feel that all I have been doing is thanking everybody in this forum for their support, suggestions, encouragement, Etc. I know that after a while it does begin to sounds insincere, but truly I am so thankful that I have you guys to help me along this horrible horrible situation. I cannot thank all of you enough. And I do want to say that my heart absolutely breaks when I read the posts of people who are truly suffering the worst cases of asthma. I know what a bad asthmatic attack does to you I cannot comprehend how you guys make it day today but my heart is with you.

  • Kathy P

    Glad you are feeling better… hope the trend continues! Ugh in the nastygram from the co-op attorney. Sounds like this is not going to get any easier

  • K8sMom2002

    Paula, it is OUR pleasure … we're so glad that we can be here to support you and you know you're not alone. We've all had issues where people don't understand about asthma.

    Yours seems especially tough to deal with, and I think you're doing a great job hanging in there and doing what you need to do for your health. You're being smart about it, too — getting expert opinions from people in the legal field (that NYC Housing Court) and at least trying to work things out by emailing/mailing things in writing to the board of directors, etc. 

    I'm just sorry that the attorney wasn't more understanding, and I hope that even after this rough start, things can turn around and you can wind up having a productive discussion with your Board of Directors and/or this attorney.

    We're here for you — that sounds corny, but it's the truth!

  • Megan Roberts

    No need to thank us @Paularose. This community has been a wonderful source of support to all of us at some point. We are happy to be able to support you however we can as you find your way through this situation. I'm just sorry you are having such difficulty gaining any sort of acknowledgement of something that is a health risk for you and present in your own home. Ugh. It sounds like you are a very proactive person though and are doing a great job of pursuing all the different channels you can find to address the problem. We will keep cheering you on! 

  • Paularose

    Megan, not sure if I mentioned this but I finally got a letter from the co-op's attorney. The letter was as if he was sending it to a 10 year old. Patronizing lying blaming me Etc. Frankly I told him where to go. I am now waiting for his response. What should be interesting is that we have had this managing agent for possibly 15 years. During that time the company was called into court on a lawsuit where they were accused of what I would call double-dipping. In other words when the building they were managings sued a tenant the managing agent also sued the same tenant. A big legal no no. I ended my letter to the attorney referencing this and asking him to have the managing agent company explain away this lawsuit. I only found out about the lawsuit because I got a $2, and I am not kidding about the amount, check as a result of the lawsuit. My co-op had taken me to court about something else and since this was a lawsuit that covered anybody sued while under management by this managing agent they were allowed to get monetary compensation.

    Back to the matter at hand, I really do thank everybody on this forum for all your answers and suggestions. You are all dears.🌷

  • Paularose

    Cynthia, there never was a single bit of doubt in my mind that everybody on this forum is here for me and everybody else. That is what has kept me going, believe me! Please tell me when I have thanked everybody for their enouragement, support, suggestions, etc. too much!😁 Is there a limit on how many times thanks can be expressed by members?!🌹

  • K8sMom2002

    Nope … not that I know of! So glad we can keep you going!

    Ugh on the letter … I do hope you get a more helpful response. As Megan so beautifully stated above, it sounds like you are a very proactive person, and I hate that you're having to go through this.

  • Paularose

    Yet again, mucho, mucho, mucho thanks to everybody in this forum.

    Forewarning many more thanks will be forthcoming!🌺

  • Paularose

    I really am at the end of my rope. It seems that the New York City Housing Court only handles landlord tenant issues. I live in a co-op, that means I am a shareholder in the building's 'Corporation'. That is the actual legal status of my ownership of my apartment. So Housing Court apparently won't touch my issue.

    I've tried several lawyers and they all tell me the same thing they do not handle cases such as mine. I hope these questions haven't been already asked by me. If they have I extend my sincere apologies.

    1. Based on my original post, I do not know if the legal issue falls under the heading of a real estate issue, a negligence issue, or a personal injury situation. Actually it's really a combination of all three. Could I possibly impose upon those Community members who live in New York City if they can recommend an attorney for me based on what they know about my situation from my posts? This tells you how desperate I am about finding an attorney!

    2. Does this organization have an attorney? If so can it be run by him/ her?

    More thanks as always!🌹

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, my goodness, how super, super frustrating for you! I was so hoping that the housing court could at least point you in the right direction.

    Could you call your state/city bar association? I just checked, and the . 

    I'm quoting here:

    The City Bar's  (LRS) provides referrals to screened and qualified lawyers for a wide variety of legal matters. Call the LRS at 212-626-7373 (Español 212-626-7374) to discuss your legal question with an attorney referral counselor or .

    If you are referred to an LRS lawyer, your initial consultation will be $35 or free, depending on the type of case. Consultations last up to 30 minutes. However, sometimes an LRS attorney referral counselor will help you figure out that you don’t need a lawyer. In that case, s/he will refer you to other helpful resources that might be better or more cost-effective for you. There is no charge to speak with an attorney referral counselor.

    Refresh my memory: did you try the ADA hotline? They also might be able to point you in the right direction. 

  • Paularose

    Cynthia I never thought of the New York City Bar Association. No more thanks. Now we're going to the next level I am putting you in my will! I will call them as soon as I go through all my email. I honestly don't know what I would do without all of you guys. Even though it is a cliche it is so deeply true. Thanks again. 🌹🌸🌷

  • K8sMom2002

    My pleasure — and no need to put me in your will. It will be payment enough when you report back that someone somewhere has been able to help you figure this knotty problem out. 

    There was a line in a movie (This is My Life, directed by Nora Ephron) that has always stuck with me:

    Everyone in the world is only two phone calls away from everyone else in the world.

    Hopefully you're two phone calls away from a solution!

  • K8sMom2002

    @Paularose, wanted to check and see if you'd been able to find someone to help you. Fingers, toes and eyelashes crossed! 

  • LK

    @Paularose,  Hope you've been able to find some help! 

    Just saw this article, but not sure if it includes co-ops.  Maybe worth a read?

     

  • LK

    Another related article.

    Hope there's some information or links in these articles that is of use to you!

  • Paularose

    Thank you so much for the heads up on the article. I saw it too. Unfortunately as I interpret the article I believe it only applies to rental units i e a landlord owns a building and you rent an apartment from him. I am not sure that it applies to my situation which is I am a shareholder in a coop. That is a situation of a building being considered a legal Corporation and each apartment dweller is considered an owner slash/shareholder of the corporation. It's a whole nother ballgame. In fact New York City Housing Court as I understand it will not hear any cases involving shareholders and co-ops. I guess it falls under just typical Corporation law. I know I'm not very literate trying to explain it but I hope you get the gist of what I'm trying to say. But I do so much appreciate your mentioning the article. Maybe I will call the 3-1-1 number in New York City and they can tell me whether or not co-ops fall under this law but I'm not expecting the answer I want! 😊

  • K8sMom2002

    Paula, what kind of progress have you made finding a safe pesticide to get rid of the roaches? And have the co-op's board members and staff come around?

  • Paularose

    Cynthia, I finally realized that I needed an attorney to deal with all the crap the board and attorney are pulling. So the attorney sent a letter to the board saying that under the Fair Housing Act I am considered disabled due to the asthma I developed from the initial extermination. She gave the board the names of two companies that claim they exterminate using green products. She also very subtly told the board and attorney that we are willing to go to court to defend my disability issue and if the board loses they are going to be liable for quite a bit of money. So basically it's all in the hands of the attorneys right now. The only problem is that I am now heading into my fourth month of 24/7 allergic reactions. Which I mentioned to my attorney. If you can believe it the board attorney wrote to my lawyer asking if the smell that still remains in my apartment could possibly be coming from the dead roaches. I very nicely told my attorney that it's not my place to confirm that and if the board wants to know they should hire someone such as an entomologist who would be qualified to make that determination. Also my lawyer requested that the co-op pay for a deep cleaning of my kitchen and bathroom, where the gel was originally placed. No response yet from the board.

    All I know is that I have spent close to $2,500 on doctor visits, medications and legal fees so far and don't see any end in sight.

    Thanks for your continuing concern.🌷

  • K8sMom2002

    Paula, hugs on the continuing struggles and reactions! To think that your one safe harbor for now isn't the safe harbor it was — and all because of a bug you never even had any trouble with in your apartment! I have faith that you WILL get all this straightened out. You sound like a committed and determined person! 

    I think you were very wise to get an attorney to handle this for you. It sounded like it was super, super stressful to keep responding. Experts — whether doctors or lawyers or entomologists – have the training and the experience to help us amateurs figure things out. 

  • LK
    Paularose posted:

     If you can believe it the board attorney wrote to my lawyer asking if the smell that still remains in my apartment could possibly be coming from the dead roaches. I very nicely told my attorney that it's not my place to confirm that and if the board wants to know they should hire someone such as an entomologist who would be qualified to make that determination.

    Paula,  Sending you some 'virtual' breathable and allergic-reaction-free air!!    Hug, too!     So sorry to hear that this is still an ongoing problem with your co-op! 

    Very wise of you to tell them that it isn't your place to know if the smell is coming from the roaches and refer them to a qualified person! 

    I have every confidence you will get through these trying times!  Hope the board replies soon with good news for you!