Great Neck renter gets settlement from landlord after no gas, hot water

Great Neck renter gets settlement from landlord after no gas, hot water
Judy Yu and her two children. (Photo courtesy of Yu)

After living without gas for 38 days and hot water for 47 days, Great Neck resident Judy Yu sued her landlord for neglecting to fix the problem and to seek reimbursement for her rent cost during that period. But the courts granted her only a fraction of what she sought.

Yu moved into her rental home in the Village of Great Neck with her two children in August and said that within the first day of living there, she smelled gas. When she first brought the issue up to her landlord, Yosef Shemtov, Yu said he disregarded the complaint and didn’t look into it.

In October, after two months of living with her windows open and then having to shut them due to the colder weather, the smell was still persistent and Yu took the matter into her own hands.

She called National Grid, which upon inspecting her home immediately turned off her gas due to a leak.

But the problem was not solved, with her landlord a week later turning the gas back on without conducting a pressure test of the gas lines, she said.

Yu’s gas was turned off again on Nov. 3 by National Grid, leaving her for the second time with no gas and no hot water as the weather got colder. Multiple pressure tests were then conducted, all of which failed due to a continuing leak in the gas pipes.

The village assisted in getting the pipes fixed in Yu’s home and connecting her back to the gas lines. A pressure test finally passed in late November, bringing heat back into her home by early December.

After more than a month of living without gas or hot water, during the late fall when temperatures began dropping, Yu claimed that her landlord ignored her requests to fix the problem.

Efforts to reach Shemtov were unavailing.

On Jan. 3, Yu filed a small claim in Nassau County’s First District Court against her landlord for the losses she incurred during the time without gas and hot water.

Yu asked for $5,000, the maximum amount she said she could demand in Small Claims Court, but said that she really wanted to be reimbursed for her total rent during that period.

Her rent amounts to $3,500 a month. For a 30-day month, her rent would equate to about $117 a day, making the total amount of rent during the 47 days without hot water about $5,483.

Due to not having any hot water or gas, Yu said she also had to spend extra money on buying prepared foods as she was unable to utilize her kitchen without the utilities.

Before the case went to court, Yu and Shemtov engaged in arbitration to settle the dispute. She said she was offered a reimbursement of about half a month’s rent, or about $1,750, but she rejected it as she calculated her damages to be much higher and the house continued to be in violation.

After a Feb. 28 court hearing, Yu was awarded $983 for her damages – less than a fifth of what she had asked for and even less than what she equated to her total monetary loss.

Yu said she was confused about how the amount awarded to her was determined.

“I don’t know the reason why he calculated it like this,” Yu said.  She never received an explanation from the court or the landlord about how the figure was arrived at.

Upon receiving the judgment, Yu said appealing the decision crossed her mind. But the impending legal fees to continue the case squashed her desires to do so.

“I think it’s not worth [it] for me doing the appeal,” Yu said. “So maybe I just accept it.”

She said while she wasn’t awarded the full amount she was asking for, it was better to go through the legal process and at least get some monetary relief for her situation.

“So I may quit,” Yu said. “I just accept the judgment.”

While Yu’s hot water and gas service has been fixed and she had been awarded some damages, she said the house is still violating building codes – like the garage turned into a bedroom and a basement that did not pass inspection.

She said the house was inspected by the village three months ago and a summons was delivered to her landlord, but no action has been taken.

Her work is not done yet, Yu said, as she continues to press her landlord to address the building violations that are still pending against her rental home.

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