Tamika, a mother of seven, has been in her Bronx development since 1983. Her mother also lived in the complex until her death in January. When Tamika had a gas leak for the second time, her building was slow to resolve the issue, despite her long history. Unable to take her landlord to court because of the coronavirus pandemic, she reached out to JustFix.nyc for help. The site has a free tool called Emergency HP Action, which helps renters document emergency maintenance issues and bring negligent landlords to court online. Here’s what happened.
At the end of February, I noticed a gas smell coming from my stove. It was only a matter of days before my kids started smelling it too. By March, my kids, who usually hang out near the kitchen, started having headaches and stomach pains, but we weren’t exactly sure why.
I reached out to my super, who lives on site, and he came to check out the apartment. He claimed not to smell anything and went as far to say that it was impossible for us to smell gas because we don’t have a gas stove (which we do). He promised that management would send someone to check it out—that never happened.
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A few days later, our family came to visit and as soon as they walked in, they mentioned the gas smell. My son then said that’s probably why he was having so many headaches. I called my super again, he said he already told management and didn’t know what else to do.
My kids always come first so I decided to take matters into my own hands: I hung up and called 911. As soon as the fire department arrived, their gas leak detector went crazy. They made my young kids leave the apartment and told us to open all of the windows and doors. That’s when they disconnected the gas to my stove.
What makes this worse is that I already went through this back in November. I was without a stove for three weeks because of a leak and management eventually replaced it. Back then, they tried to give me a hotplate in between that was dirty, so I rejected it. This time around, the super told my daughter that they didn’t offer us a hotplate or resolution because I’m “too boujee.” Since when is wanting an operable stove or a clean hotplate boujee?
The gas leak isn’t the only problem we’re having. There’s also rodents living in our walls and it’s only getting worse. They sent an exterminator out before, but that only helped temporarily. Now, it’s so bad that my kids barely sleep at night because whatever rodents are in the walls are so loud that it sounds like they’re going to break through.
Finally, on April 16th, I had my first conversation with management over the issue. By this time, I had already been without a stove for over a week. It was frustrating as a mother with five young kids (my two oldest are grown), trying to feed them three meals a day, everyday, from restaurants, which is extremely expensive especially because I’m out on workers compensation right now.
I was also sick with Covid-19 and none of us were supposed to go outside because of the pandemic. It was very stressful. I called 311 and they said while courts are closed they’re holding virtual hearings for emergencies and suggested that I reach out to JustFix.nyc for help. The site had just launched a free tool called Emergency HP Action, which helps renters document emergency maintenance issues and bring negligent landlords to court virtually.
I’m not tech savvy at all (my kids help me with everything), so when I went to JustFix.nyc, I thought my kids were going to have to help me. But I was able to complete the entire process on my own. It was easy to use and it took less than 10 minutes to fill out the questions. If I was able to do it without any help, then you know it’s easy to use.
I got an initial response from JustFix.nyc within a couple of hours. Within a couple of days, a representative reached out to me to get specific information about my situation. They were very friendly and caring about the situation. They even have a bot that calls to make sure that the courts contacted you and ask for feedback on the program. Being referred to the site was a blessing, because I had lost hope and wasn’t sure what else to do. It made the process much easier. Even once it’s over, they don’t just forget about you, they continue to follow up.
Shortly before my court date, management finally sent someone to repair the stove, two and a half weeks later. I didn’t want the stove repaired, because I feel like since this has happened before, something more needs to be done, especially since the repairman told me that even with replacing two parts, the leak is very likely to happen again.
By the time the court date came around, I was exhausted. There was an HPD rep at the hearing with me, but a rep from building management never showed up. Since the issue was resolved before my court date, the judge said she couldn’t do anything. My case was adjourned since management didn’t send anyone. The judge said that once the courts reopen, my next step would be to take them to small claims court.
All of this has really hurt my feelings, especially since we have lived here for so long. We’ve never done anything that would make us bad tenants, but management has not been as supportive as I would think. They’ve referred to us as “those people” and even accused me of cutting the gas line just so I could get a new stove.
For now, I’m using the repaired stove but I’m also saving up to buy a new one because I’m not comfortable using it long term. Once the courts reopen, I plan on following up in small claims court like the judge suggested because it’s not fair that my children and I have to go through this.