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Unlicensed Help May Be Problematic

In an effort to curb costs, landlords sometimes use unlicensed workers for construction and repairs. This can have serious consequences when work involves major building systems.

For example, defective work from unlicensed plumbers can damage the building or make your apartment uninhabitable. Whenever defective conditions affect your use of the apartment, you can sue in Housing Court to require the landlord to repair them. If you show unlicensed workers caused the damage, you can request that repairs be performed by licensed professionals. You may also be entitled to a rent abatement, or reduction in rent, to reflect any loss of services.

Another example would be if your landlord says that workers must break into your walls or ceiling to correct some defect. Ask for the expert's credentials. You can request that the workers be licensed. However, at this point, with the prospect of major damage to your unit looming, it's probably worth it to consult a Tenants' lawyer about your rights. You might also want to get an opinion from your own architect, engineer, or contractor as to whether the intrusion is actually going to be useful or necessary, or if a less disruptive solution exists.

If you raise these claims, the landlord may sue to evict you, claiming you're interfering with necessary repair work. Your attorney can defend the request for licensed repair personnel, and counterclaim for a rent abatement if there's a loss of services. If you agree to settle a conflict, your lawyer can negotiate to compensate you for losses occasioned by the defective conditions.

So if you have problems with repairs, inquiring if the workers are licensed may give you leverage in a dispute. It might also help you avoid one.

Attention New York City Tenants: Get information on bad conditions in your apartment at the McAdams Law main site here.

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