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My Ceiling Almost Killed Me and My Landlady Didn't Care

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Curbed Horror Stories are firsthand reader reports about terrible apartment experiences past and present. Got a Curbed Horror Story of your own? Send it to tips@curbed.com.

"One day I was in the shower and heard a thunderous noise in the apartment. I ran out, dripping wet, to see that the ceiling in the living room had collapsed. When I say collapsed, I don't mean a little bit of plaster. I mean huge chunks of stucco that shook the wooden floors when they fell. Left a hole of about four feet. Could have very seriously injured someone, and I am not exaggerating on this point.

I collected my landlady and my roommates within the hour, and then we were all there to witness how a second huge chunk came crashing down. This was about 6 pm, and the landlady called the maintenance guy she uses for the building. At about 9 pm he arrived to say that he could do nothing that night and that whoever was living in the room off the living room (that would be me) should sleep elsewhere. The landlady refused to put me up in a hotel and since I had nowhere else to go, I camped out in my own room, stepping over the rubble, and wondering whether I'd live through the night.

There had been water marks in the living room stucco ceiling even before I moved in (about 3 months prior). Within a couple of days of this collapse, my roommates reported that two other rooms in the apartment were experiencing leaks. The landlord apparently knew that these leaks existed (a couple of us are quite new to the apartment) and had done nothing about them. I had heard tell that there had been some issues with the roof when the previous tenants were there, but it seems that the modus operandi of this landlord was to do as little as possible in such circumstances.

All indications would suggest that the living room ceiling collapsing was also due to the obviously badly leaky roof. My landlady wanted to claim absurdities like: the ceiling collapsed because someone had drilled a hole to install a light fixture (this can't possibly be the reason, as the light fixture had been installed many months before the collapse). She started denying the wooden beams underneath the stucco were wet so forcefully and repeatedly, even before anyone suggested this, that it just had to make you wonder.

In the ensuing week they slapped on some sheet rock to cover the moldy, wet beams. I don't care to think about what's really under there or how long it will be before we see more rot or collapse. My landlady's dealings with me were clearly in bad faith. She had often, and absurdly, denied problems which I could plainly see with my own eyes. 'I don't see a water stain there' she answered when it was pointed out to her. Come on!

On the night of the collapse I filed a complaint with 311 and my landlady actually tried to stop me from doing so, which I think might even be illegal. A couple of days later, the landlady's psychotic daughter came by to visit the site of the disaster and ended up screaming at me in my own kitchen: apparently the ceiling collapsing is somehow my fault. As background: this building is filthy and decrepit in every way. The bathroom tiles were falling out, exposing swatches of years-old moldy gunk underneath. No one had taken a vacuum cleaner to the stairwell in years. There was simply NO maintenance of this building, period. I've witnessed the psychotic daughter screaming at my roommate for daring to suggest that the decrepit, sub-standard front door to the apartment be replaced because it can easily be broken into and constitutes a safety violation.

Within a couple of weeks of the incident I found myself another apartment and moved out as quickly as possible. Although they covered up the ceiling the same day that an inspector came by to issue a violation, I just didn't have faith that they would do anything but a cheap, shoddy job. There were more heavy rains during those two weeks when I still had to live there, and you bet that all I did was stand around staring at that ceiling. Shaking hands, sleepless nights, psychotic shouting episodes, workers with bloodshot eyes who would slur their words while they were 'repairing' the ceiling – I'm endlessly grateful to be out of that nightmare now. However, my roommates, who couldn't come up with the cash up front to move elsewhere, are still there. And the snows are coming, so I wonder how the roof will hold this winter."
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