Two Egregious Breaches of the Warranty of Habitability

In Ludlow Properties, LLC v. Young (4 Misc.3d 515, N.Y.City Civ.Ct., 2004) the landlord of a rent stabilized apartment in Manhattan brought a nonpayment proceeding against his tenant for the nonpayment of rent for six months. The tenants as an affirmative defense asserted that the landlord breached his warranty of habitability for allowing a severe infestation of bed bugs in the apartment.

The premises in question were a studio apartment with a sleeping loft raised on a brick wall on one side of the studio room with bathroom facilities on the other. [Tenant] slept in the loft bed until he realized the premises were infested with bedbugs when in the end of June 2003 he saw a posting in the lobby of the building which read:

"ATTENTION TENANTS please be advised that the exterminator will be in the building on Saturday August 2nd between 9AM and 2PM for a special service for the bed bugs. Please remove all sheets and pillowcases from your beds. Place all dirty clothing in bags to have it cleaned. Pull all bookshelves and other fixtures away from the walls for better access to those areas ..."

Upon reading this posting, [Tenant] realized the cause of the hundreds of bite marks he had noticed on his body since mid-June 2003 and why he was often startled awake many nights during this period--there was a major bed bug infestation!

Over the next few months [Tenant] employed four methods to attempt a restful night of sleep-none of which proved effective. First he threw out his bed and all his bedding and slept on the floor after placing towels on the floor. He quickly realized this method was useless as he was still bitten hundreds of times. Next he put plastic sheeting on the floor in the sleeping area he prepared. This method proved just as useless. In the third week of August, he bought an inflatable mattress to sleep upon. Besides the mattress requiring re-inflation at least once during the night, the mattress was unacceptable as bedbugs still preyed upon his skin. Finally, since mid-September 2004, [Tenant] has been sleeping on a metal cot with a wire mesh covering. This appeared to stop the biting of the bedbugs, but as demonstrated in the court room no real comfort was possible in this less than six foot metal cot.

For the period July 2003 through December 2003 [Tenant] saw bed bugs on a regular basis. [Tenant] found bedbugs on his couch as late as December 2003. [Tenant] testified that he threw out a couch containing bed bug nests, an armoire, a shelf, books, drapes, towels, linens and clothes. [Tenant] testified that threw out everything except family heirlooms.

[Tenant] related a story about his Christmas holiday in December 2003 at his family's home in Massachusetts. He had to enter the family home through the basement, take off all his clothes and place them in a plastic bag and then seal the bag with duct tape. He then took a hot shower for a half hour and was required to wear his father's clothes all weekend to make sure he did not bring any of the nymphs into his parents' home.