My greedy, negligent, abusive landlord
This is a personal account of my experience renting an apartment from Cindy Chow (AKA Mei Ling Chow, Chow Mei Ling) in Bushwick, Brooklyn, from 2015 to present. I will be adding documentation of the ongoing mistreatment, harassment, and negligence perpetrated by Ms. Chow against my neighbors and me.
In the Beginning . . .
When I first rented my current home, eight years ago, the premises consisted of a duplex apartment on the ground floor and basement levels of a six-unit building. At the time, two of my neighbors' apartments were rent stabilized, but mine had been de-regulated by my landlord, sometime after her acquisition of the building, in 2011. Records show her as the sole owner of (shares of an LLC that owns) the building. Public records also indicate that she owns at least six other multi-family buildings, within the 5 boroughs of NYC.
On the ground floor, there were two bedrooms, a living room, full bath and kitchen, from which the basement area can be accessed via a super narrow staircase. When I say, "super narrow," I mean it's merely 24" wide and obviously not built to code, but okay for a small person, such as me. At the time of my first lease signing, the basement area was about 2/3 the length of the space I rented on the ground floor. As such, there was a flimsy closet door that had been nailed shut, partitioning off space that was rented to another tenant, underneath my back bedroom. My basement area had two, front facing windows, gas and water hook-ups and drain (but no fixtures), and a half bath.
It seemed as if there was little to no insulation between the floor of my back bedroom, and the basement, so I'd often hear musicians practicing, and could even hear full conversations. My back bedroom has also always been freezing cold in the winter months. But I really liked the apartment and location, so like most New Yorkers, I was willing to make due with some "oddities" and inconveniences. That said, it's significantly more expensive to run space heaters all winter, and time consuming to constantly be sealing and unsealing drafty windows, filling holes chewed by rats (oh, yes - there are entire colonies of rats living inside my walls and between floors. but I digress. . . )
About Me, as a Tenant
Before I go further, I'd like to say that in over these past eight years, I have never been a day late with rent, until I stopped payment on my most recent check (Dec. 2022). Until just a few months ago, I could also say that I have never made a single complaint to the city, regarding the building or my landlord. I keep on good terms with my neighbors, am tidy and respectful, and never make any special requests. I've asked for maintenance only a handful of times, and only with critical issues.
Background: My Landlord & Neighbors
As I mentioned, two units in my building are/were rent stabilized. My neighbor "MR" from 3R and her husband, had lived in the building for over 30 years, until he died of Covid, in March of 20. Prior to her leaving the building, MR used to regale me with tales of woe suffered at the hands of our landlord. It was the usual stuff: neglect, refusal to make repairs, harassment. She had been in and out of court many times with Ms. Chow, and even provided me with a copy of my apartment's rent history, thinking that maybe my apartment hadn't been de-regulated. My neighbor across the hall, in 1R (we'll call him MO) and his family, have lived in the building for quite some time, as well. He routinely expressed similar complaints. He told me that when Ms. Chow first started "harassing" him and his family, in hopes that they'd move out, he asked "what do you have against us?" Her reply was blunt: "It's nothing personal. I bought this building to make money."
The Erosion of My Relationship with My Landlord
It happened on June 2nd, 2022. My boyfriend and I were redecorating the back bedroom, when my drill hit a small, copper water pipe. Water started gushing out of the 1/4" hole in the wall. Dave ran downstairs, to attempt to turn off the water, since he'd seen a valve, a few weeks prior, while helping me deal with the ongoing rat infestation. Meanwhile, I ran to grab a bucket. After successfully turning off the water, we knocked on the door of 1R, and MO told us that indeed, their water was no longer working. He was very understanding -- we all noted that the placement of a water pipe, directly behind the sheetrock in my bedroom, seemed unusual and incorrect (possibly another code violation). We talked about calling the landlord to repair the pipe. He was certain that based on his interaction with Ms. Chow, over the past 11 years, she wouldn't "fix it for weeks." He continued to lament the fact that he and his family would likely have to go without water for an extended period. I felt terrible about that, but also feared the ire and wrath of the landlord towards me. The subsequent decision to call an emergency plumber, and pay for it myself, was an easy and immediate one.