Woman who didn't pay rent for 9 years wins case

Landlord can't evict her if he hasn't kept the building up to code, New York court rules. The Loft Law allows commercial buildings to be used as residences if they meet safety standards.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jun 12, 2012 10:26AM

Since 2003, artist Margaret Maugenest has refused to pay the rent on her loft in Brooklyn, saying the building is not up to code.


Four years after her landlord sued to evict her, the New York State Court of Appeals has agreed. Maugenest can keep the $60,000 in unpaid rent she has faithfully put into escrow since she stopped paying nine years ago.


"We just want the owner to do the right thing," said Maugenest, whose rent is less than $600 a month, in The New York Times. You can see photos of her loft here.


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Hands exchanging stack of hundred-dollar bills (© James Lauritz/Getty Images)New York City has some of the strongest tenant-protection laws in the nation. Maugenest's building, an abandoned shoe factory turned into lofts in 1979, is subject to the 1982 Loft Law. That law requires landlords to bring former commercial buildings up to fire and safety standards in order to use them as residential rental buildings.

According to Maugenest and her neighbors, her landlord has not done that.

The building owner's law, David Berger, argued that the law itself has made it impossible for the owner to make the necessary upgrades, since it requires tenants to approve all improvements. "If it wasn’t safe, they wouldn’t be living there," he said in The Times.

Artists began moving into the building in 1979 and have made improvements themselves, including replacing all the windows in the 1990s. Maugenest, who arrived in 1984, paid for all the plumbing and electrical work in her loft.


"The residents have done a lot to keep the building from crumbling," textile artist Janice Everett said in The Times.

An unknown number of other buildings in New York could be in the same situation. About 300 have not yet met the requirements of the 30-year-old Loft Law, but it's not known how many have received extensions, The Times reported.

Tags: rentals
Jun 12, 2012 11:48AM
Same thing happens in California.  Nice way to steal from property owners. 
Jun 12, 2012 11:46AM
What a joke. I pay 5 times that for a small 1 bedroom in Manhattan. Should have rented a loft in Brooklyn instead.
Jun 12, 2012 11:42AM
That's stupid. You do not like the building please find yourself another one. If you decide to live there please pay your rent as simple as that.
Jun 12, 2012 11:42AM
not enough escow money for a down payment on even a shed in the NYC area.
Jun 12, 2012 11:39AM
This is an IDIOTIC decision. Rent, like all commercial transactions, should be controlled by the law of SUPPLY and DEMAND. If the SQUATTERS  didn't think the rent was reasonable, NOTHING stopped them from MOVING . ALL rent controll laws are ridiculous. Why should a landlord be restricted for life to a tenant who only signs a one year, or shorter, lease. It's socialism, pure and simple and where the country is headed. Once 51% of the people are on the dole they can simply outvote the WORKERS and force them to support the wothless slackers with the majority vote. One of the reasons the founding fathers did NOT want a pure democracy - the tryanny of the majority.
Jun 12, 2012 11:35AM

She has been paying her rent. The money is held in ESCROW where neither party can touch until the lawsuit is resolved. This law was passed because in the 70s many landlords would not fix broken boilers in the middle of winter and still expected to to get their rent. Ever heard of Slumlords?

Jun 12, 2012 11:31AM

I figure the money is in escrow in the event she lost the case.  Margaret Mauganest now has enough escrow money for a deposit on a decent house!  Whether she continues to live there "rent free" will demonstrate what type of character she has (as opposed to the landlord who did not bring his property into compliance with the law.)

Jun 12, 2012 11:28AM
Did you read the article?  She paid the money into an escrow account.  She had the money to pay if she lost in court.  She also made improvements herself, who is going to reimburse her for that expense?  And why is there no outrage at the building owner for not keeping the property safe for his tennants?
Jun 12, 2012 11:24AM
I just walked a tenant Move-out with an IRS agent.  It was a total destruction and the government wonders where it can collect revenue ?  I learned all the tricks renters use, so in my next life I won't need to pay rent and let government pay for my welfare & housing.  I wonder who will pay the judges salaries, if we all start living on someone else 's dollar ?
Jun 12, 2012 11:23AM
Does anybody actually READ the articles anymore? Or just have stupid comments to leave? She "faithfully" paid her rent every single month into escrow....losers...try reading every once in awhile...it will actually make that thing in your skull fire up....
Jun 12, 2012 11:22AM
LOL - what a law!  You have to make upgrades to get the building up to standards, but the tenants have to approve the improvements.  So they keep saying, hey, you can't fix that... and by the way, I'm not paying my rent because you haven't fixed it!!!
Jun 12, 2012 11:20AM
free rent for 9 yrs. Score one for the common folk!
Jun 12, 2012 11:17AM
What a loser.  Why not just kick her out and then not rent it at all and have no one in there pooping and using the place and wearing it out?  It's his property it is his right to have no occupants. 
Jun 12, 2012 11:17AM
As a former landlord in Washington State who was scammed by a tenant, I disagree with the court's ruling on this matter.  In my case, the tenant deliberately damaged my property to claim that it was a violation of code.  She then fabricated emails claiming that I was threatening her.  The emails were determined to be fake, and the court dismissed those claims.  After having to spend $2k on an attorney for an unlawful detainer (eviction) motion, the tenant removed herself from my property right before the hearing.  She evaded law enforcement when papers were attempted to be served upon her.  It was discovered that she had done this same thing to other landlords; she was ultimately convicted for being a fugitive on ID theft and fraud (from another state).  She was extradited to that state and imprisoned.  While she was squatting in my house, she scammed churches and other organizations who believed the stories of her single mother difficulties.  Too many protections for these scumbags.
This woman in NY sounds like a scamming douchebag.  Looking at her photos, it appears that she really enjoyed her loft space while she was working on her art.  I'm guessing her "profession" as an artist didn't pay the bills, so she later ditched out on her responsibility.  Shameful!!!

Jun 12, 2012 11:09AM
Jun 12, 2012 11:09AM

wtf lady? why did it take you 9 years to get your landlord to get the building up to code?  Why didn't you sue him?  OOOOHHHHhhhh that would have emant that you would have to pay your rent.... it seems like an interesting double standard of situations.  I think the woman should now be forced to move and find a realistically priced NY apartment.......

Stupid B!tch

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