It’s June 22, a little after midnight as I write this. I’m going to schedule this post to appear on Monday the 26th.
My name is Sarah Kovac. For the last 7 months, I’ve been renting an apartment in Kenmore New York, from Evelyn Simon. She is the worst landlord in Buffalo.
When I got this apartment, around the end of November, beginning of December, 2016, I was thrilled. I had only been in Buffalo since the beginning of October, crashing on the couch with an old friend, Dave. Eventually Dave and I got together, but I wanted my own space. Previously, I had spent March – September of 2016 homeless, living in a series of vehicles and with friends. I wanted my own space.
Evelyn Simon offered an apartment I could live in without having to provide paystubs or references, since I had neither of those things. A modest little one bedroom apartment, a place I could go when Dave’s house felt a little too chaotic, a place I could call my own.
Very quickly problems started.
Twice in December, Evelyn or her boyfriend came out to replace my thermostat, in response to my complaints about the lack of heat. They both told me repeatedly that the heat worked fine for the previous tenant, and that I probably just didn’t understand how to work the thermostat. I watched tutorial videos on youtube and I asked several of my tech savvy friends to teach me how to use the thermostat. It’s not hard. But, the heat just wouldn’t come on. I put a space heater in my bedroom, but mostly, I slept at Dave’s house at night, so I told myself it was fine.
In March, during the coldest week of the winter, I finally got fed up. It was 15 degrees outside, and 40 inside my apartment, according to the thermostat. I called a professional from Adema Heating and Cooling. The Adema guy re-lit the pilot light. He waited to see how it would work. Within a few minutes, the pilot light had gone out again. He told me due to the age of the furnace, there were hundreds of dollars worth of repairs that would need to be made, or else the entire 50 year old furnace might need to be replaced.
I shared this information with Evelyn, but at that point, I was exhausted. My relationship with Dave had gotten more serious. We decided to renovate the first floor of his house so I could move in full time, and have my own space at the same time. I invested in that house. We picked out paint colors and baseboards. We worked together to tear down old wall paper. He snapchatted me from Home Depot. I was thrilled.
And then Dave died, and I lost my space in his house, and I told Evelyn to forget about the furnace problems. It was now April, and the weather was getting warmer, and I would probably be OK. I needed a place to keep living. I asked her if I could finally sign a lease so I could make some plans around the apartment. She never gave me a lease.
The first week of May, it rained for several days. A leak started in my bathroom, which turned into a big leaky paint bulge. I alerted Evelyn on May 7th. Later that day, her boyfriend came to rip out the ceiling fan and light fixture. Evelyn said someone would come fix it “not sure when exactly.” On May 9th, someone came to my apartment and covered the hole with a black plastic trash bag, hammering it into place with screws.
On May 25th, during more rain, the black trash bag-screw “solution” leaked some more.
On June 3rd, Evelyn said she would “hopefully no by sun nite” when repair people were coming. Nearly a month after the initial leak started.
On June 6th, I opened an escrow account at Key Bank and deposited the rent.
On June 9th, I sent a letter via certified mail, informing Evelyn that I had opened an escrow account at Key Bank, where the rent would remain until repairs were made.
On June 10th, Evelyn asked for the rent. There was still a trash bag covered leaky hole in my apartment.
On Monday June 12th, Evelyn responded with shock (probably having received the certified letter) and then “contractor be over between 10 and 2.”
On Tuesday June 13th, I stayed in my apartment all day, taking pictures of the trash hole every half hour, with increasingly frustrated/hilarious snap chat filters, as no one showed up to fix the hole.
On Thursday June 15th, I had a contractor from 3G come to give me his own estimate. The repairs were not that extensive – $30 per hour labor, maybe 4 to 5 hours of work, plus an $80 fixture available at Home Depot or Lowes. But he told me there was no point in fixing the ceiling if there was still a hole in the roof. I don’t have roof access. I have no way to know.
On June 19, Evelyn sent texts saying “contractors working all week when can I get in to fix tiny whole and get my 2 months rent upon completion…tu” and “need to know if I can let them in or if u need to be at aot.” I have transcribed her spelling.
I responded “I am available to let repair crew in.”
She responded “and when done I expect may and June’s rent in full.”
June 19, 20, and 21 pass with no repair crews. I sit in my apartment for most of those days, posting pictures of the trash hole to snapchat and instagram.
June 21st, Amber from Erie County Health Department came to inspect the apartment. I had been calling every health board and legal aid department and housing authority since the leak began. She said she would file her report and be back in a week to see if repairs were made.
Also June 21st, I deposited the second month of rent into the escrow account at Key Bank.
Also June 21, Evelyn texts “will be over at 10 am tomorrow.” I respond “I will be available to let repair crew in.” She says “ok…tu.”
Will anyone actually show up tomorrow? I don’t know.
I do know that I am packing all my stuff and preparing to get out of here at the end of June.
If you’d like to see a timeline of these events unfolding, you can check my instagram https://www.instagram.com/sarah.a.moose/ Go back to early March for the furnace saga. Here’s March 12 https://www.instagram.com/p/BRiwq3_g72ocni1FPAmVf_GeCgFNiCGcpTzg-00/?taken-by=sarah.a.moose_
I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I went through. For the first 4 months I had this apartment, when Dave was alive and I was spending most of my time at his house, I let things slide. Remember, I had been homeless for half of 2016. I was just grateful for a roof over my head. After sleeping curled up in my old Taurus, I was thrilled beyond belief to have a WHOLE apartment to myself. With a bathroom! A toilet and a shower! I didn’t have to wipe off in gas station bathrooms or sneak into motel rooms when the house keeping carts went by.
But just because I’ve lived in worse conditions, doesn’t mean these conditions are actually OK. They’re not. I should have had a working furnace all winter. And I should have had my bathroom ceiling patched up the week it happened … not going on 2 months later.
I don’t know if the repairs are going to happen. I spoke to Legal Aid today. They said at this point, I’m well within my rights to move out and take my 2 months back rent with me. I never signed a lease, even after asking for one, because Evelyn never produced one for me to sign. If I were to leave and take my back rent with me, she could try to take me to small claims court, but Legal Aid told me if I showed a judge the pictures of the bathroom ceiling hole and the thermostat pics from March, she would lose. And she might even have to pay for my court fees on top of it. So it would be an unwise case for her to pursue.
I’m just ready for this whole ordeal to be over. I’m done with this apartment and I’m done with Evelyn Simon.