What is your question? If you have insurance make a claim. If not, you will need to figure out the cause and whether someone was negligent. If your loss is significant dollar wise consult an attorney who handles property damage cases.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.
If you have a tenants or contents insurance policy you place a claim with your insurance carrier. If you have a lease, review the terms of the lease to see what types of repairs the landlord is liable for, then determine he cause of the flood. As counsel stated, if you have substantial damages and can show that the flood was due to the negligence of someone else then consult an attorney. If your damages are under $5,000.00 try a suit in Small Claims Court.
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Your basement apartment likely is an illegal dwelling. You had the right to demand rent receipts for your rent and if not provided to stop paying rent. If the apartment is not legal to rent or if the building does not disclose the basement apartment on the certificate of occupancy or if there is no certificate of occupancy, then you did not have to pay rent at all, and your landlord would not have been allowed to sue for unpaid rent.
First. Basement apartment likely illegal. Read more here:
The reason for flooding of illegal apartments in basements vary, but often, the flood is caused by another event in the building, or from a rain or storm run off event, or a water main or pipe, but because the drains in the basement floor are covered the entering water piles up instead of freely flowing out.
Check for the certificate of occupancy for your building at (NYC Department of Buildings):
Locate the building information menu and fill in the information requested. That should take you to your building's page. Look for certificates of occupancy. If there is a certificate of occupancy recorded look for your basement apartment. If not listed as a dwelling unit on the certificate the apartment is not likely legal. Look for other information including violations, work without permit, stop work orders. Often, a landlord will be caught making an illegal conversion and ordered stopped and file plans and then the interest flags. There may be other data reported relating to your apartment or other illegal work performed in the building.
If the building looks as it may be a one or two family building look up the building information at HPD Online at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/home/home.shtml
Enter the building address information. That should take you to the building's page. If the building is a legal two family then the number of apartments listed should be only 2. That means your extra apartment is illegal and that the building is also now an illegal multiple dwelling. The landlord is not allowed to sue for rent if the building is altered into a three (or more) unit building without complying with the rules that require registration of multiple dwellings.
Look for reported violations for the extra apartment.
If the building is obviously an apartment building with three or more apartment then the building should be registered as a legal multiple dwelling, but if your apartment is not legal for residential use, again the landlord does not have a right to sue for rent if the rent is not paid.
In Queens, the landlord is allowed to use the court to evict a tenant the landlord installed into a tenancy in an illegal apartment but the court will not allow rent.
The danger signs are loud and clear when a landlord will not provide a rent receipt. That means the landlord does not want to be at one end of a paper trail where the landlord is proving by its own hand that it rented an illegal apartment. New York law gave you the right to demand a receipt. It is not legal when a tenant demands a receipt for the landlord not to provide a receipt.
Had you owned your own insurance, your policy may not even pay out if the apartment were illegal and the cause of the damage could be proven to be a hazard you should have disclosed when purchasing the policy.
Self collection of your damages by living rent free (if the apartment is illegal) is one way to capture your money damages. It will take the landlord some time to bring on a legal eviction case. Perhaps you could use the time to negotiate your move out in exchange for money.
Your rights. You may need to hire an attorney to accomplish more than discovering the basic facts.
The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.