Nexus Real Estate v. Ericson, 2017 PA Super. 180, No. 972 WDA 2016 (June 12, 2017)

In November 2014, Tenant John Erickson learned that the ownership and management of the 47-unit apartment building in which he had lived for 12 years had changed.

That same month, a section of Tenant’s bathroom ceiling fell into his bathtub.  He reported the event to Landlord, but the condition was not immediately addressed.  Nor was it addressed at any time in the next several months.  In June 2015, Tenant reported that water was entering his unit through the hole in the ceiling, and in August he noted that there was visible mold in the bathroom. 

Finally, in September 2015, it appeared that Landlord had repaired the hole in the bathroom ceiling.  However, Landlord had only covered the hole with dropped ceiling tiles.

By December 2015 — more than one year after the initial ceiling failure — those tiles had fallen and the remaining ceiling  plaster was hanging.  Later that month, Landlord finally had the ceiling ripped out and had the rafters scrubbed with bleach.  To deal with the water infiltration problem, though Landlord had stapled plastic to the rafters and was collecting water with makeshift gutters of currogated plastic directed to the outside.

In addition to the failing ceiling, water infiltration, and mold, through December 2014 and January 2015, the heat in Tenant’s apartment was failing.  In February 2014, it stopped working entirely.  Despite Landlord’s assurances that the issue would be addressed, the heat was not repaired that winter.

Then, in June 2015, Tenant discovered that the unit’s air conditioning was not working, and he made a report to Landlord.  The following month Landlord installed a single window unit air conditioner, which failed within weeks.  Again, despite assurances from Landlord, the air conditioning was not repaired until mid-September.

At trial Tenant also introduced evidence of ongoing construction on the exterior of the building, around which Landlord did not provide safe, well-lit walking paths.  Further, the construction noise began at 6:30 a.m. seven days per week, and water to the units was shut off at least 25 times.

Ultimately, Tenant won a judgment against Landlord for breach of the warranty of habitability and violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection law (“UTPCPL”).  The Court found that Landlord had exhibited “intentional or reckless, wrongful conduct that warranted treble damages.”  The Superior Court affirmed.


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