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Nexus Real Estate, LLC v. Erickson

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 12, 2017

NEXUS REAL ESTATE, LLC
v.
JOHN ERICKSON JOHN ERICKSON
v.
JASON COHEN, JLB RETASA SHADY, LLC AND NEXUS REAL ESTATE, LLC APPEAL OF: JLB RETASA SHADY, LLC AND NEXUS REAL ESTATE, LLC

         Appeal from the Judgment Entered June 28, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No(s): LT-15-1230

          BEFORE: BOWES, OLSON AND STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          BOWES, J.

         JLB Retasa Shady, LLC ("JLB"), property owner, and Nexus Real Estate, LLC ("Nexus"), property manager, (collectively "Landlord"), appeal from the June 28, 2016 judgment entered in favor of tenant John Erickson. We affirm.

         In July 2002, Mr. Erickson entered into a lease with the Reddy Family for an apartment in their forty-seven unit building located on Shady Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Initially, he paid $550 per month in rent, but that sum increased gradually to $700 per month over the twelve years he resided there under the Reddys' ownership. In November 2014, JLB bought the real estate.

         On November 24, 2014, a two-foot-by-two-foot section of Mr. Erickson's bathroom ceiling fell into his bathtub. When Mr. Erickson notified the Reddy family of the ceiling collapse, he was advised that they no longer owned the building. They assured him, however, that they would convey his request for repairs to the new owners.

         JLB had hired Nexus to manage the building. Mr. Erickson, as well as the other tenants, were notified by Nexus on December 12, 2014, that they would be required to sign a new lease within nine days or vacate their units by December 31, 2014. Prior to signing a new lease on December 19, 2014, Mr. Erickson met with Laura Beynon, the leasing agent for Nexus. She reassured him that the hole in his bathroom ceiling and failing heat would be remedied promptly. Although Mr. Erickson would have preferred that the defects were cured prior to signing a new lease, he maintained that he did not have time to pack and locate a new place in which to live in the nineteen-day window of time.

         Mr. Erickson introduced photographs depicting the condition of his bathroom ceiling as of December 12, 2014. When the promised repairs had not been undertaken by January 2015, he telephoned Nexus. Nexus employees told Mr. Erickson they would take care of it. The heat failed entirely in February, and Mr. Erickson could not remain in his apartment. He stayed elsewhere for most of the month, but returned at the end of February with a space heater and a military sleeping bag.

         Mr. Erickson renewed his complaints in March, but to no avail. He had no heat throughout the winter and the hole in the bathroom ceiling was not repaired. On June 10, 2015, Mr. Erickson discovered the air conditioning also did not work. When he reported this latest deficiency to Nexus via email, he received reassurances that day, and again on June 16, that Nexus would fix the problem. Nexus finally installed a window air-conditioning unit in July. Mr. Erickson notified the management company on July 28, 2015 that the unit was not cooling and that the daytime temperature in his apartment was in the mid-nineties. Nexus promised to address the problem by July 30, but did not do so.

         Mr. Erickson offered into evidence photographs taken on June 14, 2015 that depicted water entering through the hole in his bathroom ceiling. His complaints to Nexus were ignored. In the beginning of August, the Vice President of Nexus, Craig Falk, was on the premises talking to a roofer. Mr. Erickson availed himself of the opportunity to discuss the hole in the ceiling and the non-working air conditioning and Mr. Falk accompanied him to his apartment. Mr. Falk assured him, "We'll have it fixed." N.T., 5/5/16, at 22. Nothing was done.

         On August 5, 2015, Mr. Erickson emailed Nexus and advised that it was raining in his bathroom, there was visible mold, and that he was coughing. He received no response. On August 16, he begged Nexus to do something, but again, there was no response. Finally, Nexus replied to his August 25th plea, confirmed on August 27, 2015, that it found leaks in the ceiling, and advised that it would be making repairs within a few days.

         Mr. Erickson left his apartment and returned on September 5, 2015. A significant part of his bathroom ceiling had collapsed during his absence. He was excited when, on September 10, Nexus appeared to have fixed the hole in the ceiling. "That excitement faded away when" he moved the dropped ceiling tiles and realized that "the big gaping hole was still present." Id. at 25. He could see mold in the ceiling. He closed the door to the bathroom and left the apartment for two months. When he returned on December 6, 2015, the ceiling tiles had fallen and what remained of the plaster ceiling was hanging. He captured the condition in photographs.

         Finally, on December 11, Nexus arranged for someone to rip out the ceiling to the bare rafters and scrub it with bleach to ameliorate the mold. Shortly before this occurred, Mr. Erickson had gone to the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections, and the agency had inspected his apartment on December 9, 2015, and filed a report. Nexus employees also told Mr. Erickson that the Allegheny Health Department had contacted them about the possibility of mold in his bathroom. Mr. Erickson believed that his complaints to city agencies prompted Nexus to hire the mold remediation company and repair the ceiling.

         Nonetheless, the water problem persisted. Plastic had been stapled into the rafters and was collecting water when it rained. Instead of fixing the roof, Nexus placed makeshift gutters of corrugated plastic in the rafters to collect the rainwater dripping through the roof and channel it to the outside. It was not until December 17, 2015, that Nexus dry walled ...


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