from the Judgment Entered June 28, 2016 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No(s):
BEFORE: BOWES, OLSON AND STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...