A long-time Manhattan Beach resident whose rent-stabilized apartment was completely flooded during Hurricane Sandy has been living in a friend’s storage room ever since the storm — and she has no prospect of moving back into her home anytime soon.
Her landlord has told her that her apartment won’t be fixed for at least another three years — meanwhile, the vacant apartment right across the hall from her — which is market rate — is already repaired and back on the market.
“An acquaintance of mine rented me a room, a store room, where I have a cot, a snack table and a folding chair,” said Andrea Dunetz, a teacher who works with mentally disabled children. “Sometimes I can’t articulate how bad it is, and all I can do is cry.”
Dunetz was inside her below-street-level West End Avenue apartment between Hampton Avenue and Oriental Boulevard when Sandy’s storm surge flooded her home almost to the ceiling, and nearly turned it into her tomb.
“The damage was tremendous,” she said. “The water got to six-inches from the ceiling, and I was in it too, to my shoulders. It washed in so fast and powerful we couldn’t move the doors open or closed — it took five people to open the door and get me out.”
After the storm, Dunetz, who had been in her apartment for more than 33 years and pays substantially less than market rat thanks to rent stabilization, was first told that the repairs would take six weeks.
But it wasn’t long before her landlord told her that the repairs on her apartment would take an incredible three to five years, and that she would be better off abandoning the lease and finding somewhere else to live.
“My life is predicated now on what he told me, that the repairs would take six weeks,” said Dunetz. “Now he’s telling me it will take five years. The whole building has been renovated and repaired, and my apartment hasn’t been touched.”
The building’s laundry room, electrical meters, and — most revealingly — the nearby vacant apartment that suffered nearly identical damage during the storm, have been completely repaired, according to Dunetz.
Because part of the building went co-op in the years after Dunetz moved in, it’s unclear if the landlord responsible for repairing Dunetz’s apartment is also the custodian for the vacant unit across the hall, but both apartments suffered the same damage and the vacant unit was indeed repaired in about six weeks.
So Dunetz believes that her landlord is intentionally delaying repairs to her apartment in order to force her out of the lease, and then rent the unit at market value for more than twice what she’s currently paying.
“If it talks like a duck and it walks like a duck, what else am I supposed to think?” she said.
While this game plays out, Dunetz and her cat are stuck in a tiny room fit for storing brooms, while she contemplates taking legal action against her landlord.
“I can’t get past this, I would just like to sleep at night, and I don’t want to pay three times the rent,” she said. “You’d have to be an idiot not to think he’s trying to get rid of me, and I don’t feel like getting victimized again, not by a landlord. I don’t care, I will make this a David and Goliath battle, and I’ll do it from the shelter if I have to.”
Cougar Management and Realty Services Inc., which manages the cooperative portion of the apartment complex, said that it was the responsibility of the landlord for that particular unit to repair Dunetz’s home.
“This is between her and her landlord, the previous sponsor. We are just the co-op and not responsible for the rebuilding of her apartment,” read an e-mail this paper received from the management company, which would not provide the landlord’s contact information.Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn