It got to January, and I didn’t even finish writing about November. I guess that’s how little I wanted to blog about how what happened next. So i’ll keep it brief.
After 13 months, we finally got our day in court with that bastard landlord who welcomed us so graciously to these distant shores. We’d already been to court for this twice this year. The first time he said that he was filing a counterclaim so the hearing was postponed. The second time the counterclaim was not mentioned, but he said that he had three witnesses, none of whom were able to make it. The judge agreed to postpone, but said that was his last chance.
In between these times we did our best to subpoena the NYPD for any record of the incident that promted our swift exit from that apartment: this included visits to several precincts, multiple phone calls to different departments of the NYPD and several trips to small claims court and other goverment buildings. We even paid someone $50 to go to Queens and find one of the attending officers to serve the subpoena personally. Apparently the officer refused the subpoena as though it was diseased. A lawyer friend gave us some phone numbers to try at NYPD HQ, but no one knew who could help. Eventually we just ran out of time
The third and final time we went to court, the landlord did bring one “witness” - his mother, who, just to be clear, was not present at the decisive incident. (Presumably he brought her as a character witness - I guess his mother is the only person he could find who likes him.) Again, he tried to postpone, again claiming that his two other witnesses couldn’t make it. He was flabbergasted when the judge refused.
So we went to meet a clerk, who spoke to us both separately. When I told him how Steph and I had just arrived from England, and we were young and stupid and desperate he just gave a wry smile and said: “Welcome to New York”. Then we went to a court attorney who acted as a mediator for us to come to a settlement figure. I suggested a carefully calculated figure that I believed that we were owed based on the number of days we spent in that apartment; he just pulled some figure out of his ass, less than a quarter of mine. I asked him how he arrived at that figure, and he said he that it had taken him three months to fill the room we vacated, and also that I personally owed him the $600 to cover the cost of the ambulance ride that fateful night - apparently the cops deemed his condition so extreme that it was necessary for him to go to a hospital.
Speaking to me alone, the court attorney said that she was sympathetic to our case, and said that we could postpone again and go to a real court hearing but she told us that without proof of why we had moved out we might get even less - it was just our word against his. By this point, I was hungry, tired, dehydrated and I just wanted it to be over. I conjured Steph’s advice in my mind, and decided to settle. We walked away with $635 dollars; I was owed $2000.
As for my other housemates, Amy got her full $600 back, and Kristen got $1240. Kristen had actually claimed for a total of $4800 - this covered her deposit and the price of the fumigation of her possessions after we got bed bugs. She shouldered the financial and emotional burden of this whole episode alone: at least Steph and I can split the damage.
In the weeks after us moving out of that flat and trying to get back some stability, I received a letter from the producer of the People’s Court TV show. They wanted to film us debate our case for entertainment purposes. In return for appearing on the show, both parties would receive a minimum of $500, and as it was a legally binding court, were we successful we would also get the money that we were owed. Looking back now, it might have been a better option - probably quicker, just as financially rewarding and would make for a story that I could tell at dinner parties for years to come. As it is, this is one blog post that I never want to read again.
I can take from this incident some important lessons, the largest one being that the NYPD is the most useless organisation I have ever come across, and that I never want to deal with them again. I’ve also learnt that a fixation with saving money will only bring misery, and that when it comes to the crazy people of this world there is no smoke without fire.