Margaret Maugenest Stopped Paying Rent Over Maintenance, Safety Concerns.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – How would you like to not pay your rent, year after year, and get away with it?

A Brooklyn woman has done just that for the past six years.

Artist Margaret Maugenest, 60, stopped paying rent for several years, but instead of getting evicted, the state’s highest court said she was justified, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported.

“Yeah, I feel very good about that, John.  I feel very relieved,” Maugenest told Slattery.

Since 1984, Maugenest has lived in a loft — a converted manufacturing building on Nevins Street in Gowanus — with rent of less than 600 a month.

Several years ago, however, Maugenest began withholding rent because over no maintenance and safety concerns.

“The wooden pillars in the basement were rotting,” Maugenest said.

Under the city’s 1982 Loft Law, former commercial buildings could be rented to residential tenants if safety issues were met.  But this tenant says a gas leak in the building wasn’t fixed — it was just shut off.

“We didn’t have gas for about a year-and-a-half,” Maugenest said. “That meant I couldn’t cook.”

She also said she had no hot water.

After six years of non-payment with the landlord trying to evict her, she was forced to pay 2 1/2 years of court-ordered rent. The landlord won two lower rulings, but now, the state’s highest court said that since the landlord missed deadlines for building improvement, there’s no eviction, and back rent can’t be collected.

The landlord’s lawyer, David Berger, counsel for Chazon LLC, citing an overburdened Loft Board, said, “”The result is that the tenant may live rent free in a very large apartment, that she obviously feels safe in, under the guise that she is just trying to get the Landlord to make her apartment safe, with no end or limit.”

Maugenest gets to keep the back rent for the past 6 1/2 years which amounts to roughly $35,000.

Rather than pocket the $35,000 that she set aside on the advice of her lawyer, it’s about half of what she owes to her attorney for the lengthy court fight.

Do you think she should continue to live in the loft for free? Agree with the court? Sound Off below.

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