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HELP! My 'Landlord' Changed Lock & Won't Give Me the Key

Posted by J on December 20, 2000 at 16:56:24:

Someone please help me! Last night (12/19/00), I came home and found that my roommate had changed the lock and refused to give me a new key. She also informed me that she wanted me to move out in 3 days, even though I have paid the rent until Jan. 17 I am sharing an apartment with and paying rent on a month-to-month basis to a woman in her late 50s, who is showing signs of paranoia. Recently, she claimed that her winter hats, gloves, and scarves were stolen during the summer, while she was away. I have never seen these items which she claims were stolen. She also claims that other very unusual items were stolen including a box of mechanical pencils, her eye shadow, and the cheese grater! She hinted that she believed that I or my friends had stolen these items. She even told me that I had to give her a "restitution" for the things that were stolen. I asked her why she didn't make an insurance claim, and she said that her previous insurance company canceled her policy because she made too many claims, and that it would only be fair that I make a restitution as I was responsible for the apartment while she was away. Recently, I found out from one of the doormen and from the super that she made similar accusations of theft to the previous two tenants. She evicted the previous tenant in about a week and threw out her things, and refused to return the previous tenant's deposit until she called the police. I strongly believe that she is not only showing signs of paranoia, but also memory loss. She onced accused me of not paying the bills as she had no record from her bank. However, I was able to disprove her by showing her my returned checks and going through her records with her, where she herself had even recorded receipt of my payments for the bills. She has also falsely accused the doormen for not delivering packages, which she had already picked up. She also once took my black shawl and hid it with her things because she thought that it was hers (and thus that I had taken something that belonged to her). She later apologized for the mistake.

I believe the apartment is rent controlled. The lease is under her name; however, I pay at least 80% of the rent. I have been living there for over 1.5 years. I have been paying on a month-to-month basis, and we do not have a written contract between us. She has not given me any written receipts (she says that she will not sign anything without her lawyer). However, I have returned checks for my rental and utility payments, and my one month security deposit. I told her that it would be impossible for me to move out in 3 days and on Christmas weekend. She then stated that I would not be able to get into the apartment during CHristmas as she would be away and did not want me to be in the apartment alone (for her paranoid fear that I may steal something probably) and will not give me a key. I told her that it would be illegal for her to do that. She backed away and said that she would give me more time to move. However, I am afraid that I may find myself locked out or my belongings in the hallway one day, or that she will not refund me my unused portion of the rent and deposit as I have no written contract with her. Someone please help me! I have lost sleep and am really worried!

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