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I Lived in an Illegal Apt. for 2 1/2 years

Posted by Dayann on August 06, 2001 at 17:25:21:

In Reply to: does anyone know about illegal apartments? posted by louise on August 04, 2001 at 17:53:07:

The landlord can't legally evict you without going to court. If the landlord goes to court, there are two claims he can use. Either he evicts you for nonpayment or for "holding over" after the tenancy has expired.

If the landlord evicts you for nonpayment he is basically a fool, because no court of law can enforce something that is illegal. In other words, the court can't order you to continue paying rent to the landlord if the landlord is collecting rent illegally.

If the landlord evicts you for holding over, all you have to do is show the judge proof that you are legitimately looking for a place to go but that you need more time to find a new apartment. If you pay to put an ad in your local newspaper in the "apartments wanted" section and save a copy of the ad and the receipt showing that you paid for it to be placed, this is an effort to find a new place. If you get brought in for a holdover, and its an illegal apt., there is also the chance that the judge will tell you to get out within 5 days, because it cuts both ways -- the judge can't rule that the landlord has to continue to honor your tenancy if the tenancy is illegal.

If you get hauled in to court for an eviction, I would bring proof that the apartment is illegal. BAsements and attics are illegal, as are unregistered rentals. Use the fact that the apartment is illegal as a bargaining tool, and get three months rent free so you can find a better place to go in a reasonable amount of time with money in your pocket. If you end up not settling, the judge can order you to leave but he can also order the landlord to : 1) pay taxes owed on the rental income, 2) pay you back all the rent money you paid since it was collected illegally, 3) pay your moving costs. I wouldn't try to go all out to get all this stuff because doing so is risky, judges don't like to work with you if they think you are knowingly staying in an illegal apt just to get back at your landlord and take his money. You aren't exactly innocent either since you agreed to stay in an illegal situation all this time --- at least that is how a judge might look at it.

If you do decide to stay indefinitely until you get all your rent and moving costs back, don't do so without a lawyer.

You can also be "ejected" from your apartment by the City if someone makes an anonymous tip to HPD or another City agency that the landlord is renting illegal apartments. In that case, you can try to argue that you were totally clueless that the apartment was illegal (yeah, right!) and the Court may give you more time to move and award you damages under the premise that you were unknowingly placed in an illegal living arrangement and that you suffered damages once the landlord's illegal activity was discovered.


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