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withholding rent and other problems...

Posted by Ami Pak on July 05, 1998 at 14:24:23:

this is a complicated situation, so please try and bear with me as i attempt to explain this. we desperately need advice, as this situation is getting ugly.
i moved into this 3-bedroom apt in brooklyn two years ago with two of my friends. this is a privately owned brownstone with the landlord's mother living downstairs. only one of us signed the lease. even though the lease states "no sub-lets", one of my roommates moved out about 6 months into the lease (with the landlord's permission) and another friend of mine moved in. it was arranged with our landord that the new tenant would pay the deposit to the former tenant who moved out and the deposit would roll over to the new tenant.
then, my other roommate, lynn, (the one who signed the lease) decided she was going to move into her boyfriend's apartment (with two months left on the lease), but would continue to pay her portion of the rent if she had to. but we had a friend in boston who wanted to move to new york, he was willing to take over the last two months of her lease or wait until the new lease had begun. my roommate,lynn decided she was going to move her furniture into her boyfriend's apartment regardless of what happened because she spent most of her time there, anyways. on the day she was moving her furniture, our landlord happened to be visiting her mother downstairs and "caught" her and started yelling at her that she was breaking the lease. my other roommate, called our landlord to resolve the problem and let her know that we had another friend who could move in OR that lynn would continue to pay her rent. we came to the agreement that our boston friend would move in. so we preceded to handle the situation as we had handled the other "sub-let".
shortly after our new roommate moved in, we received a letter from our landlord stating that we needed to find a 4th roommate, otherwise she would have to find one for us. we were puzzled and told her we would ask around, but we couldn't imagine finding anyone who would want to live in the tiny room that was available. nothing ever came of this.
then a few months later, she told us that she was raising our rent $300/mo. we had a meeting re: this and told her it was illegal to raise the rent in the middle of our lease. she didn't agree. we naively agreed on giving her a little extra money for the increase in utilities, she claimed to have been the reason for the rent increase.
she also told us that lynn was not going to get her deposit back (which was now our boston roommate's deposit). she had forgotten about the sub-let agreement and was denying everything we had agreed to. yes, we were stupid not to get this agreement in writing, but she never notified us that she had any complaints about the situation or never notified lynn that she wasn't getting her deposit back [because she had agreed that han would pay lynn and that would become the new roommate's deposit] (and was accepting rent from that roommate for the last two months of the old lease).
our lease is up in two months, so we have all decided to withhold rent, not trusting that we would ever get it back. they will not tell us where they have our deposits and are hesitant to assure us that we will get it back. so, being two days late on our rent, they have evicted us (illegally with a letter which they have drafted.)it states in the letter that we must be out by the 15th of this month (1 1/2 weeks from the date of notification).
yes, we have been irresponsible with our lack of keeping records of the situation, but we have plenty of paperwork to prove their illegal actions as well. they have suffered NO financial losses, but are trying to screw us over. they are even threatening to take us to court over this (which would cause them to LOSE money???)
HELP! any advice would be welcome...

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