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need advice about tenants rights/owner selling our unit

Posted by Lily on October 21, 1999 at 17:48:20:

Hi. We are currently renting an apartment in Brooklyn, in a sort of up-and-coming area. We've been in our apartment for 4 years but when our first year's lease expired it was never renewed (despite several attempts on our part and our landlord's stated interest in renewing it.) So, I'm assuming this means we're now on a month-to-month basis. We've never been late with the rent and our landlord has never raised our rent--and in exchange, we've basically never troubled him about repairs with the exception of the month it takes every fall for him to get our heat on (it is not on now, for example, despite two calls asking him to take care of it.)

Aside from the heat, we live in a great apartment, our rent is below market (because the market has skyrocketed since we moved in--the apartment is not rent controlled/stabilized). About a month ago, our landlord called and offered to sell the unit to us at a price that seems substantially below market--particularly given development going on in the neighborhood. He claimed to be doing this b/c he liked us. There are a number of reasons we are skeptical about purchasing. We have concerns about the structural condition of the building, and the financials. It is a small building (5 units) and only one unit is currently owner-occupied. At the time of the call, I put the LL off and began investigating various sources (AG's office, Dept. of Buildings, etc.) to find out the real deal Several days ago the LL called again and really put the pressure on to get a decision from us. I'd already scheduled an FOIA visit to the AG's office for yesterday--at which time I learned that there is a balloon mortgage payment for the full principal ($200K) on the building due mid-way through next year. At that same time, a tax remission for property taxes expires. Maintenance on our 2BR apartment would already be over $500 without those issues factored in. Our LL also said that every unit in the building was going to be sold--including the one that is currently owner-occupied, and that all units would be sold to owner-occupants. Given the financial situation I've uncovered, that fact makes me more--rather than less--skeptical about his intentions. In addition, the building is in arrears for water (not taxes) but I don't know the exact figure. The woman I spoke with said she couldn't disclose the exact figure, but basically (after looking into it) made it clear that the figure was high. For all these reasons, I'm very, very wary about buying this property.

Prior to our landlord's offer, we'd intended to leave the city at the end of this academic year, though we're not totally set on that. In any case, as per our last phone conversation I basically told my landlord we were willing to buy (before I found out everything I know now) and he wants to go to contract in 30 days and close 120 thereafter. Given our probable disinclination to buy, we're in a bind b/c of our inability to leave the city before July (both our jobs are school-related), but we really can't afford rents in our neighborhood but would be hard-pressed to relocate (b/c my daughter's preschool is here and if we moved, I'd have to spend time traveling to drop her off and as it is I just make it to work on time). Our landlord offered us $5000 to show the unit to other prospective buyers but moving costs and the rent increase we'd sustain would eat that up in two months at the most.

Our ideal situation is to stay put as renters through June, 2000. As I understand it, since the LL has not notified us of intent to transfer the property in writing, we haven't entered the 30-day countdown yet--I think we could avoid written notice until some time in November past our rent payment, which (if I understand our rights properly) would give us until January 1 to be here. Basically, I want advice as to what our rights are and also suggestions for strategizing these issues. If the offer on the property is legitimate, we actually will probably buy the unit and try to resell it in a few years (most likely at a large profit), but I am almost 100% sure that our landlord is (quite mistakenly) banking on our naivete and that he's really up to something (esp. given the balloon mortgage factor). In terms of our rights, I'm also wondering if the no-heat factor could play to our advantage. And, if anyone can recommend a good lawyer (esp. in Brooklyn) that would be a big help too.



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