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What are subletter rights with a recorded verbal agreement?

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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What are subletter rights with a recorded verbal agreement?

Postby yawni108 » Thu Jun 16, 2022 11:56 am

I recently found a sublet/roommate situation in Queens (Rockaways) through a third party site (Airbnb but did not book within app). The Airbnb host is only a lease-holder (not owner) and charges $4500 for the whole house when it is worth $3500. I don't know if it's rent stabilized or know how to check.

The woman who I was renting from sometimes stays in the house when she is in town but otherwise she find short term renters to stay which is why it's confusing about whether it's a "sublet" or "roommate" situation.

I was meant to move in June 12 and stay until December 15. I was meant to sublet from the lease-holder until August when she told me she intended on moving completely and that I could take over the whole apartment and find roommates if needed. The entire agreement was made in good faith over voice notes on whatsapp and I paid my deposit of a months rent $1500 using Venmo.

The day came to move in and everything went fine, the host left the key by the door and I let myself in. I received the wifi information and some house details from her. Upon arriving, I met someone who was apparently staying there who she did NOT to me (later found out it was her friend), and the other long term roommate. I unpacked my belongings and put my kitchen supplies in the kitchen. I decided the floor could use a mop so I vacuumed and mopped and even washed the inside and outside windows because they were pretty grimy.

The following day, (I had one sleep at this point) the 'host' let me know that she would be showing up to fix a lamp. I thought that was fine since she gave me notice and figured I could ask some questions about the place seeing as I hadn't run into anyone in the space but twice in my 1 day stay so far. When she arrived, she immediately started picking everything apart and complaining that I didn't put my items in the 'correct' spots where things 'live', that I need to ask her when I don't know where to put things.

A few things she yelled at me about:
  • I had used the mop bucket to mop and put it back underneath the cabinet after I let it air dry on the sink for 12 hours. It was full of a bag of towels and a few empty glass bottles that were used for cleaning supplies and seemed like it hadn't been touched in years. She was shaking in a fit when she said I did not 'put the bucket back right', said she didn't know what to do when things were not in their right space, claimed that there had to be order to the way things were done. There was a very old expired bottle of wood floor cleaner with about 1/2 inch of completely solidified liquid that I tossed into the trash right next to the sink that she found and asked me what it was doing in the trash. I showed her that it was solidified and expired and she stared blankly without responding. I had put my spray bottle of rubbing alcohol underneath the sink along with other communal cleaning items because I use it to wash glass and she grabbed it and threw it aside, saying "I don't know what this is".
  • The step ladder I used to wash the windows (I thought this was a nice thing for me to do) that was stored in my room's closet was still out and she said it could not be just sitting out in the common area because it's shared space.
  • I bought a box of seltzers and was only able to store 3 of them in the mini fridge that was made available for the 3 housemates to use. She said that "I cannot just put the box to the right of the fridge, that is where the (very broken) broom lives" , that I was to unload them into the fridge and find storage for the rest of the cans elsewhere as she proceeded to do a tutorial of how to unload drinks into a refrigerator.
  • A towel was left hanging in the bathroom ( it wasn't even mine!) and she told me it could not exist there incase she wanted to come in and hang her towel up.
  • I had a box of kitchen supplies sitting in the common area pushed aside as I was waiting to talk to the other roommate about how we could organize our supplies at a later time. We had discussed this in our one time meeting. She threw a fit about this.

I was still in the process of moving in and found the whole situation really off putting and scary, especially considering she doesn't LIVE there. I reached out to a friend who knows another former renter and received the advice to leave immediately. Another friend of a friend heard my story and immediately knew who I was talking about and was really sorry for my situation. Another community member regarded this home as having the "highest turnover rate in the Rockaways".

Actions I've taken:

  • I've asked for my refund for the remainder of my stay, claiming that it felt very unsafe and that I didn't have access to what I was paying rent for. In texts she has refused to pay my refund.
  • I've started a claim with Airbnb since she shared her contact info there which I didn't realize was against terms.
  • I started a claim with Venmo - they gave me contact information for local enforcement to communicate with them once I figure out who I should contact.
  • I also made a complaint with the Department of Buildings because she was illegally airbnbing a home she does not own as a short term rental.

Is there anything else I can do in order to get my $1,500 back? Or even a sum of that, considering I lasted 2 whole nights before I vacated. I did pay this woman $1,500 for a place to live and am now displaced. I would consider taking this to small claims court if needed.
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Re: What are subletter rights with a recorded verbal agreeme

Postby TenantNet » Thu Jun 16, 2022 1:24 pm

You answered the question ... the AirBNB rental might have been illegal.

Did you vacate? Have you contacted the building owner? Some illegal AirBNB hosts get taken to court by their landlords. I'd have to look at the AirBNB laws (and so can you), but it might not be subject to the requirement that the host continues to live there as you say it's an entire house.

You could sue the host (and maybe even the landlord) in civil or small claims court. I don't know if you would win.

In the future, make any inquiries much shorter and factual. We don't need to hear about mopping and the host yelling.
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Re: What are subletter rights with a recorded verbal agreeme

Postby yawni108 » Thu Jun 16, 2022 7:30 pm

Thanks for your reply. I'm thinking about taking her to small claims court but wasn't sure what I could do as all I might have are some recordings of our conversation stating that I'd be renting the room. The reason I brought up the different things she yelled at me about is because I'm a bit unsure of how I would bring this up in court or use it as evidence and a reason as why I needed to vacate. Is saying that I felt uncomfortable at how she treated me on my 2nd day of living there and telling me I couldn't use certain things in the house enough reason for me to ask for my money back? It seemed like she had serious mental health issues and that's not something I'm comfortable being around at this point in my life so I genuinely felt like it was an unsafe home to be in so I'm not sure how to get that across or if I'd be heard.
Yes I have since vacated.
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