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Building a case

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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Building a case

Postby tcgre » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:42 pm

Hey all, hope to get some advice/tips here on building a strong case against my landlord.

I have three issues with him:
1. He never returned my security deposit
2. He made me clean the common areas while I was a tenant
3. He caused me to lose rent by denying a potential tenant (I will explain)

Per the first issue:

I was renting out a 3br apt with 2 other roommates on a month-to-month basis (all 3 of our names were on the lease). One day (around the 17th of the month), he asked 2 of us (myself and a 2nd roommate) to leave within 30 days, which we happily obliged (we actually left at the end of the month rather than the middle of the following month).

Anyways, rather than returning our deposit within 60 days of our departure. He claimed that he could return the deposit within 60 days of our 3rd roommate's departure. Is this legal? If I have a case against him, how can I build up my argument?

In either case, I filed a small claim against him when I didn't receive my deposit within 60 days of my departure. He has yet to return the deposit. He actually wrote me a letter telling me that I have to drop the case in order to receive the deposit. Can I ask for punitive damages and interest for his deliberate withholding of my security?

Second Issue

He made the tenants clean the common area. Any recommendations of building a case for this? I'm assuming that it will be my word against his word, so I will need witnesses. Could I use voice recordings of the other tenants to substantiate my claims? Some of them have gone out of state.

Third Issue

So this is a month-to-month lease. All three roommates have to sign the lease. All three roommates are responsible for the rent (only one check is made out).

Initially, only 2 people had signed the lease (myself and the 2nd roommate). We paid the full rent to the landlord for the first month and we were responsible for find the 3rd roommate. When we did find a 3rd roommate that was interested in the place, the landlord stalled the acceptance process until the 3rd roommate ending up going somewhere else. We ended up losing money for covering the 3rd tenants rent for the first month. Do we have legal recourse? In what situations do I have legal recourse and how can I build up my case?

Do we have legal recourse here? If so, what argument can I make?
tcgre
 
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Postby TenantNet » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:02 pm

Well, to start, on issue number two, unless you had an agreement where you agreed to perform work for X dollars or in exchange for a certain amount to be deducted from the rent, then you're out of luck.

Or, if he claimed keeping the common areas clean was part of your lease responsibility, then either it was or wasn't. Did you have a written lease? What did it state about that?

I think he didn't make you do anything. You probably felt intimidated and allowed him to push you around.
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Postby tcgre » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:38 pm

"In New York City, the landlord is required to maintain the public areas in a clean and sanitary condition. NYC Admin. Code § 27-2011."

He told us that if we didn't clean the common area, he would deduct it from the security deposit. So yes, he did intimidate us. No, there is nothing in the lease about cleaning the common areas.

The fact still remains that we (the tenants) cleaned the common area involuntarily. Are you telling me that we (the tenants) have no monetary claim against the landlord?

I'm going to try to think of an argument... could you please comment on 1 and 3 (prefer the latter).
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Postby ronin » Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:22 am

Item 1.

Since it is a month to month lease and he asked you to leave there is no obligation or responsibility for the third roommate. The LL has to give you back your money pronto. He is technically stealing from you.

As for dropping the case in order to get the deposit back. Sure he can do that. Make him put it in writing (or you do it) using the caption of the small claims case and its index number as the heading. Then have both you and the LL sign it saying that the case is dropped on the LL's promise to pay you your deposit. (This is known as a stipulation). Then file the stipulation in court. If he fails to abide by it you can file again and this time you have the stipulation as your proof (there are some other alternatives but they are not realistic).

Item 2.
Tenant answered your question. Your citation is meaningless because you did it. Moot and your word against his. Of course he responsible, but your doing it counts as either a deal or you volunteering. Let it go and focus on your viable claim.

Item 3.
Yes there is such a thing as unreasonable interference with contract. But unless this is a multimillion dollar lease, and you have a megafirm litigating for you, you should just drop it and focus on Item 1. You have no real proof and the other prospective roommate might not have been approved anyway. You generally can force these things, and the only court with the kind of jurisdiction to do that is Supreme Court and as mentioned your lease ain't worth all of that.
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Postby tcgre » Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:27 pm

Ronin,

How can build up a case for Issue #3 (unreasonable interference)? What would the judge be looking for?

With respect to getting my roommate to join the case with me, can I do that on the day of the court date or do I have to do it before?

When I filed my small claims, I didn't put any amount for interest/punitive damages. Could I add that on or request it during the court appearance? (This is related to issue #1).
tcgre
 
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Postby TenantNet » Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:46 pm

You rent an apartment for $xxx dollars. Whoever is on the lease is collectively responsible for the entire rent (unless you have claims to contest the rent). So if it's just you, then you are responsible for the entire rent even if there are three bedrooms. If just two of you, then you two collectively are responsible for the entire rent even if there is not yet a third person. As Ronin said, it's near impossible to prove and might involve substantial litigation. Even if you could, I don't see it as a viable claim.

And BTW, if you had a real lease (not a month-to-month which really isn't a lease), then the LL's demand for you to vacate might have been unenforceable. But that's moot.
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