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Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

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Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby living_in_duhmerica » Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:06 pm

I found a place, under the guise that I was renting one room in a 3 bedroom apartment. The lease that I was presented was very similar to a month to month agreement, with a fixed date, and my portion of the rent clearly stated. The terms said that I could leave with 30 days notice.

At the beginning of the lease term they had only filled one of the other apartments in the flat, with a couple from a foreign country without residency status (they're on a student visa). The other room was open, and stayed vacant for one month.

Without yet receiving a signed form of lease I began to have the utilities shifted to my name. When I submitted my lease and other documents I was told that this lease was invalid. The owner listed on the form was not recognized by the city of New York.

I freaked out and then over the next week and a half had to hassle both the management co and leasing agent to get a proper form of lease. This continued over several days. The gas got shut off and still we were waiting.

Finally I got a new lease, signed it immediately so that I could get it back signed by them, it had my names and the couples' listed. I submitted the form and had the utilities brought onto my name.

Soon after there was an incident where the super (who was also our leasing agent) tried to steal money from a prospective tenant that I brought (by this time management had asked me personally to find a tenant to fill the 3rd room). After this debacle the new roommate moved in, another non-resident from a foreign country. The former super was evicted and now my new roommate, who is here on short term visa, became our super. He may or may not get an extension and is not on the lease.

Last week I informed management that I wanted to re-let my room, and would find an applicable tenant, who met their requirements. Their reply was that I could not do it. That instead, if I wanted, I could convince all of my roommates to move out, and they would let me break my lease, giving up my deposit.

I spoke with the couple about this and realized that they had not signed the lease and were not given a copy when they requested it.. they paid cash up front and plan to move out at the end of September. So this means I am the only legal resident who is a responsible party on the lease. This is not the arrangement that I was led to believe I was getting into.

So it's very complicated as you can see. I've also just realized that my residence is no longer registered with HPD.

I am wondering what should I do. I don't want to lose my deposit, but I'm not sure if I can get all of my roommates to vacate the premises.

I desperately want to get out of this situation but don't want to lose money. Since it seems they aren't willing to negotiate, what can I do? What are my rights? Is this far too complicated and should I get a lawyer involved? And if I were to vacate would I be potentially liable for the entire flat's rent? Might I add that I have copies of all written correspondence between myself, the management, and leasing agents on file. Thanks in advanced. If you have any questions on detail, feel free to ask.
Last edited by living_in_duhmerica on Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:17 pm

How about editing this down to about 1/2 the current size?
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby living_in_duhmerica » Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:35 pm

I could but I feel there are many complications that could warrant as an out for me on this leasing agreement, which is why I tried to explain them all here. I'm not sure what is more important than the rest.
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:41 pm

We ask you to do that. For example, the first two paragraphs say nothing. I'm not going to read any more until it's a lot shorter.
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby living_in_duhmerica » Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:56 pm

Thank you. I tried to edit down to the basics here.
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jun 17, 2015 6:03 pm

What does "one room in a 3 bedroom apartment" mean? Be more specific as to how the unit is laid out, and who is the LL. Or are you a subtenant? Who do you have the lease with?

"The owner listed on the form was not recognized by the city of New York." What does this mean? Who said this?
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby living_in_duhmerica » Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:06 pm

So it's a 3br 1b; 1 year lease, signed with the LL. At the beginning the leasing company was filling the rooms with applicable tenants under the stipulation that we, contractually, would only be responsible for our portion of the rent. This is something that's happening more and more in Brooklyn apparently, with riders and sub-agreements in the leasing contract. This is what was stipulated in the lease that I signed, filled out, and submitted with my 1st & last months rent + security.

So near the end of the first month of living here I started to get the utilities shifted over to my name so they wouldn't get shut off. When I called Con Edison and submitted my lease along with other documents they stated, and I quote, "This lease is not valid. The owner listed in the lease is not the legal owner as recognized by the city of New York." At that time I still had not gotten my lease back signed from the landlord (aka a management company).

Right around this time, at the beginning of the second month the gas got shut off.

When I reached out to the landlord and his management company they told me that the leasing agent, who acted as liason in this transaction, had not given me "their form of lease". It took nearly 2 weeks to get the "right lease" sorted out of them. Mind you I'd been here over a month.

The new lease didn't stipulate our original arrangement. However the leasing agent (intermediary between myself and the owner) said, in writing, that the arrangement still stood. Even the management company reiterated, in writing, that I was only responsible for my room's rent, though it's not in the lease. So I signed it immediately to get the gas switched back on and get the electricity too. It ended up taking 2.5 weeks to get the gas back on because of this.

Now I'm in this leasing agreement and am the only one who is actually signed for one year. And they are saying I cannot re-let. Do you think I have any way out of this?
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jun 17, 2015 10:35 pm

"So it's a 3br 1b" What is that? Is it 3 BR or 1 BR?

I don't think it's legal for a LL to split up an apartment and rent out rooms individually like that. A prime tenant can bring in roommates but that's a different thing altogether. This is a recipe for disaster, and you could pay the price.

Do you have any indication of the apartment is or should be rent stabilized?

How can you have the utilities in your name if you have only 1/3 of tha apartment. Are you paying utilities for the other tenants? What will happen when they skip out?

Con Ed is probably correct. They probably go by the HPD registration of all buildings with 3+ units.

A prime tenant has the right to sublet under certain conditions. Read the info on this site about subletting.

Most of your questions I can't answer as the situation is too complicated and a mess. It appears you have a landlord who doesn't follow any of the rules. If you want out, it might cost you your deposit unless you are prepared to fight for it.

If you were willing to stay and fight there are probably things you can do. But I suspect this is not what you wish.

Also, unfortunately, the other residents of the unit might also get screwed by this landlord.

You could ask for a rent history from DHCR and see what it says.
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby living_in_duhmerica » Thu Jun 18, 2015 1:12 pm

Thanks for your reply TenantNet.

It's 3 bedrooms with 1 bath.

After reading further I believe it is a stabalized place.

I have the utilities on my name and account right now and the other tenants pay me their portions. If they skipped out I would still be on the utilities for the address.

The thing is I am not subletting the apartment out and that is not our arrangement. I have only just now discovered that I am the only one who is legally on the lease, a figurehead of sorts, while the other tenants paid the landlord cash for the place.

Unfortunately the apartment isn't listed in the DHCR's database online. What does this mean?
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby TenantNet » Thu Jun 18, 2015 1:19 pm

Either you have a lease, from the landlord, or not. A lease covers the entire unit giving you exclusive use of the apartment. Stop using "our arrangement" as that is bogus. Either you have a proper lease, or your don't.
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby living_in_duhmerica » Sat Jun 20, 2015 4:47 pm

So after reading around I've realized another technicality. The lease that I received back, signed by the LL, lists my name and two of the other roommates (a couple), as responsible parties at the top. However I am the only one who has signed this document. When I requested a lease signed by all parties at the beginning the LL only diverted my request (all documented via e-mail). Is it possible that this lease it void and, if so, what is the best course of action? Should I bring this up to the LL and request a re-negotiation of the terms?
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:05 pm

Leases can get tricky. One might see the lease as not being executed unless all parties have signed. In some contracts there is language to that effect, so look for the fine print. After all, the "joint and severable" provision contemplates that several parties will be the renters. I would suggest you get a legal opinion on this from a tenant attoney, not a general attorney.

Overall I get the impression this landlord is skating on very thin legal ice, possibly renting in an illegal fashion. You can rent out an entire apartment, or if you have a rooming house, you can rent rooms, but generally I'm not aware of situations where the landlord can rent rooms within an apartment. If a tenant has the entire apartment, then he/she can get roommates.
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby living_in_duhmerica » Sat Jun 20, 2015 8:24 pm

TenantNet,

Just want to thank you for all of your questions and response. I have a pro-bono consultation Monday night with a lawyer at NYC Housing Court (if anyone's interested: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/COURTS/ny ... nter.shtml) and this has given me a lot of context as to what questions I should be asking.

Thanks again!
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Re: Is my leasing arrangement shaky enough to break?

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jun 21, 2015 12:26 am

My experience is that Housing Court volunteer attorneys help is limited. But go for it. I really meant a consultation with a private attorney. With some the price for a consultation is reduced from their normal hourly rate.

Either way come with all your papers. Everything. Your lease is the most important thing. but also lay out on paper a timeline of what happened in what order. Prepare questions in advance.
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