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Early Sublease Termination: no deposit?

Posted by Sung Kim on March 03, 2000 at 07:20:43:


Back in last October, I agreed (all verbally) to sublease a furnished apt (which included bed, tv, etc) in UWS for about six month for $1800/month. My (sub)landlord (tenant herself), a law clerk studying for NYS bar exam , asked for 1 month deposit+last month and I without reluctance agreed to pay the amount. A few days later, for some reason unknown to me at the time, she asked (or insisted) me if I'd wanted her to handle the existing utility billing (with her name) and I, initially thinking that she was simply trying to facilitate my busy schedule (i work 15hr/day), gratefully agreed to it without much hesitation (additional $200. I later tried to take the util billings back from her again, but after unpleasant confrontation, I decided to back down). She made another request soon afterward. She asked me if she could take her bed to where she'd be staying until her study was over. It iritated me a bit because she'd agreed to provide the bed and it was the reason why I'd decided to rent her place in the first place. But not wanting to cause any trouble, I let her have her way.

On November 15th, I went to inspect the apt before moving in my stuff. To my surprise, she didn't finish her move. The apt wasn't properly cleaned, her clothes were still occupying the half the closet space, her moving boxes were just laying on the floor (she conviniently blamed her health condition). I gave her two more weeks to complete her move and I finally moved in early December. Much to my disappointment, when I moved in, things didn't change very much (In fact, I was told that I was supposed to live with big boxes stacked in the livingroom. I can not contest this since we didn't explicitly discuss the boxes in the initial agreement.)

For the next 4-6 weeks, I complained about the apt (mostly via e-mails) without much progress and finally, in late December, asked her for the termination of the sublease (with 30+ days advanced notice). She *agreed* to break the lease and assured me that everything would be fine; until the day I moved out (1/31). Not surprisingly, as soon as I moved out, she started to accuse me of harassment (I had once sent a complain e-mail to her work e-mail address), negligence, and violation of our oral agreement. She'd promised to addres the issue when the bar exam (Feb 24) was over, but she's been deliberately ignoring my phone calls or e-mails (I don't have her new home addr; only PO BOX #). I'm still waiting for my deposit + 1/2 rent ($3000), but I doubt that she'd volutarily return it.

I understand that the whole thing seems rather silly and trivial. I don't blame anyone, but myself, for the trouble. I'm not even sure whether I should take legal action against her. What angers me the most is the fact that, as later I discovered, almost accidently, she'd been involved in numerous landlord-tenant disputes (in different states), deliquent payments, and debt problems (rather a large sum of money) before and that she never met the financial (salary wise) requirement to maintain her rent (she's single) - possibly overcharged me. I feel like I've been fooled by a con-artist.

I have all my banking checks to approve that she's withholding my deposit + rent and all the e-mails dating from the end of last October to present. On the other hand, I don't even have a single proof of residence (no elec or phone; which might explain why she insisted on keeping her own name on the util bills) to prove that I actually lived there (for pulling rent history from DHCR). =(

Any advice? Can anyone recommend me an experienced landlord-tenant laywer? or Should I drop this altogther

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