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Suitable Cause for Witholding Rent?

Posted by Jill on May 23, 2000 at 09:44:19:


I signed a lease on Friday, May 12th for a non-rent-stabilized, non-rent-controlled apartment. The building is a post-war, elevator building with approximately 25 units. The standard, written lease my roommate and I signed was for May 15, 2000 move-in, and lasts until May 31, 2001. The amount we paid reflects a May 15 move-in date. We also have an attached rider that says the shower in the apartment would be fixed before moving in, in addition to the refrigerator and a window.

Because we have out of state guarantors, the management office required us to pay one month security, first month's rent, and the last 3 months of rent. First, I want to know if this was legal (we stipulated in the lease that we paid the last 3 months of rent for March, April and May 2001)?

In addition to the above question, I have several questions surrounding the move-in date.

After signing two copies of the lease on Friday, May 12th, we Fed Exed the lease to our parents in California. The lease was signed by them both, separately. The management office should have received one guarantor signature from Fed Ex Tuesday, May 16, but was not there to receive. The office should have received the second signature Wednesday, May 17, but was not there to receive. They finally did receive one signature Wednesday, 5/17 and the second Thursday, 5/18.

The management office would not grant me keys to the apartment until they had received at least one signature. As a result, even though I paid for the apartment starting on May 15th, I was not able to obtain keys to the apartment until Wednesday, May 17th.

When I went to the apartment on Thursday, May 18th, the shower was not fixed and not working, nor was the window or refrigerator fixed. The management office fixed the shower (in addition to a window that was faulty) that night at 6:30 p.m. The refrigerator is not fixed yet, but I am willing to overlook this as the apartment is still "livable" in my mind (however, if they continue to be difficult I will not be so gracious).

My rent is $2095 a month. I am requesting a pro-rated refund of $270 from my landlord, since the items that were supposed to be fixed upon move-in were not fixed until Thursday night.

The management office is stating that since they did not have the guarantors' signatures until Thursday, the lease wasn't ready until Thursday. They are resisting a refund of $270 I am requesting.

To me, it makes sense that
1) regardless of the lease/guarantor situation, the apartment was not ready for the move-in date stated on the lease, and was not suitable for living until Thursday night, May 18th after the shower and window were fixed
2) even if their argument about the guarantors was correct, I still couldn't move in before the night of May 18th because they would not accept the lease as complete with just my roommate's and my signatures. I still paid for dates (May 15th through 18th) that I could not be living there.

Is it my legal right to have a pro-rated amount of $270 returned to me? What is my defense? I have stated the above to them, and they always come back with the fact that they didn't have the lease. To me, this situation points in my favor, no matter how it is looked at, but I would like some legal defense.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

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