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Re: Can I make prime tenant lower rent?

Posted by Nick on June 13, 2000 at 12:21:58:

In Reply to: Can I make prime tenant lower rent? posted by Scott on June 08, 2000 at 17:18:11:

Sounds like your prime tenant might be what's called an illusory tenant. This is a judicial doctrine that prevents prime tenants from illegally profiting from their rent-regulated apartments. Search the TenantNet Housing Court archives for cases on this. One of the leading cases is Avon Furniture Leasing v. Popolizio, 116 A.D.2d 280, 500 N.Y.S.2d 1019 (App. Div., 1st Dep't 1986). If the prime tenancy is illusory, you would step into the prime tenant's shoes and become the prime tenant---probably at his rent.

: The situation (bear with me):

: In Manhattan, 10 units in rent-controlled and/or stabilized building (don't know which; moved to NYC 2 years ago, still learning).

: Prime tenant has engaged me and others in illegal sublet for about 3 or 4 years. I have been in this apt since 09/15/98. Do not know if prime tenant's motive to sublet it illegally has to do with the 2-year time limit, or if the landlord has the right to disallow all sublets, or if it's the way for him to profit -- or all three.

: Prime tenant pays $1675. I pay $1805 to him. I do not rent the entire apartment, as there is one room used for storage which prime tenant uses to live in occasionally when weather's not cold (no heat in this room). In other words, prime tenant profits illegally and still maintains some use of the apartment.

: "Base rent" is $2087. There's some $412 allowance which prime tenant swears applies only to him. In other words, if the prime tenant left or were booted, the place would rent for $2087 (plus vacancy allowance?).

: Bills (phone, etc.) come in prime tenant's name. I pay them directly, not to him. He maintains a phone in the apt, pretends to live there, instructs us not to let on: "If the landlord calls, say you're my nephew", etc. Don't know what he's afraid of exactly and how he thinks pretending to live there benefits him.

: Signed an agreement with the prime tenant that he wrote. Agreement expired 8/31/99. He's said nothing about it. So have no agreement whatsoever. Living day to day, I guess.

: Place is not furnished, but prime tenant thinks it is, so 10% more he deserves, he says. He thinks it is furnished because some of his stuff is there. I say it's not because there is no bed or chairs or sofa of his, and furthermore from time to time he decides he wants something and removes it.

: Okay, that's the situation. Thanks for listening. Now, here's what I want:

: To pay only $1675. Prime tenant has no right to profit from this situation. In fact, he should get less than $1675 given that the other room should be worth something as a storage-room fee. It seems wrong and greedy that he earns $130 on this illegal situation.

: I have no power to get what I want/deserve. It seems to me that since both the prime tenant and I have engaged in an illegal sublet, we should both be subject to penalty. But now that I have become uncomfortable with the situation and want to do something about it, there appears to be nothing to do about it that won't hurt me more than it hurts prime tenant. There seems to be no way we stand up to have the place at $1675, which to me is the ethical price (if I can overlook the ethics of living there in general).

: Is there anything I can do except move out? If I move out and inform the landlord and/or the authorities will he lose the place? If I threaten him I suppose he will tell me to leave in 30 days. What can I do?

: In general, if an apartment has any desirable features, how do the laws make any effectual difference and deter illegal sublets? Makes no sense to me.

: Thanks in advance for your comments and advice. Hope I can do more than just move out....

: --Scott

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