Posted by courtwatcher on July 30, 2001 at 13:40:54:
In Reply to: loft subletters posted by Ryan on July 30, 2001 at 12:36:34:
First, you don't say where this is taking place, but I'm going to assume that the building in question is in NYC and is in a commercial / manufacturing zone where residential use is probably not allowed (from the sound of it Williamsburg / Greenpoint?).
If so, then -- unless you are coverd by the Loft Law -- it was not legal for you as the prime tenant / leaseholder to build "... rooms and a kitchen and bathroom there to live in." Further your choice to sublet "... several of the rooms to other people on month-to-month subleases..." was not necessarily legal, particularly if those "other people" were living in those spaces -- and especially if you knew about it (which apparently you did). NYC code / law doesn't allow residential use in commercial / manufacturing zones unless covered by the Loft Law.
However, since you did do what you state, then you have to face the music. Once you became the "landlord" to your subletters yoyu assumed a legal responsiblity to those people (whether you knew it or not).
To be honest, your comment that "...I hadn't wanted to be subletting rooms, to begin with..." comes off as plain old BS: you did sublet, and did so from the beginning.
You also need to clarify if these folks are "sub-letters" or "roommates" (you refer to them by both words); legally they are quite separate entities and have very different rights.
The wording of your written rental agreements with each of your seub-tenants will be of importance.
Now the tenants, who don't seem to be covered by the Loft Law, are taking a legal position that they don't have to pay you rent because, apparently, you improperly rented them residential space in disregard of the NY Multiple Dwelling Law.
Basically you have walked right into a legal nightmare: I've lived in a loft building that IS covered by the 1981 Loft Law and the past 20 years have been a legal mess costing the tenants in excess of $150,000 in legal fees over those 20 years (God only knows how much the owner / landlord has had to spend on attorneys during that time). And we were all dealing within a realm where there was at least some clarity of law.
Your situation is much greyer.
You might want to check out the Loft Board website to see what your potential responsibilities are.
Another question: what is the relationship between the owner of the building / you / the current occupants?
: Hi. I'm looking for suggestions and advice on a matter involving subletters. I hope this is the right forum to ask about this. A year+ ago, I rented a loft through the business I was forming. I had a bootstrap operation, and so I built rooms and a kitchen and bathroom there to live in. I subletted out several of the rooms to other people on month-to-month subleases, and kept the main area as office space. The income from the subletters (and my credit card) helped me to afford and finance the cost of the security deposit, rent, and construction costs.
: Well, the business didn't work out, and I was left with a loft full of hostile roomates (personal differences) and I had found I was living in a very toxic area, breathing fumes from a nearby factory that was making my nose run. So I decided to move out, rent my rooms out to new subletters, and live in a cleaner neighborhood.
: So as soon as I left, one of the people living there on a month-to-month sublet got the other subletters not to pay me anything for the rent, and to pay him (he had been there longest). He now lives there apparently rent-free, and they pay him their rent. I don't even know who's living in there anymore, because they changed the locks, and the last time I did get in, there was someone new living in one room who I didn't even know.
: This was all really upsetting. I hadn't wanted to be subletting rooms, to begin with, and now I had all these folks who didn't want to leave. I had put all my resources into constructing the space and securing the massive security deposit. I was heavily in debt as a result, and my business was bankrupted. Also, I, through my corporation, held all the responsibility for the space, and for paying the rent every month, which I also didn't want. I tried getting them to take over the lease, and the landlord agreed he would let them do that, but none of them would do this. The deal was too sweet by taking advantage of me and not having to have any risk or responsibility themselves.
: Now, the two-year commercial lease is almost over, thank God. I need to get these people out of there, and I have told the landlord I'm not renewing. Do these people have any rights to hold on to this space? I don't care if they stay or not-- I have no animosity towards them. I rented to them at a very low rent, enough to pay my costs only, and I understand that they want to keep it that way, in a city with a housing crisis-- but I need to make sure that I get my security deposit out, and cut my losses finally. I won't get the deposit back until these people leave, and I worry they will try to stay on, which will force damages on me by the landlord. I also believe that in the last three months of the lease, they may not pay the rent for those months (the deposit is three months rent). What can I do? Any suggestions?
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