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no signed lease in rent stabilized building with unwanted guests (lengthy)

Posted by matthew on October 20, 2001 at 14:19:42:

Iíd like to solicit some advice about my current typically peculiar nyc living situation. A year and a half ago I moved into my Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment in a rent-stabilized building that I found through a friend of mine. Before moving in, my landlady asked me to go to her friend who was a broker under the pretext of undergoing a credit check and signing a lease. The broker typed up the lease agreement, and had me sign it, but after a lot of waiting and three subsequent visits, she was unable to produce a copy of the lease with my landladyís signature on it. Rather she gave me a photocopy without any signatures on it. She told me that my landlady would give me the signed copy of the lease, but after several inquiries, my landlady never produced it either. The issue eventually receded to the periphery of my concerns, but I am now finding myself in a situation where I regret not pursuing it more at the time. My original lease was presumably for the term of one year, but Iíve been living in the apartment for over a year and have never received a renewal lease. Iím fairly sure she never registered me as a tenant with the DHRC either, because I never received any statements in the mail to indicate it. I suspect that the rent she is charging me is over the amount allowed by rent stabilization since my neighbors recently sued her for rent overcharging and won.

The apartment is technically a one bedroom, but I only have access to the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. The door to the bedroom is bolted shut on both sides and my landlady accesses it from a separate entrance. When I moved in, she seemed to just be using the room for storage but I never got a clear explanation. I was more or less ok with the situation even though sealing off my access to the bedroom gave my apartment almost no airflow and created a potential fire hazard. Recently though, her ďfamilyĒ has moved over from Poland, and the room adjacent to my apartment that is separated from my space by only a thin wall and a bolted door has become more or less a halfway house for any number of loud, chain-smoking Polish immigrants. She has also done renovations on the basement and has more people living down there as well. The floor between my apartment (I live on the ground floor) and the basement must be really thin, because I constantly hear them down there, my apartment fills up with second hand smoke all the time, and they complain (with violent bangs) anytime I walk across my kitchen after 10pm. Itís getting to be too much. Iím starting to have allergic reactions to the smoke, and feel like Iím walking on eggshells in my own home. Every time I raise the issue with my landlady, her Polish accent mysteriously thickens, she pretends not to understand what Iím saying, and threatens to kick me out. I feel like she wonít try to evict me though, because she wants my rent checks, which I get the sense are substantially more than those of most of the other tenants in the building who are Polish.

I was happy with my apartment when I moved in, but my landlady has changed the situation. I realize now that the only way to create an acceptable living situation is to be aggressive about acquiring the front room. Iíd feel bad about kicking people out of the basement, and donít mind paying the amount of rent I agreed upon, but I feel like I will need to use my rights (if I have any) in those areas to my advantage. Given the situation, I should probably just move out, but I canít really afford to move anywhere else in the neighborhood right now.

So given that lengthy background, my questions are.

1. Is there any chance of me having a lease agreement if I donít have a signed copy in my possession?
2. Do I have any rights by virtue of the fact that I live in a rent-stabilized building, or am I just considered a month-to-month tenant?
3. Is the broker at all liable for not giving me a signed copy of the lease?
4. How do I find out if she has been overcharging me rent, and is there any chance of me getting reimbursed for the sum she has overcharged me if I donít have a lease?
5. Is it legal for her to maintain control of the front room of my apartment?
6. Is there any chance of me getting the front room Ďre-attachedí to my apartment?
7. Who should I contact if I think she has illegally divided up my apartment, and created an illegal living space in the basement?
8. Should I consult a lawyer?
9. Knowing that she could probably kick me out of my apartment, lease or no lease, by moving her family in, how should I proceed?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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