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Questions about Subtenancy

Posted by Jean on July 01, 1999 at 03:24:08:

My daughter subleased a studio apartment through an agency for two months while she interns in New York City. She has a written lease with the tenant, but no written documentation showing that the landlady has been notified of the sublease. The cost was $1600 per month plus $800 for the agency fee and an $800 deposit. The entire amount had to be paid upfront so I put it on my credit card for her and it was collected by the agency. The tenant went to Italy and my daughter was told to meet his ex-wife at the apartment to show her around, give her the key, meet the landlady, etc.

When the ex-wife met my daughter at the apartment the day she moved in, the ex-wife told my daughter that she would have to tell the landlady (to whom she was not introduced) an elaborate, fabricated story. She was supposed to say that she had met the ex-wife's daughter (whom my daughter's never met) at NYU and had become friends with her and that the tenant had told her she could stay at the apartment. There were other details about the fictitious relationship that my daughter was supposed to memorize. (This was after the lease had been signed, the credit card payment made, and after she had moved out of her previous apartment. My daughter began to get nervous about the situation, but had didn't know what to do.)

The landlady has questioned my daughter a few times since she moved in about what she is doing there, why she has a key, etc. My daughter has not participated in the fabricated story, but has merely said that she has permission from the tenant to stay there while he's in Europe.

I stayed there last weekend (I'm from out-of-state) with my daughter. This caused the landlady to approach my daughter again and tell her that the ex-wife had better call her right away. The ex-wife then told my daughter that she didn't have permission to have me stay overnight and had to ask ex-wife's permission for overnight guests (another condition never mentioned to my daughter and not in the terms of the lease.) My daughter intends to continue to exercise her rights to have overnight guests.

I've talked to the agency. They say, "Oh, don't worry, the landlady can't lock your daughter out and can't harrass her. The tenant's probably making a profit and the landlady doesn't like it, but that's between them."

I've now done some research and have a little background in what the tenant can do, but don't really know how this affects my daughter, the subtenant. It's clear the tenant didn't get permission to sublease to my daughter, as he should have, but as I mentioned, she was a written and executed sublease. I'm also suspicious that the tenant may be overcharging my daughter, although my daughter doesn't think it's likely.

My questions are:
1. What can my daughter do? She does not want to go along with the story, wouldn't have rented the apartment if she had known the circumstances, and may not even want to stay there. The credit card bill hasn't come yet, but it has been charged to my account. It's an okay apartment, but it's certainly not worth the money even by New York standards, and she definitely wouldn't have taken it if she had foreseen this kind of hassle.

2. What if the tenant is guilty of rent gouging? Can my daughter demand a refund and how? Does she have to sue or is there somewhere she can file a complaint? How does she find out what the tenant's rent is if she doesn't even know the landlady's name?

3. Should she tell the landlady that she is subleasing? Does failure to tell the landlady make my daughter at fault by going along with the ex-wife's story? Can the landlady throw her out, lock her out, or do anything else?

4. How can we be sure that we will get our deposit back? If the tenant doesn't give it back, I understand that we get treble damages, but how is that claimed? Do you have to sue? If so, does New York have a small claims court for this so that a lawyer need not be hired?

5. My daughter has been given the ex-wife's phone number for emergencies, doesn't have the name or phone number of the landlady, and the ex-wife didn't call back for three days recently when we tried to talk to her about this. What if there's a real emergency and the plumbing breaks or something? What should she do? Shouldn't she have the landlady's name and number?

Thanks so much for any information you have.

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