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illegal sublease in subsized coop?

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illegal sublease in subsized coop?

Postby tooltalk » Sun Mar 02, 2003 11:07 am


I need your help nailing down a rogue landlord (co-op owner) in NYC. After moving into my new room in October of 2002, I've discovered unbelievable amount of lies, and abuses in a government subsidized low-income coop in Upper West Side by a rogue co-op owner.

His victims are mostly college students at nearby colleges, Columbia, FIT, and very young out-of-towners who are desperate to find a cheap place, yet naive and unfamiliar with the NYC housing laws. Unsuspecting prospect tenants usually find the ad on the bus stops around CCNY, Columbia, and, lately, various websites. Destitute and enticed by the owner's seemingly very affordable rental deal, a large number of rental seekers have coughed up up to 1 year advance rent (utilities + furnishd) in hope of saving big dollars as I did in last October, 2002. I'm not a student and have been living in the city for almost 10 years (was relocated for a short while and came back before finding this *roommate share*). I thought it was a bargain.

The very first thing I'd noticed when I moved in was that two other roommates were trying to move out (it's a tiny 4 bedroom coop). Though the apartment was in a reasonable shape when I moved in, it was soon discovered that the owner's hygiene and dog keeping standards don't stand up to that of average household in NYC - the whole apartment is filled with intense dog odor (his dog just runs around poops everywhere) and the kitchen is filled with trash and dirty utensils with pigeons, roaches, and flies doing the most of cleaning and scavenging. Many verbal requests were made to eliminate tobacco smell in my own room and the animal stench to no avail. As if that isn't bad enough, I also discovered that the owner is not only in dire financial situation, but also he finances his extravagant travelling, tours with roommates' huge deposit while neglecting the well-being of his tenants: electricity was cut off for more than 6 weeks between January and last week (due to his non-payment delinquency + bounced checks). He makes a lot of empty, deceptive promises about repairs, returning deposits, loans (I was stupid enough to lend him some $$ too :( ).

More distressing fact is that for the past 5 years there have been more than 11 small claims and 6 housing/tenant cases (2 alone this year + 1 forth coming) mostly by his previous tenants attempting to collect their security deposits: the aggregated sum of arbitrated and judgment comes out to more than $40K (I actually went down to 111 Centre to check this). Three of his immediate former tenants were paid in partial only and the owner still owes them about $8000. It's quite clear that although my (roommate) lease explictly states that I could walk out with all my deposit on 30-days advance notice, my chance of recovering all my deposit is almost none. Everyone tried to collect their deposits in vain as he has no lienable assets or credit. Two of the immediate former tenants even tried to force their way back into the apartment and get him to return their money in a desperate, silly move.

After more thorough research, mostly based on a number of interviews with his previous roommates (tenants) from 2000, 2002 and the buildling residents, more incriminating truth came out, that his behavior is a predatory one - that is, he intentionally targets young student crowd for potential tenants; once he has many month's security deposit, he simply drives them to insanity with such difficulties I experienced above, indirectly coercing them to terminate the lease (the written contract says it can be gracefully terminated with a 30-day notice). Many leave first without their deposit then file lawsuit in vain (so far most ended in arbitration), though some managed to get at least half of their deposit. He is clever enough to know that most of small claims judgements go uncollected (there's no lienable asset) and that pursuing civil case can be monetarily and emotionally draining. He even had audacity to threaten some of his naive victims with counter lawsuits and other legal constrains that the lessee's apparently overlooked.

The building management and the residents (shareholders) are fully aware of the situation here - many are upset, but are apparently unable to do much - their excuse being that it's not under their jusdiction. After repeated pleas, the super put up a notice displaying the coop by-law that prohibits sublease or partial sublease (roommate) without the board's approval in an attempt to deter further abusive rental practice by the coop owner. The owner says he has a written permission and he has been renting his apartment without any problem for the last five years, but the super confirmed that he doesn't (he often makes blunt lies). The owner never bothered to mention that his coop is a state subsidized housing (he's a compulsive liar).

Is there any governmental body that can review case this like? I guess I could file a complaint to DHCR and a civil lawsuit (and possibly a motion for Injuntion), but that isn't likely going to put a break on his endeaver to exploit the bad real-estate market. A friend of mine advised me that I go after (lawsuit) the building management and file a complaint to the State Attorney General's Office as well. Can this be considered a fraud or criminal activiy?

<small>[ March 03, 2003, 10:33 PM: Message edited by: njg ]</small>
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Joined: Wed Dec 25, 2002 2:01 am

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