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Breaking lease

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Breaking lease

Postby Rous Armyn » Tue Jan 24, 2017 8:43 pm

Hi,

This is my first post so I apologies if I put this in the wrong category.

My situation is, I am 9 months into a lease that expires in 3 months. The lease said all utilities included when I signed. When I moved into the apartment I started receiving several notices from Con-Ed saying if you dont pay the charges they would cut off power. I called my LL for this but they didn't want to pay for the electricity saying its a personal expense , even though I told them the lease says that all utilities are included and you signed this lease in presence of the real estate agent. Afraid that I would loose power and it would be a mess trying to get it restarted, I went ahead and got an account with con-ed. For this the LL agreed to lower the rent by $50 and said they will be ok to let me go if I say I cannot afford it at any point and wish to move out. The issue is I never got any of this in writing.

Now I want to move to a different place but the LL is not agreeing to break the lease saying this will be a financial loss for them. I already have the next place signed up for and will move out by end of the month and vacate the apartment. I did this assuming they will keep their word and let me go when I ask for. I have paid all the rents so far including the current month and even offered them to keep my deposit (that way this would cover an additional months rent). Can I not pay the remaining 3 month rent based on the fact that they violated the terms of the lease in the first place and if power was turned off that would have made the apartment inhabitable. Would that violation end the lease and/or gives me the right not to pay rent, especially now that I will be vacating the apartment. I have paid the rent for the current month and even offered them to keep my deposit.

Appreciate any advice/suggestions.
Rous
Rous Armyn
 
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Re: Breaking lease

Postby TenantNet » Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:12 pm

To me "all utilities" means exactly that: cooking gas and electric. By custom (and maybe by law) LLs in NYC almost universally provide heat and hot water (or at least, are supposed to).

Not included would be phone and internet unless specified in the lease.

So looks like your LL screwed you, but then again, you did get a reduction in rent, even if it's not enough to cover the cost of Con Ed.

Yes, getting stuff in writing can be crucial down the road. That's why smartphones have recording apps :)

Breaking the lease is a separate issue and normally you would be required to cover the rent for the remaining months of the lease. But you can negotiate, or you can make a stink. You can refuse to pay the cost of what you've paid to Con Ed since you moved in less the $50 by taking that off from the three months rent and deposit.

If you do that, the LL might commence a case in Housing Court (if you're still in possession) or Civil Court (if you've moved out). But the utility issue would be a defense and counterclaim you can raise.

You can also make a complaint with Con Ed and/or the Public Service Commission. You can also go to the Attorney General's office. (although I don't know if any of them will actually do anything).

Have other tenants had this problem? What did they do? Is there a tenant group in the building? Having multiple tenants complain to Con Ed might trigger an investigation.

Are you rent stab? Or do you think you might be. LL's usually lie about this. So you can also file with DHCR for a rent stab determination. Who know, maybe you'll get lucky and discover an overcharge.

If you do move out, cover yourself in all ways possible. Have a walk-through, take many photos, get a witness. Ask the LL to sign-off on the physical condition of the place. Don't mix up the issues. A walk through is a normal thing to ask for.

Look, you can withhold the rent simply because you feel like it, but the LL might start legal action. And consider the tenant blacklist before deciding what to do.
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Re: Breaking lease

Postby Rous Armyn » Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:35 pm

Hi,

Thank you for the quick response, really appreciated.

I think I'll go back and renegotiate. I'll threaten that if they dont let me go, I will keep possession of the apartment until the lease end date but will take them to court for not paying utilities and violating the terms of the lease. Hoping they will cave in.
It's probably my best bet at this point I recon. Also if I move out, how will they even find me to request rent?
Thank you again and would be glad to hear if you have anymore advice on this!

P.s. No building forums and nor is it rent stabilized.
Rous Armyn
 
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Re: Breaking lease

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:09 am

From the lease, you have a right of possession until the end of the lease, whether or not you've paid rent. They have a right to take you to court seeking the rent and possession. Chances are that a case might continue until past the 3 months, so the possession issue might be moot. However they can still seek the rent. Of course you have a defense and counterclaim you can raise.

Remember they take you to court in Housing Court. In the alternative you can commence a proceeding in Supreme Court, but you should probably have a lawyer for that.

Don't threaten anything unless you are prepared to back it up. And make an assessment how litigious and aggressive the LL is. Some might laugh at your threat if they're in court everyday anyway. Also understand if they take you to court in Housing Court, you could end up on the tenant blacklist. Not so in Supreme Ct.

LLs can find you.

As for RS status, when was the building constructed and how many units? When you say it's not RS, do you really know? Most tenant don't.
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Re: Breaking lease

Postby Rous Armyn » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:17 pm

The claim/threat I will make is true and not made up. I took the financial burden of the electric bill which they need to pay as its in the lease. On the point of coming up on the blacklist, that only happens if they win the case but I have a defense of the utilities not being paid by the LL so....

On your question on RS. I asked a couple of people in the building and they are not sure either and nor am I to be honest. But how would this matter? The building has 11 floors with about 20 units on each floor. My rent is reasonable as compared to the region.
Rous Armyn
 
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Re: Breaking lease

Postby TenantNet » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:31 pm

The blacklist is for ALL proceedings filed in Housing Court, not just the ones that the LL wins. Don't confuse that with attorneys fees, which the LL might get only if they are the "prevailing party." The blacklist company has a person sitting at the public computer terminal in the clerk's office at Housing Court and copes the info from one case to the next. Doesn't matter who wins.

Threats and claims are not the same thing. For threats, don't make them frivolously. In the end that hurts you.

If you are RS, then the additional money you're paying could be seen as an evasion of the rent laws. It's technically not an overcharge as the LL isn't charging you. But they have decreased a service the lease requires them to provide.

Do not assume just because some tenants don't know, or because you think the rent is "reasonable," that the unit should not be rent stab. Seriously get that out of your head.
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Re: Breaking lease

Postby Rous Armyn » Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:47 pm

Thank you for the information.
So what else can I find out about the RS of the unit and how?
Rous Armyn
 
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Re: Breaking lease

Postby Rous Armyn » Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:50 pm

And all I am saying for the threat is basically that they will have to pay for the years electric bill if they dont let me go by mutually breaking the lease. The utilities included is still in the lease that we both signed. So I am not making anything up that cannot be backed by proof.
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