TenantNet Forum

Where tenants can seek help and help others



At risk of eviction if roommate secretly pocketing my share?

Issues unrelated to specific categories below

Moderator: TenantNet

At risk of eviction if roommate secretly pocketing my share?

Postby ericzx77 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:36 am

I recently subleted a room in a NYC apartment. My name is not on the master lease; I only have a 1-page sublet lease doc w the roommate who is the formally named lessee.

After paying my 3mo security deposit and monthly rent, I discovered said roommate has been pocketing all my payments for himself and seriously delinquent on the lease, by a very large dollar amount. I have reason to suspect he has no intentions of remaining in the unit long term and his strategy is to coast it out however long he can until the day before a sheriff shows up.

I am not aware of any eviction proceedings underway. No notices/visits/indications of such in the past 2 months. But clearly if the master balance remains unpaid it's only inevitable.

I have not approached him regarding this b/c I don't want to create any undue heat as of yet.

What should I do? Since I'm an off-the-radar subletter, the original landlord doesn't even know my name - so can I even be served with an eviction notice/will it apply to me if it gets to that point?

Should I continue making rent payments or cease on condition of moving out w/ the 1st/last month paid in the security deposit?

Note: Understood nothing to be construed as formal legal advice. Just want informed legal opinions; will seek advice of counsel if necessary.

Thanks
ericzx77
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:18 am

Re: At risk of eviction if roommate secretly pocketing my sh

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:47 pm

Are you a sublet or a roommate? The two are different. If you have taken over the entire apartment for a period of time, but with the prime tenant expecting to return at some point in the future, then you are a sublet. If you rent one room with access to common areas, but the prime tenant also continues to live there, then you are a roommate, not a sublet.

So assuming you are a roommate (and not a sublet), the first question is if the prime tenant is rent stabilized? That might be hard to tell if he won't tell you. You might be able to inquire with DHCR. http://www.nyshcr.org/Rent/tenantresources.htm.

For prime tenants in RS apartments, the LL can only collect one month security deposit. (see http://tenant.net/Rights/CTRC/ctrcf006.html -- an old document but should still be accurate). This does not cover roommate or sublets per se, but should give some guidance.

While there might not be a limit on the deposit he can collect, he still should keep the money in a deposit account in a bank (this is true for RS tenants - can't say if it applies to roommates). See https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia ... 36183.html.

But if he does commingle your deposit money with his own money, then it may not be there when you move out (and that would prompt him to invent a fake reason to refuse to return the deposit - that happens more often than not).

As for his pocketing the money you're paying in rent instead of paying the landlord, legally that's between him and the landlord. Of course legally only a Marshall can evict a tenant and only after a court decision, so I would check every so often to see if a case has been started. Check the Webcivil Local section of Ecourts at https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/webcivil/ecourtsMain.

Most non-payment housing court proceedings will add John/Jane Does as parties to also allow the LL to seek possession from unknown people (like you). I can't say if you would have standing in a court proceeding, but if a case is started, then it might be useful to show up whether or not the prime tenant tells you about it.

What to do? Well, if it were me, I would try to not let the situation get to the point where bad things can happen to you.

I would start looking for another apartment where the prime tenant is more honest (and more current with the rent). As you don't know your exit strategy, understand that with three months on deposit and it being unlikely that the prime tenant will return it to you, what some tenants might do is get it back by not paying rent for the last month. Of course that only gets you the one month back.

And even though confrontation is a problem, it seems you have legitimate concerns. You might have to tell him how you found out about the arrears, but that seems to be the least of your problems.

Also remember that it is illegal for the prime tenant to evict you without taking you to court. See the section on illegal evictions in the Reference Section of the forum. But always keep a copy of your lease/agreement with you in case you need to call the police if the tenant has locked you out. (the police are often horrible in such situations, but it's all you can do in the short term). I'd get to know the local precinct captain as the beat cops usually have no clue about these things.
The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.

Subscribe to our Twitter Feed @TenantNet
TenantNet
 
Posts: 9238
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2002 2:01 am
Location: New York City

Re: At risk of eviction if roommate secretly pocketing my sh

Postby ericzx77 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 1:58 pm

Thank you very much for your exceedingly helpful reply!

Yes I'd therefore be considered a roommate and not sublet since I rent one room with access to common areas.

I have searched the Civil docket database and and found no relevant cases under his name or under the apartment LLC name. So looks like we're still in the calm before the storm.

Should eviction proceedings be filed in this matter sometime this or next month ... what is the average length of time that passes between initial filing to that Sheriff's knock in a typical eviction case? Should I become aware of an eviction case filed in this matter (via that docket database or otherwise) at some upcoming point ... how could I become a party to it in order to have the court consider my entanglement/deception by the primary tenant in weighing a final eviction order?

Note that there is one other roommate in the same situation as me. Would it be wise to contact the landlord and have me and the other roommate's rent payments issued directly to the landlord? I assume the landlord would rather have 70% of the rent paid monthly rather than zero with the delinquent prime tenant pocketing it himself.

Further due to the sketchy nature of the person, I have reservations about getting my security deposit back. In such case, assuming the whole security deposit dollar figure is equal to 3 month's rent exactly ... I plan to give him 3 months notice of and make no further rent payments for those 3 months. Or, more reasonably, stay 2.5 months without further payment, where the 1/2 month of floating value will be the security deposit balance factoring in the overstay. If I leave the place in pristine condition with no security deposit deductions, technically he'd owe me that 1/2 month value WHICH I highly doubt I'll ever see - but at least 1/2 month's rent value is an easier pill to swallow than a full 3 months rent valued security deposit.

Only problem is ... making no further payments on the tactic of having that value be exhausted from my security deposit puts me under delinquent status which may not look favorable should I choose to voluntarily become a party to an eviction case that may be brought forth against the prime tenant.

Let me know what you think. Thanks!
ericzx77
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:18 am

Re: At risk of eviction if roommate secretly pocketing my sh

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jun 22, 2018 4:20 pm

There is no typical eviction case - too many variables. It could be resolved within a month if the tenant defaults, or it could drag on for years. Keep an eye out for papers served on the tenant by being posted on the door, or in the mail. And I would check the court database weekly.

I do no know if you can be made a party, but cases usually have the caption "LL vs. Tenant and John/Jane Doe" as the LL would be seeking possession from all occupants even if you aren't a tenant.

What you should consider is your exit strategy and how to recover your deposit.

If the LL is smart he/she will not accept rent from you. His legal relationship is with the prime tenant. Taking your money might give you tenancy status - if smart, he will want to avoid that.

Legally, for the tenant to remove you, he would have to file a licensee proceeding in Housing Court - very much like a regular non-pay proceeding except he is acting as the LL. He can't legally remove you without a court order. You could probably extend that for three months.

But be careful, you could open yourself up to the tenant blacklist.
The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.

Subscribe to our Twitter Feed @TenantNet
TenantNet
 
Posts: 9238
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2002 2:01 am
Location: New York City

Re: At risk of eviction if roommate secretly pocketing my sh

Postby ericzx77 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:33 am

Thank you for your informative reply! Very much helpful
ericzx77
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:18 am


Return to NYC General Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 5 guests