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Getting charged for previous tenant's missed rent payment

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Getting charged for previous tenant's missed rent payment

Postby virtuosa » Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:12 pm

Hello,

I signed a one-year lease starting August 1 and moved into the apartment on August 1. It is a four bedroom and all four tenants on the new lease are new as of August 1 -- the previous four tenants have all moved out.

However, the apartment was "passed down" to us -- meaning there was no turnover between the old tenants moving out and us moving in (some of the new tenants were already subleasing and physically living in the apartment prior to August 1). The security deposit was handled internally (new tenants paid the old tenants the full security amount). I was skeptical about this practice but the property manager insisted this is the only way it could be done, even though not a single person on the new lease was on the former lease. We obliged.

We paid August rent and all was good and fine. Then when we went to pay for September rent, the property manager informed us we were missing a portion of the rent from the month of June and it showed up as an arrears on our bill. The old tenants are not cooperating with us, and the property manager says the arrears is our responsibility. This missed payment dates back to June -- and we were not informed until the end of August. We were not informed there was a balance on the account when we signed the lease and moved in on August 1. Had we known, we would not have "returned" the security deposit to the old tenants in full.

What's our recourse? Our property management is full of idiots based on my conversations with them and they are a pen-and-paper company, so I think it's entirely possible that the payment was made but didn't make it onto the ledger correctly. July is fine -- the missing payment is from June.

However, we're having trouble getting a proof of payment from one of the old tenants.

Our names were not on the lease prior to August 1. Is this arrears our responsibility? Do we try to settle this with our property management, or do we pay up and then take the old tenants to small claims court? Or is it our property management's responsibility to recoup the payment from the old tenants?

Thanks for your advice.
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Re: Getting charged for previous tenant's missed rent paymen

Postby TenantNet » Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:47 pm

I'm assuming you are not rent stabilized ... and so far you haven't sought a rent history from DHCR or looked to see if maybe you should be RS. How many units are in the building? Does it look as if the LL has re-configured the building by combining some units so there are less than 6?

You say there are four tenants. Are they ALL on the lease, meaning they signed the lease as tenants, not just roommates or occupants? Makes a big difference. Did you know the other three prior to moving in, or did the LL arrange the situation?

Is the LL charging one amount for the entire apartment, or are they charging per room?

If it's anything like that, it might be a defacto rooming house, which might not be legal. One thing on that front is to look at the Certificate of Occupancy for the building (from the DOB web site)

When you say "passed down," see how that occurred. Did they have one lease and now you have a different lease? I don't think "passed down" exists legally, where "assignment" does mean certain things. So was the prior lease assigned to you? By whom, the LL or the old tenants?

As for the rent, again, was the lease assigned, or is it a new lease? Normally, new tenants are not liable for any rent due from the prior tenant(s). You see this a lot in succession cases, where the LL can't charge the new tenant for any rent from the person or relative who died or moved out; the new tenant is only liable for rents since the date the LL accepts them as tenants.

Passing the deposit internally, well I'm not sure if that's proper, but it does happen. The important point is that the LL acknowledge this with his signature, so he admits he still has the money, but that it will be due to the new tenants when they move out, of course with any legitimate deductions.

But how much are we talking about? If it's $100 or less, that might be just a nuisance unless you're overly principled. OTOH, if it's a large amount, I would fight it.

I can't say for certain if your case is analogous.That you weren't informed until after you moved in also might be important.

Property management are idiots? You can't be serious :) I find it strange when anyone from a LL's office actually has a brain.

Look at your lease. It will have the term (starting and ending date), and the amount of rent. Pay that amount and no more, and make sure you can prove it was paid. Make copies of the check or M.O., and send certified RRR, or at least by Certificate of Mailing.

If your rent is $1,000 and you pay $1,000 for every month of occupancy, then if he hauls you into housing court, then he has to say what the extra amount he's demanding is for. If he says it's for June or anything pre-lease, then point that out.

While the so-called blacklist is no more, if you're not RS, then the LL is under no obligation to give you a renewal lease next August. So keep that in mind.

Another option is if you're young and have no intention of being there for more than a few years, then consider deducting any overpayment from the rent you would have paid in the second-to-last month before you leave. (the last month you could deduct the amount of the deposit as you know you won't get that back). If you do that, understand it might not be considered legal and the LL can take you to court (any of you, or all of you). We're not attorneys, so this is not legal advice.

If the LL is doing this to you, see if he's done it to any other tenants in the building, or to the prior tenants if you can speak with them. You might find a pattern.

Our view is that this liability is for the LL to go after the old tenants, if they can be found.
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