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small claims court question - where to file?

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small claims court question - where to file?

Postby rentguy » Fri Jul 12, 2002 1:02 pm

I am taking my landlord to small claims court in order to get back a $2600 security deposit that he is holding despite an earlier agreement to return it.

My apartment is in Manhattan in a co-op building. He owns the apartment - not the building - and has been leasing it to me for about a year.

He lives on Long Island and owns a store out there.

Where can I file the claim? In Manhattan or on Long Island?
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby Brooklyn Babe » Sat Jul 13, 2002 10:47 pm

Manhattan
The above information is from a non-attorney tenant activist and is not considered or to be used as legal advice.
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby rentguy » Mon Jul 15, 2002 5:39 pm

Thank you! I've learned a lot just by reading all the posts here.

One more question: since I am trying to get back a security deposit that was promised back to me, should I sue in small claims court or housing court?

I've looked up info on housing court and can't find anything that mentions a scenario of suing over failure to return a security deposit. Since my security deposit is less than $3000, is it just easier to go to small claims court?

Also, how strong are oral agreements in the eye of the court? I have some other evidence to back up my argument that oral agreement was made, but at a certain level, I'm dealing with my word versus my former landlord's.

Here's my situation:

I needed to break my lease two months early, but only wanted to do it if I wouldn't be penalized financially. 35 days before I wanted to move out, I called my landlord and asked for his permission and explained how much money he was still holding. He agreed to return the security deposit and told me that he would just rent the apartment again or sell it. The apartment was put up for sale the following week and an open house was held.

He later learned that due to the co-op board rules, he would not be able to rent it again for some time (and he wasn't so sure how long it would take to sell). So, almost 3 weeks after our initial conversation and less than two weeks before I was scheduled to move out (I had signed a lease on a new place) he called to tell me that the deal was off and we would have to reach some sort of compromise.

I reminded him of our earlier agreement and that I had made my arrangements based on his assurance that I would not be penalized financially for breaking my lease. Had he told me this during our initial conversation, I would not have broken my lease early.

He is now saying that he never agreed to let me out of the lease. I pointed out that the apartment was put up for sale one week after our first phone conversation, so he must have realized something had been agreed to.

He is now keeping my security deposit, which equals one month's rent. This is what I will be filing a claim for.

What are my chances of ever seeing the money again?
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby Cranky Tenant » Tue Jul 16, 2002 7:47 am

You might want to do some research to see if he advertised the open house, or that the apartment was for rent, in any of the local papers.

If you could produce a newspaper clipping that showed he intended to rent the apartment before you lease ended that would probably strengthen your case.
I'm a cranky tenant NOT a cranky lawyer.
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby rentguy » Tue Jul 16, 2002 3:57 pm

An ad appeared in the Times real estate section on June 9 and an ad was posted on a bulletin board in my building about five days earlier than that. The broker even held an open house on June 2, before the ad appeared.

So the ad was in the paper about three weeks before I wanted to get out of my lease and one week before my landlord called me to say that he would hold my security deposit if I moved out.

It seems that the crux of my argument is this:

If he was uncertain about whether or not he would let me out of my lease, why did he put the apartment up for sale so quickly?
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby rentguy » Mon Jul 22, 2002 2:47 pm

I went down to file today and was told that the person I am suing has to live in NYC. Has this changed? Just about everything else I've seen and read says that only one party has to live in NYC.
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby Brooklyn Babe » Mon Jul 22, 2002 8:41 pm

"On Long Island and in the Mid-Hudson region, individuals must sue in the town where the party you are suing lives or works. In New York City, one party must work or reside in the borough where the suit is brought and the other must work or reside in any of New York City's five boroughs. "

Manhattan:
111 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013 212-374-8174
170 E. 121st Street, New York, NY 10035 212-369-8811

Call and double check, but it is my understanding that once someone does business (ie landlording) in NY, they can be sued in NY.
The above information is from a non-attorney tenant activist and is not considered or to be used as legal advice.
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby rentguy » Fri Jul 26, 2002 5:32 pm

Turns out I have to file in Nassau County. Since the owner only rents this one apartment in a co-op building, it doesn't technically count as his place of business (e.g. my rent checks were sent to his Long Island address, not the building's management office).

The Nassau County clerk sent me the necessary forms and all I have to do is mail them in with a processing fee. I'll only have to go out there when the case is heard.

Thankfully, the owner lives in Long Island and not somewhere very far away, otherwise I'd be out of luck!
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby hsansom » Thu Aug 01, 2002 3:48 pm

There is a step you might want to consider before filing a small claim. You can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General. You can do this *before* filing the small claim, but not after. The OAG won't intervene after a claim has been filed.
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby rentguy » Fri Aug 02, 2002 2:36 pm

How does one do this? What is the result and what does the AG's office do to help?
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby hsansom » Mon Aug 05, 2002 4:38 pm

The OAG is the right next step. But only as a means to establishing a paper trail for your case. The Attorney General, despite claims to the contrary, is like every other elected official -- serves the rich who buy re-elections.
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby mjr203 » Mon Aug 05, 2002 4:55 pm

Originally posted by Prof:
The OAG is the right next step. But only as a means to establishing a paper trail for your case. The Attorney General, despite claims to the contrary, is like every other elected official -- serves the rich who buy re-elections.
The current attorney general is Elliot Spitzer who has diligently investigated corporate malefeasance and independently of congressional legislation sought to prosecute consulting and finance companies for their malefeasance.

I think it's overly pat to call him a lapdog of monied interests despite the fact that his current diligence in pursuing such malefeasance is certainly going to be his platform for higher office.

<small>[ August 05, 2002, 04:56 PM: Message edited by: pointerout ]</small>
most Landlords suck it.
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Re: small claims court question - where to file?

Postby rentguy » Wed Aug 28, 2002 5:04 pm

I sent in the forms and now have a court date set for December out on Long Island.

Any advice for small claims court?
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