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Renting a Room

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Renting a Room

Postby Cazmia » Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:55 pm

Please note that I orginally posted this in the non-regulated and am reposting here to ensure I have the right forum section.

I need help with a rather complicated situation, so I'll try to explain it as best I can.

About 2 years ago, I rented a room in a 5 unit Bronx apartment building. (Although the basement which was once an office has been converted to a 6th apartment, but at HPD it's listed as Class B with 5 units).

The room is located in the superintendent's apartment, who was not paying rent. The super had an agreement with the landloard at that time to maintain the bldg at 100 dollars a week and live in the apartment for free. It was the landlord who rented me the back room in that apartment at 75 dollars a week. The landlord was fine with me paying a rate of $300 dollars a month TO HER SUPER, because the LL said it was in his apt, so he could have the money.

All was fine until a new owner bought the building. The new owner does not want the man I was paying rent to, to be the super anymore. He wants him out. The new landlord has had me paying him the $300 a month directly to him and giving me receipts. The super says he is not going anywhere unless the new landlord gives him $1500 to move OR evicts him with legal court papers.

The new landlord doesn't seem likely to do this since he seems short on money. He has the lights in the hallway off all day and there is barely any heat and hot water in the dead of winter.

2 days ago, the landlord let Con Edison take the electric meter from the apartment I live in. LL said the bill (which is still in the previous LL's name) was $6000 and he isn't paying it. Electric had been included for free for the super and I when I moved in, but apparently no one was paying the bill.

The new LL told Con Ed there were no people living in my apt which is why they took the whole meter. I'm wondering what my rights are, especially if, and after, the super moves out. Can I sue for being put in these conditions while the landlord is collecting my cash? Naturally, I don't have a lease, but I have a cable bill that reflects how long I've been here and my payment receipts.

I don't know if the super has any proof of residency beyond his verbal agreement with the last landlord. Does the new LL need court papers to evict us?

And, if so, being that I'm just renting a room, if the super leaves, should I change the locks and take possession of the apartment until LL evicts me?

I'm worried about the super skipping town while I'm at work or something and the LL busting in. Super and LL have had heated arguments and I heard the LL tell the super he will get him out one way or another. However, LL currently has 3 other tenants in the bldg who aren't paying him either and he hasnt even evicted them. He only comes to their doors and argues.

Right now, I am just trying to cope with no light, and the entire building, even the paying tenants, living with limited heat, hot water and hallway light. Everyone is starting to call him slumlord and he's only owned the building 3 months. We are starting to have a mouse problem as well because, as the new LL states, "This building is too small to need a live-in super". So the garbage in the yard is put out only monthly if we're lucky and no one has mopped or swept the hallway since he's taken over.

Oy.

If the LL does come for my $300 dollars at the end of this month, should I pay him or should I put it in ESCROW? I know I'm asking a lot of questions here for one lisiting..
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Postby 10ants » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:02 pm

The LL is correct that the building is small enough not to need a live-in super.

From the sounds of it, you were a roommate of the past super, whom the current LL is trying to evict. You don't have a lease, and, most likely, neither does the existing super.

Given that the apartment has 5 units, I don't think it is covered by rent regulations.

So basically, you might be able to get the ll to re-install the power in your apartment, but it is difficult to see a situation in which you'd get a lease for your current apartment, especially at $300/month.
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Postby TenantNet » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:15 am

I held off responding as I've asked a person familiar with Con Ed to respond. The issue of the poster's tenancy rights are completely separate from the issue of whether Con Ed can turn off power in a situation like this.

There is a question if units in the building are covered by rent stabilization. And there's a question of the poster's tenancy rights, and if so, is the poster rent regulated.

That an office was converted to a sixth unit, that might trigger rent regulation status. Depends on the facts, if it was legal, what's the zoning, Certificate of Occupancy if any and other things.

If the has been a super, the tenants of rent regulated units have a right to the same level of super service as before. Doesn't mean he has to live there necessarily, but would mean he must be on duty same number of hours and available other times. Even if city regs require less service, if a service has been provided, under RS it must continue to be provided.

The old super might have some tenancy rights as well. Given part of his salary was in lieu of rent, he can be considered a tenant. Courts have gone different ways on this depending on the facts, but there is a case to be made. And if the LL is collecting rent from the poster, or -- as here -- the LL is the person who did the renting, that could establish a LL/T relationship, and RS rights.

The poster should get legal advice to clarify a number of these issues.
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Postby Cranky Tenant » Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:24 am

TenantNet wrote:The old super might have some tenancy rights as well. Given part of his salary was in lieu of rent, he can be considered a tenant. Courts have gone different ways on this depending on the facts, but there is a case to be made. And if the LL is collecting rent from the poster, or -- as here -- the LL is the person who did the renting, that could establish a LL/T relationship, and RS rights.

The poster should get legal advice to clarify a number of these issues.


And if the super was a tenant in a RS apt, before he became super, wouldn't his apartment and his tenancy rights revert to RS when he's laid off?
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Postby TenantNet » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:59 am

That's possible. There used to be -- well, still is -- something called "permanently exempt" and "temporarily exempt" from RS. It used to be the lines were clear on which was which. A super's unit was temp exempt, while owner occupied was permanent. That means the super's unit would revert to RS status while an owner occupied unit would not if the owner vacated.

Of course DHCR and the courts have mangled these policies, usually doing favors for LL's.

A super's tenancy rights can depend on how much of the unit is given to him for his services in lieu of rent. If he gets the unit completely rent free, then an argument can be made he has no tenancy rights. If he pays full rent on one hand, and gets a full salary in a separate transaction, then he would have tenancy rights. Of course it's often in the middle and I don't know exactly where the line is.
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Postby ronin » Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:23 am

Under the regulations the supers have almost no rights if they got the apartment as a part of their employment. Loss of employment = loss of apartment (because the new super would need to live there).

If the super was a tenant previously who paid rent they would revert back to the original status.

Regarding Con Ed, I believe the fact that the LL lied about the apartment being vacant is a serious issue. OP should have called the police about the power cutoff and the LL's lie. Also OP should call Con Ed directly about the issue. LLs cutting off power is a no no. If power comes with the lease then its a HC issue and is part of the apartment. If the tenant has their own meter then the LL has no say over the power at all. IMHO
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Postby TenantNet » Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:51 am

I'm still waiting to hear back from a person familiar with Con Ed issues, and will post here if that happens. But just wanted to mention that this could be construed as an illegal constructive eviction, and might carry potential criminal charges (or so the law says -- see illegal eviction in the forum's Reference section).

But this situation is sufficiently grey areas that I'd try to get more clarification. In my opinion, even if there are no tenancy rights, it couls still be an illegal eviction.
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Thank you

Postby Cazmia » Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:16 pm

Excellent advice. I do believe the 6th unit is not a legal conversion. I also do not think the super ever paid rent for the apartment, it was part of his employment. This may not be good news for either of us, but we do need to know where we stand. The Con Ed situation is an unpleasant twist that may end up working in our favor. I also feel LL accepting rent for my room signifies some definite sort of tenancy, even if only for a room. he's already collected for 4 months.
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