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Loss of Income, had to move out, what to do?

NYC Rent Regulation: Rent Control/Rent Stabilized, DHCR Practice/Procedures

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Loss of Income, had to move out, what to do?

Postby oreid » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:46 pm

I've been a resident in a rent stabilized building for 3.5 years, but lost my job last fall and was unable to pay rent from October onwards. I've been a good tenant with no prior history of late payment and no complaints from my neighbors.

The landlord has not contacted me in any way. My financial situation is so bad that after these months racking up past due rent, I moved out to live with family. My lease is up in August 2017, but I can't pay what is owed, and I don't want to be liable for the rest of the lease (like subletting). I emailed property manager to let him know my situation and that I vacated unit. At first he insisted that I call him back, but then emailed me that I could mail keys. I didn't call him back, hoping to just keep the conversation to email.

What can I do to ensure that I'm protected and not liable for past rent or the remainder of the lease? I'm happy to mail the keys in to their PO Box (with return receipt) but how can I get assurances that they'll release me from the lease in writing? Of course, I know that my security deposit is gone.

fwiw, this is a HUGE company that buys up rent stabilized buildings and has a public history of harassing old tenants to move out. There has been zero communication from them during the time I've not been able to pay rent. Any advice would be so helpful esp because there is no one answering the NYC Tenant Rights Hotline. Thanks in advance!
oreid
 
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Re: Loss of Income, had to move out, what to do?

Postby TenantNet » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:51 pm

The landlord might have held off taking you to housing court as a way of letting the outstanding rent pile up. If it gets too large, tenants often can't pay it and they often lose the apartment. That's why it's necessary to keep any unpaid rent in escrow.

Although you've given up possession, the LL can still seek the rent from you in Civil Court, including any rent for the period after you left until the end of the lease. (unless the LL re-rents the place in the meantime)

That's why it's important to return possession in a manner where the LL can't claim you never left. You should return the keys to an officer of the company (not the super), get a written receipt, and even better have a witness. I would not mail them as they can easily get lost, and certainly not to a PO Box. I would also ask the LL for a waiver of the remaining months. You may have to pay some of the past rent.

Tenants Rights Hotline? Is there such a thing?
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Re: Loss of Income, had to move out, what to do?

Postby oreid » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:13 am

Thank you, this is very helpful. I can turn the keys in to the building manager, in person (not the super) who is more on the 'corporate' side. He is the only agent representing the LL that I know of, and the LL is essentially a corporation at that.

I'd like to better understand one of your points: could the LL seek rent from now (vacancy) until the end of the lease, but may and/or not equally pursue arrears? I just want to know what I might be up against. Can I hand him keys and ask him to sign a receipt/hold harmless waiver? If yes, could you point me to such language?
oreid
 
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Re: Loss of Income, had to move out, what to do?

Postby TenantNet » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:33 am

Look, you have a lease, which is a contract. You essentially broke the lease by moving out, the reason being your loss of income. That is not a defense such as warranty of habitability (bad conditions) that you could use against the LL claim. The LL can claim ALL the rent for the entire lease, even if you have vacated.

That includes all rent past due for the period until you vacated, and all rent that becomes due until the end of the lease even if you are no longer there. The exceptions are if the LL gives you a written waiver, allows assignment or re-rents the unit.

We don't have sample language for a waiver, but chances are the Pro Se Office in Housing Court would, or you can consult with a private attorney.
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Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
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