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Cats in Pet-Restricted CO-OP - Resign Lease?

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Cats in Pet-Restricted CO-OP - Resign Lease?

Postby caitlinp1203 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 1:59 pm

CLIFF NOTES: Two tenants (GF and I) signed a lease with only one name on it at Real Estate Agent's (REA's) instruction. Two months later management company calls me to have me re-sign the lease with just my signature. I have concerns about the terms of the lease, most important of which is the fact that the pet policy was unclear at best and misrepresented at worst when the lease was originally signed in August. So now we have several cats in an apartment with a lease that seems to read as no pets, and we have for almost 3 months now. GF wants me to refuse to re-sign the lease until they include her name, the REA's name, and a clause acknowledging and accepting the cats currently in the apartment. I'm concerned about causing more problems than we need to, and I'm not even sure the management company can accommodate these requests. Am I right to be apprehensive about re-signing a lease that was never countersigned in the first place, two months after we've been living here and paying rent? Can they even ask me to do that? Are we even under lease right now? Regarding the cats, are we covered under NYC's 3-month pet law? Would bringing them up now with management be a good idea, or would it be more like shooting myself in the foot?

In reality the situation is far more complex than summarized above; at least to me it is very confusing. I apologize for the long-winded post that follows:

So back at the end of August my girlfriend and I signed a 2-year lease for a 2-bedroom apartment that was advertised as pet-friendly. We confirmed that the cats wouldn't be a problem with the REA on three separate occasions; when I called about the apartment, when we went to visit the apartment, and when we went to sign the lease. We signed a standard blumberg lease with addendums regarding the rules of the CO-OP we'd be renting in. To be clear, we signed a lease with a professional management company in Brooklyn who bought out a number of units in the Queens CO-OP where our apartment is. We submitted an application package that included both of our credit/income information, as well as a reference from our previous landlord stating that we kept cats in the apartment and they never caused a problem. This package was presumably reviewed by both the management company and the CO-OP board before we were approved (per CO-OP by-laws). When we went to sign the lease after being approved, we noted that only my name was on the lease, when both of us were supposed to be on it. The REA assured us that it was no problem for BOTH of us to sign and initial BOTH copies that were handed to us anyway, and that the management company would countersign and mail us an original copy within a week. Needless to say that never happened. We moved in anyway with our cats and have been paying rent since.

Fast forward two months and we received a call from the management company asking me to re-sign the same lease, excluding my girlfriend's signature. Since my name was the only one printed at the top of the lease, I was the only person who was supposed to sign and the REA had no business telling us to do otherwise. At first my girlfriend was very upset and concerned that she would be an "illegal tenant", but my foremost concern (aside from the fact that they never sent us a countersigned lease, it took them 2 months to say something to me, and they just want me to sign another copy and mail it to them...the whole situation clearly seems sketchy) is the fact that upon closer inspection of the lease, there is a clause saying no cats in the building in the main lease. The co-op also has rules regarding pets, and if there's more than one cat they can start fining escalating amounts every month until the problem is "cured" (aka we get rid of the cats).

Now I know it was our mistake trusting a NYC REA's word, but we were desperate at the time and needed to find a place to move within a week, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the dearth of pet-friendly apartments in the 5 boroughs. I am aware of the NYC 3-month pet law that renders the no-pet clause unenforceable after 3 months of the cats being "open and notorious" in the apartment after the landlord knows or should have known that the cats were here. Does this apply to the potential fines we're facing if we say something to our management company? As I see it they should have known that we have multiple cats since before we moved in, as we sent a reference letter mentioning them and I recall signing a waiver about a cat at the end of August about bringing a cat (that is curiously missing from the scanned material sent to me by management last week). We also have had the super come in and see our litterboxes/water bowls since we moved, I can take pictures of the cats in the window, etc.

My girlfriend wants me to refuse to resign until they amend the lease to include her name, the REA's name (which was supposed to be on the first page of the lease but wasn't, color me SHOCKED) and a clause that states they know and approve of the cats we have now (promising to get no more of course). As of now I have been in email correspondence with the management company, stating that I don't feel comfortable signing until seeing the original signed document that I was never sent (and then they sent a scanned copy) or until we go to the office to discuss some concerns. They do NOT want us to come to the office for some reason, and want me to email about any concerns I have. Should I insist on the conditions that my girlfriend wants the lease resigned under? Can they even agree to those conditions, since the CO-OP that the apartment is located in has it's own by-laws about the number of pets that we're in violation of as well? Should I even bring up the cats? Do I really have anything to be concerned about? Basically, how should I proceed? We'd prefer not to have to move again if we don't have to, but I don't really want to sign something AGAIN that says no cats when we really don't intend to live like that. I also don't know if that would reset our 3-month "pet-law clock", or even if we're already in the clear via the pet law (over 2 months into lease). What are our rights here?
Last edited by caitlinp1203 on Mon Nov 17, 2014 2:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cats in Pet-Restricted CO-OP - Resign Lease?

Postby TenantNet » Mon Nov 17, 2014 2:20 pm

Can you shorten this to about half as long, and maybe break it up with paragraphs. Our old eyes can't wade through all this. Keep it simple.
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Re: Cats in Pet-Restricted CO-OP - Resign Lease?

Postby TenantNet » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:32 pm

I really meant you replace the first, not extend it.

The iussue with the cats and the lease are two separate things. While the LL view is that the GF is not on the lease, she still has every right to live there with you. So put that off for now.

On the cats, at this point I would do nothing and do not communicate with the LL until the three months have passed. You said you were at/beyond two months, so you have only a few weeks.

Has the LL actually sent you a Notice to Cure about the cats (in writing)? You seem worried that the LL will do something, but it appears they haven't raised the issue. Then don't say anything and wait until the three months have passed. Even then don't raise the issue. Let it go six, nine, twelve months. From what you've said, you informed them when you moved in.

If the LL calls, emails, etc. about signing the lease, then put it off for now, don't respond for now until 3 months are over. After all, it is the holidays. You can use any excuse.

Later you can insist that both your name be on the lease. There's no reason for them not to allow it, but you can be sure they will play games.

Deal with the cat thing for now.

BTW, you mean a couple of cats, no more than three, right? If you have a zoo, that might change things.
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Re: Cats in Pet-Restricted CO-OP - Resign Lease?

Postby caitlinp1203 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 6:11 pm

Thank you so much for your patience and help with this. I feel like the REA fooled me once already so I'm very distrustful and nervous about how to move forward with the management company. Any reassurance and guidance is greatly appreciated.

I haven't taken any further action so far, and I haven't heard anything further from the management company either. I never sent a new signed copy of the lease as requested by management, and I never mentioned any of my concerns to them. It doesn't seem to bother them, as they have no problems accepting a rent check (in GF's name). GF has gotten over having her name on the lease, as it isn't really necessary in order for her to live there. We have officially been at our current apartment for over 3 months now.

The management company said nothing about the cats when they originally contacted me about resigning the lease. The reason they need me to sign it again is because two of us signed and initialed the lease when only my name was on it. They currently have no concerns about the cats. It's me who is concerned, because after re-reading the lease I realize that we are in fact in violation of the terms of our lease by keeping more than one cat (or even any cat? The lease contradicts itself so I'm not sure, but it's moot anyway). But my understanding of NYC pet law is that as long as I haven't been hiding them for these past 3 months they can't enforce the no-pets clause any longer.

Since GF no longer cares about having her name on the lease, do you think that the best course of action is to just sign the lease as-is again and send it back to management (again), and keep my mouth shut about the cats for now? If the cats ever do become an issue in the future, would I be protected under the 3-month pet law? Would the CO-OP be able to fine me if they wanted to?

Doesn't this whole situation seem fishy anyway? If this is a problem, why did it take them two months to bring it to my attention? What has our status been while we've been living there in the meantime? M2M agreement? If so, would re-signing the lease (still dated for August) constitute a new lease being signed, effectively resetting the 3 month "pet law" clock? Why does it feel like they're trying to find a way to screw me over? Am I getting paranoid over nothing?

We actually have 4 cats total (as can happen when two pet-owners move in together). Is there a legal limit on the number of cats in a household in NYS, NYC, or Queens that I'm not aware of?
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Re: Cats in Pet-Restricted CO-OP - Resign Lease?

Postby TenantNet » Tue Dec 02, 2014 8:17 pm

Maybe I can re-read this book next week.
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