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owner-occupied - do we have rights?

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owner-occupied - do we have rights?

Postby redmj55 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:43 am

We moved into an owner occupied brownstone several months ago. Everything seemed ok at first but months little things have come up that have shown the landlords as stingy, petty and unreasonable. Lots of thing in a supposedly new renovation broke within a few months of move in. They won't return phone calls and only email us w/o really answering questions. Won't talk to us in person at all about problems in the house. Heat was off many days this winter, boiler broken.

As a condition of renting we were supposed to get access to a shared backyard. We did not ask to put it on the lease and now the owner has changed his mind and restricted access. The only notice we received was a confusing email notes and very aggressive in tone and language.

Besides the fact that this is a change in the terms of our move in, now we are worried about renewing our lease. Do we have any rights in a small owner occupied building? Can the owners raise our rent and how much? Are there limits? Also, is there a legal time frame in which they have to tell us they are raising our rent -- like 60 days notice?

We trusted the owners but since they have turned out to not be trustworthy we need help to know what our legal leg to stand on is! As we are aware that owner occupied buildings have different rules. And the nice reasonable discussion route seems to not be working....
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Postby aguy189 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 11:35 am

Besides the fact that this is a change in the terms of our move in, now we are worried about renewing our lease.
- If it's not in the lease, there isn't much you can do about the backyard.


Do we have any rights in a small owner occupied building?
You have whatever rights are listed in the lease, and you have the right to the base levels of habitability and tenancy stated in the law... but none will be there helpful to you.


Can the owners raise our rent and how much?
Yes, and by as much as they like (after the lease is over).


Are there limits?
No, none, at least on rent. It's a contract. When your contract is up, you have to negotiate a new one.

Also, is there a legal time frame in which they have to tell us they are raising our rent -- like 60 days notice?
They cannot raise your rent during the lease (unless it says they can, which I'm sure it doesn't). Outside of that, they need to inform you of what is going to happen after the lease is over, with as much time as your rent schedule. E.g., I'm sure you pay monthly, so they have to give you at least 1-month notice as to weather they will not be renewing your lease, or offering you a new lease at $X/mo.


Why on earth would you want to renew your lease if they're so terrible? I know moving is a pain, a huge pain, but isn't it less of a pain than the landlord? Wouldn't you want to find a place in a good situation to make a home for several years?
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Postby redmj55 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 11:49 am

This was supposed to be a nice place for a couple years, while we get ready to buy!!! Yes would love a nice place with a trustworthy landlord who is at least mildly honorable. But Moving is not only a pain in the ass -- its expensive! We spent a large amt just to get into this place. So...asshole landlords abound in NYC and I'm not so sure we'd do better. Could get someone worse.

Am very worried now about lease renewal as they've been extremely cheap about everything and at the same time telling us how generous they think they are being. So am imagining the worst - like they are going to raise our rent by hundreds, just because they can.

Doesn't sound like we have any leverage other than to say we won't pay and are moving. Sux.
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Postby aguy189 » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:04 pm

That does suck. Life would be a lot easier if everyone was honorable, rational, and fair. Sorry.

redmj55 wrote:This was supposed to be a nice place for a couple years, while we get ready to buy!!!

Well, that's the best plan. The instability of being a renter is the price of the flexibility of being a renter. If you want stability, be the owner. Go get one of them fancy FHA loans for 3.5% down, and buy a place. Better yet, but a multi-family and treat some tenants honorably. Make the rental city a better place.


redmj55 wrote:Am very worried now about lease renewal as they've been extremely cheap about everything and at the same time telling us how generous they think they are being. So am imagining the worst - like they are going to raise our rent by hundreds, just because they can.

Probably will. Most do. That's kind of the definition of a free market, "raise rent by what is market rate, just because they can."

redmj55 wrote:Doesn't sound like we have any leverage other than to say we won't pay and are moving. Sux.

You don't have any ethical/honorable/legal leverage, but here are some things you can try:
It's owner occupied. Be really really loud at 2am until the LL is ready to negotiate reasonable terms.
Stop paying rent and refuse to move. Tenancy laws in NYC are very tenant friendly, your LL probably knows it can take a year to evict you.
Are utilities included? Run the AC 24/7.
Flush some paper towels down the toilet and/or call for repair at least once a week.

[Potential consequences of doing any of that, include: LL refusal to renew, destroyed credit rating, eviction, court judgments, damage to the environment, flooding, and a general sense that you're no better than him, but some thoughts nonetheless.]

Sorry your situation sucks. Good luck.
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Postby 10ants » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:23 pm

Relax.

Sounds like you have a 'traditional small NYC landlord'. Welcome to the club.

The species distinguished by being slightly crazy, extremely cheap, un-interested in customer service, poor at communication, and absolutely afraid of (and hostile to) lawyers and rent control.

Remember: their goal is to get the most money for the least amount of work.


A couple of key points:

1) The first year after a renovation is usually the worst. You are the 'tester' to make sure that everything was done properly. It usually wasn't. Once the LL fixes it, it should get better and more reliable.

2) You don't need a lease. Lots of small time landlords forget when the lease expires, and prefer to have their tenants on month-to-month tenancies, especially when the tenant pays reliably. I've had 3 leases in 6+ years -- it seemed really weird the first time, but I got used to it.

3) Small-time landlords usually aren't out to get top dollar for their apartments. It costs them 2-3 months in lost rent. So your leverage is to threaten to move out, but, generally, the easiest way to deal with the issue is to ignore it and keep on paying the old rent until your LL approaches you.

Pulling the 'move' card is not recommended, however.
I've found that the best way to deal with my LL is to point out that

a) I pay rent on time
b) I take care of minor issues myself
c) I report major issues (e.g. the flooded roof that was about to collapse) fast
d) I'm quiet and patient about repairs
e) any other tenant he gets could be much much worse, and it isn't worth the risk or the pain in the butt of having to deal with a whiny tenant.



4) Dealing with your LL in person is MUCH better than dealing with him via phone/email. Offer him a six-pack -- and then point out that it is barbecue season and that it would be nice to use the yard from time to time.

5) Remember: most money for least work, and no lawyers -- a lot of these guys are very 'old school' -- if you don't bother them, they won't raise your rent at all

6) It takes a year or two to get used to your landlord's 'style', but if you adapt to it, you can get a much much better deal than renting from a mega-landlord or buying a place.

Good luck!
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Postby TenantNet » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:39 pm

It's owner occupied. Be really really loud at 2am until the LL is ready to negotiate reasonable terms. Stop paying rent and refuse to move. Tenancy laws in NYC are very tenant friendly, your LL probably knows it can take a year to evict you. Are utilities included? Run the AC 24/7. Flush some paper towels down the toilet and/or call for repair at least once a week.


Aguy189, I don't know from where you are coming, but that's the wrong advice and can create more headaches for the tenant, and potentially civil or criminal charges.

On this website we urge tenants to exercise their rights, not become vandals ... which reinforces the preconceptions of the anti-tenant crowd.

And if you've ever had the misfortune to be in housing court or DHCR, you'll learn very quick that the so-called tenant friendly laws are a myth.
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Postby aguy189 » Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:20 pm

And if you've ever had the misfortune to be in housing court or DHCR, you'll learn very quick that the so-called tenant friendly laws are a myth.
I'll take your word for it, but at least some professional management companies must believe it's true. I just got the signed letter back today. I was able to get $3,000 from the LL of my gf's place (with the stove issue) for just a signed promise to vacate at the end of the lease. Since you thought the stove issue was worth less than $900, the promise to leave without exercising allegedly mythic tenant-favored laws must be worth (in the opinion of the management company and LL) over $2,100. So I guess we got a really good deal.

[As for the “advice,” it was clearly a joke, as noted by the fact that the listed consequences are far worse than any possible gains. Sorry to anyone who didn’t find that abundantly clear.]
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Postby TenantNet » Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:34 pm

I'm glad to see your GF lucked out. Believe me, that's the exception.

As the unit is not regulated (per your post), then there was no chance for your GF to invoke any tenant protection laws. There are essentially none (for that unit) to invoke.

Who knows why they caved, but it's not the notion you raised. being unregulated, they didn't need to offer to renew, so your promise of leaving has essentially little value.
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Postby Cranky Tenant » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:08 pm

aguy189 wrote: I just got the signed letter back today. I was able to get $3,000 from the LL of my gf's place (with the stove issue) for just a signed promise to vacate at the end of the lease. Since you thought the stove issue was worth less than $900, the promise to leave without exercising allegedly mythic tenant-favored laws must be worth (in the opinion of the management company and LL) over $2,100. So I guess we got a really good deal.


$1800 for a studio on the Upper East Side, Landlord offers $3000 not to renew. This certainly sounds like a buy-out to get the apartment out of Rent Stabilization. Otherwise it just doesn't make sense.

Did you ever check with DHCR to make sure the apartment isn't regulated?
I'm a cranky tenant NOT a cranky lawyer.
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Postby TenantNet » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:27 pm

I should have done this two posts ago. This is the topic of a different thread. Put any more posts on the "buyout" on the original thread, please. This thread belongs to redmj55.
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