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Prime Tenant did not bill me (subtenant) for utility bills

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Prime Tenant did not bill me (subtenant) for utility bills

Postby irinanyc8 » Wed Apr 29, 2020 1:09 pm

I began subletting a room in NYC/Brooklyn on July 1, 2019. She asked me to pay first month's rent, last month's rent and security deposit (per June 2019, I believe NYC rent law made it illegal to even ask for last month's rent). I have paid my rent timely, responsibly every month and have records of this.
Prime tenant did not at any time and point bill me for any utility bills since July 1, 2019. My sublease agreement did mention I would be responsible to pay 1/3 of utility bills, but she never actually billed me for them. Utilities come to her, under her name as she's on the lease (landlord).
Due to the pandemic and my job loss, I asked the prime tenant to please defer the rent for May 2020; she refused. She asked me to give me 30 days' notice (essentially eviction) and she'd apply the last month's rent (which she received upon signing the sublease agreement) to May 2020 and vacate the premises by June 1, 2020.
She then told me she will return the remainder of the security deposit after she deducts utilities from my security deposit. Is it legal for her not to bill me the entire time I lived there, then retroactively charge me for utilities through deducting it from the security deposit? It was her responsibility to bill me properly each month, she did not in any form. Now she wants to deduct it from my security deposit. It was my understanding security deposit is there for damages incurred and the cost of repairment.
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Re: Prime Tenant did not bill me (subtenant) for utility bil

Postby TenantNet » Sat May 02, 2020 6:19 am

Thanks for your post and we'll try to respond when we can. But like many, we're backlogged from the pandemic. You second post appears to be a duplicate of the first, so that one is going away. Please keep all posts on this issue in this thread. Thanks.
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Re: Prime Tenant did not bill me (subtenant) for utility bil

Postby TenantNet » Fri May 08, 2020 8:05 am

Sorry for the delay.

OK, a little clarification is needed. A sublet is when the prime tenant goes away, usually for work in a different city, and the sublet has access to the entire apartment while the prime tenant is gone.

A subtenant or undertenant can be - and often is - a roommate or occupant, where the prime tenant is still there, and you rent a room with access to common areas of the apartment. However, don't confuse this with a rooming house type of situation. I'm assuming you are a roommate/subtenant and not a sublet.

There can be overlap between the two. A sublet is really a subtenant with special circumstances.

For a roommate, the charge is usually no more than half of the legal rent. For RS units, see the RGB orders as to surcharges. See RSC § 2525.6.

So a lot depends on your circumstances. I believe you're correct that the last month's rent is now illegal. According to the Lebovits' chart of the 2019 rent law, pre-paid rent is now abolished. That means essentially last month's rent. I do not know if or how a tenant can get back what they paid for the last month's rent. If the LL won't agree, I suppose a tenant could just "use" the pre-paid amount for the current month's rent. However, I don't know how that would play out in court. You would just have to try it.

As for your request to defer rent, as you know the courts are now closed, effectively meaning a LL can't take you to court for non-payment until Gov. Cuomo lifts the ban. Yesterday he extended it through August 20. So you can defer the rent on your own in our opinion (you might be liable for it later though).

I would not give notice and vacate unless that is what you want to do.

As to utility bills, if your agreement calls for 1/3 of the total utility costs, then chances are you would be liable, even if the demand is late. You could bicker about the bills, or claim she waived any right to them ... who knows if that would work. But since you have that money, and she doesn't, you have some leverage in negotiation.

You could also claim laches where a claimant would have to commence a full court action in Civil or Supreme Court to recover that money. That is usually for rent, not just utility bills. But since the prime tenant is an individual, depending on the amount demanded, she might be able to sustain a case in Small Claims Court.

Remember Housing Court must have a rent and possession component. If you move out, those no longer exist and the prime tenant must choose a different court.

BTW, don't let the tenant lock you out; that would be illegal. Always carry proof of residency in case you need to go to the police.
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