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Security deposit withholding & Utilites question.

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Security deposit withholding & Utilites question.

Postby neverends » Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:51 pm

Hello all,

I'm not quite sure where to start with this, as there are so many things to cover. I'll stick to the facts. Any advice that anyone can give would be appreciated.

Some facts on the lease:
Two years
Utilities: 2/3 paid by us as the landlord lived on the basement floor of the 3 floor dwelling. (red flag I know, but we signed the hand written stipulation on the lease).
Structure: 2 Unit duplex split verticly, 3 floors a side. Basements were blocked off from the top two floors on each side, and joined together to form one apartment of the two sides of the basements, utilizing the utilites from the two different units. This bottom unit was attempted to be rented out at one time post Sandy.

Key areas of concern:
1.) Utilities: Hurricane Sandy hit our area. A 5 foot storm surge rolled up our street and flooded out the basement. This didn't affect any of our personal property, but did knock out the heat, and unknown to us until spring of this year also the central Central AC. There were two weeks that were 90+ degrees where the AC remained non-functioning with numerous communications going to the LL requesting updates since he rarely communicated with us and only when we wrote him first. The LL's girlfriend/realtor brought the AC repair guy over in her car. After he replaced parts the AC would only cool on days when it was cool outside. We were instructed to leave the fan on all the time so the AC was basically running 24/7. We just recieved the Utilites for the month of July and the bill was over 700 dollars which is more than 100% over the previous year. Do we have any recourse to try to reclaim some of these Utilites fees due to the AC never being repaired correctly. We have numerous text messages trying to get information from him on the repair and continued problems. But they never were addressed fully.

2.) Security Depost: We have recievd a note from the LandLord saying that he is keeping 750 dollars from the security deposit due to repairs. He listed the items that needed repairs, but there are no reciepts or explanation of charges. One of which was a cupboard door over the microwave that was opened maybe twice a month that was "broken", but only really needed a screw because they were installed poorly. I digress, what are my rights in what monies I have to seek from the LandLord?

3.) Security Deposit Bank Account Info:
I've read a lot about "comingling" on this website. We never recieved any information about what the account information was that it was placed in. I have no doubt its because he never did. This sounds like something I can use if I take him to Small Claims. Thoughts?

I'm seeking facts and what the law states to weigh the benifits of taking our pervious LL to small claims court. He has been for lack of a better term "messing with us" for a while now. He has been known to pull sketchy activities in the past, includindg telling our neighbors (the other half of the duplex with same lease terms) that they had to pay more rent half way through their lease because he wrote it in his copy of lease, however, it wasn't on the tenants copy they recieved after signing the lease. He also told them that they needed to start paying 100% of the utilies instead of 2/3's as they agreed to on the lease which doesn't end for about 11 months.

Any information would be amazing. If you made it this far through my post, thanks so much for reading!

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Joined: Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:46 pm

Postby TenantNet » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:06 pm

Call Con Ed (or your utility provider) for the lack of separate meters in the bldg. Look at this http://tenant.net/Rights/Utility/util-toc.html

You can get violations on the basement unit, most likely illegal. by calling 311 and the DOB. In Queens there is an Illegal Apartment Task Force at the Borough President's office

To recover over-payments, you might need to withhold rent (and the LL will take you to court) or start a court action yourself, either in small claims court or civil court. You might be able to get violations on the AC if it's not working by calling 311. But HPD and the city usually deal with things like lack of heat and hot water, not something that isn't required by the city. OTOH, that would be a lease issue.

On the security deposit, if you've left the unit, you can go to the Attorney General's office or Small Claims Court. If you are still in the unit, we know some tenants withhold the last month's rent in order to recover the deposit, especially when the LL gives a good indication they are going to illegally withhold it. Be aware that withholding rent to recover a deposit is not viewed by all as being kosher, but it is done a lot. And, if there are real damages (not fabricated damages or ordinary repairs), then the tenant should be held to account.
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