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Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the lease?

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Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the lease?

Postby ericzx77 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:37 am

I entered into a joint lease for an apartment in the East Village (rent-regulated w standard rider) with a roommate (both of us named prime tenants on lease). All of a sudden we get a letter from the leasing agency mandating our floors be covered 80% with carpeting at our expense which adversely impacts our budget.

Here are the facts, narrative and legal questions in brief:

-After indicating interest in a unit, the agency required a $500 non-refundable holding deposit to take the unit off the market, a $100 application fee and one-month's rent as a security deposit PRIOR to unveiling the official lease text. I insisted on pre-viewing an unofficial copy of the lease or any relevant literature with more depth on the terms and was denied the opportunity. I had to pay the demanded costs firsts before I could see the lease text! Red flag.

-Prior to paying, I diligently inquired on all implicit or explicit costs of occupancy, redundantly, with the leasing agent and broker. The 80% carpeting mandate was never disclosed

-With my requests to review a draft/voided/unofficial text of the lease prior to submitting their demanded deposit funds denied, I took a calculated risk as a reasonable person would do in relying upon their prior representations of occupancy costs and that these representations would remain constant in the official lease terms ex post payment.

-The lease was over 47,000 words long and, having a busy job, did the best I could to review it thoroughly under the tight time constraint the provided before the holding period expired... although clearly with such volume of text the carpeting mandate escaped me and we signed it.

-Months later out of nowhere we get a letter that our unit is scheduled for inspection for compliance on the carpeting clause. I sent a letter to the leasing office that that we are disputing this mandate as it burdens our budget.

Question: Would a court find this clause enforceable when it was was never disclosed ex ante, my requests to review the lease prior to payment were denied, and this clause only became legible under this hostage deadlock tactic of "pay to read first" where nonrefundable deposit costs were demanded in their custody before I could view the lease?

What laws, precedents or legal dynamics are relevant here and to what extent are any such clauses enforceable granted an applicant was required to pay a non-refundable deposit to see the terms first, with no ex ante disclosure of ex post implicit material required costs of occupancy?

Thanks!!
Last edited by ericzx77 on Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the le

Postby TenantNet » Fri Oct 05, 2018 9:00 am

Can you shorten this please?
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Re: Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the le

Postby ericzx77 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:41 am

Sorry for the overwriting ... I shortened it. Let me know what you think. Thanks.
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Re: Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the le

Postby TenantNet » Fri Oct 05, 2018 12:04 pm

Still a bit too long, but...

When you say standard rider, do you mean the DHCR informational rider? What do you mean by "leasing agency?" Just a broker?

On the carpet issue, it's a standard thing, but if not part of the lease itself, I don't know it that means anything. Most of the time the 80% carpet thing is unenforced. OTOH, think of your downstairs neighbors.

The $500 should go towards rent. I don't know if the $100 is legal, but it might be.

Not showing you the lease text is probably not legal, but how would you enforce that? Obviously you have to see the lease in order to sign it.

But once you sign you do have rent stab rights.
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Re: Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the le

Postby ericzx77 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:33 pm

I went through both a broker and the leasing agency is StuyTown. Yes the $500 'holding' deposit to take it off the market would be credited towards rent IF I went through with the deal. Otherwise it would be forfeited, granted the LL would've lost other prospective tenants while de-listed.

But yes, when I asked to see a draft/unofficial/template copy of the lease before putting down any deposits the property mgmt agency was like NO - you have to pay the $500 + 1st Month's rent deposit. Then after you get to "see" the lease for the first time. Is that normal practice? Sounds sketchy to me.

It would cost them nothing to show me what their standard lease looks like and house rules etc before I put down money. Yet they require money first, then whop out a book-long lease after I paid. In past rent deals I was always furnished a lease BEFORE making a deposit.

They also keep making recommendations to carpeting companies in their demand to carpet the unit. I wonder if there is an ulterior motive or backroom deal with these carpet companies. The floors are quiet and I make no noise.

Any further opinions on this sketchy practice and how to dispute it with the property management agency would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Re: Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the le

Postby TenantNet » Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:43 pm

Have you asked the ST tenants association?
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Re: Can a landlord request a deposit before unveiling the le

Postby ericzx77 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:49 pm

Bingo! Yes that would be the go-to org. Thanks for pointing that out, I forgot about them. Thank you! I'll let you know on their response and will also consult with an attorney if more clarity is needed.

Regardless, still very shady practice of not allowing ex ante pre-view of the lease until you pay first. Never had a LL require an enormous $5+k deposit as a prerequisite to see the actual text of the lease. Usually lease + deposit are same day closing deals.
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