Saturday, January 19, 2008

Signed the lease with our landlord.

I figured that after all that writing and worrying about the lease, the least you deserved was an update on how things went. Its so easy to write a blog when things are bad, but when they go your way, blogging becomes difficult.

On the way to meeting my landlord, I called my Rabbi to ask him for his advice. He suggested that taking a consulting posture would probably the most effective way to handle him. Ask him what he agrees to and what he doesn't agree to, and after each answer, write it down on a piece of paper. Then, if things aren't the way you want them, you can decide not to sign yet.

I sat down with the landlord, who, with his family present, was acting like the boss
(Sefardi thing). I went through *his* lease line by line (which was obviously written by an evil lawyer). To my surprise, for some reason he thought what was in the evil lease was the law of New York because his lawyer told him, "do not cross *anything* out." Later on (as you'll see), it occurred to me that the lawyer never said not to put anything *in*.

So we negotiated line by line, and as he agreed to things (or disagreed to things) we wrote down what he said. In the end, after everything was said and done, I felt that the lease terms as agreed to by the landlord were fair, and we were willing to be flexible and give in to certain things in return for getting the security of a lease with an option to renew.

I said, "We are ready to agree to what we have discussed. Now let us write what we agreed to into the lease." When I started crossing things out that the landlord agreed to in our prior conversation minutes earlier, he started flipping out. "No! Don't cross it out!"

When I explained to him that the lease does not reflect our agreement, he said, "no! it's in there what we agreed." I thought to myself, " he an idiot?!? The lease says the opposite of what he agreed to!" So I started writing things into the lease in VERY EASY LANGUAGE.

My logic was that if the printed lease said something like, "Tenant is not allowed to have guests; if the tenant has a guest, tenant will pay landlord $50 per guest per occurrence" and I wrote in at the bottom of that clause "Tenant is allowed to have guests AT NO CHARGE," then if the matter ever went to court, obviously the written-in statement is what would be enforced because 1) it was obvious that what was written in was written in after the printed terms, and 2) that the written-in terms was what was agreed to when the lease was signed, even if they conflict with the printed terms.

So that was the jist of our entire lease. "Tenant is not allowed to have guests... TENANT IS ALLOWED TO HAVE GUESTS," "Tenant pays for all utilities... TENANT PAYS ONLY FOR ELECTRIC, GAS, AND 1/2 OF WATER, LANDLORD PAYS THE REST OF THE UTILITIES," and so on.

After a while, the landlord got tired of me writing things in and he started accusing me of changing the lease which was meant to protect him, and he told me "either sign the lease or move out." At that point, most of the issues were resolved, and we limited our liability to the Security Deposit even if we trashed the place and moved out early (which we would never do). While the lease made it VERY EASY for us to lose the security deposit, we decided that this was a risk we were willing to take, because the lease as it was with the changes was much more fair than it was when we began.

I went into a side room with my wife, and we agreed that the way the lease was, it was acceptable and we were willing to sign it as it was. So we signed the lease and gave the security deposit and the last month's rent.

So now we live here. My wife was so excited, and so was I. I am glad this issue is finally resolved, because it weighed heavily on my shoulders each day and took much emotional energy leaving me tired and lifeless. Thank G-d I worked hard on this issue, we stuck hard to our guns, and we were flexible when we needed to be fair.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Additional Lease Terms

Dear Readers,

I am sitting down tonight with the landlord to review the terms of the lease. While we agreed to go over his version of the lease, there were provisions that would be difficult to carve up and cut out. So, to simplify things, I wrote up the following lease addendum myself which covers all of the terms we want the landlord to agree to and supersedes conflicting provisions in the lease. That way, we can just sit down, agree to the Addendum (below), and sign his lease and move on.

(By the way, everything in here with the exception of the Washer/Dryer which we left out are things the landlord already agreed to, but I want it in writing. I think this is fair and is a good way to go about things, how about you?


The following paragraphs, if agreed to by the landlord, will become part of the lease and will rule over any terms in conflict with these paragraphs.

The lease will be a one-year lease with the Tenant’s option to renew lease for 3 years under the terms of this lease. The lease will not automatically renew and will become a month-to-month lease unless the Tenant gives notice to the Landlord each year that they intend to renew lease for another year.

If Tenant accidentally does not renew the lease and the time for renewal passes, if both Tenant and Landlord still want to renew the lease, they may do so at will.

Both Landlord and Tenant understand that the purpose of a Security Deposit is:

1) To compensate Landlord in case Tenant damages property belonging to Landlord from misuse (Security Deposit may not withheld because of damages from normal wear and tear and daily use of the property), and

2) To compensate Landlord for rent losses sustained if Tenant terminates contract and moves out of apartment without Landlord’s permission. Landlord has a duty to mitigate damages (a responsibility to make a reasonable attempt (through FOR RENT signs, classified ads, word of mouth, etc.)) to re-rent the apartment. Damages for early termination are limited to the Security Deposit.

“Last Month’s Rent” is separate and unrelated to the security deposit. It is ONLY to be used for paying the Tenant’s last month’s rent prior to moving out and must be returned if not used.

Tenant requests landlord’s permission to pay last month’s rent upon renewal of lease for second year.


If within 30 days of Lease’s termination (or within 60 days if Last Month’s Rent has been deposited with Landlord), if Landlord trusts that no damage has been done to the apartment, Tenant may request that the Security Deposit be applied in lieu of the last month’s rent. At that point, Landlord has the right to inspect premises to make sure no damage has been done that would require use of the Security Deposit funds.


Should any damage occur that warrants withholding money from Security Deposit, Landlord will give written notice to Tenant containing the description of the damage, the Landlord’s cost to repair, and the approximate date of occurrence of damage. Tenant will have the right to dispute Landlord’s claim. At the end of the lease term before the Tenant moves out, damages will be added up to determine how much of the Security Deposit will be returned to Tenant.


Tenant agrees to pay for: Electricity, Gas, and ½ of the Water costs for the apartment Tenant is occupying for the full length of time Tenant is occupying apartment.

Tenant agrees to place Electricity and Gas in Tenant’s name, and Tenant shall solely be responsible for costs of electricity and gas for said apartment while Tenant is in possession of the apartment.

Tenant agrees to cancel Electricity and Gas within one month of leaving the apartment, and agrees to pay Electricity and Gas bills in full prior to leaving apartment.

If the water bill is not available when the Tenant moves out, Tenant agrees to place a deposit to cover Tenant’s estimated half of the water bill, which shall be calculated based on the prior three (3) water bills.

Security Deposit and Last Month’s Rent must be separated from all of Landlord’s personal funds. It is understood that both the Security Deposit and the Last Month’s Rent remains property of the Tenant and not the Landlord, and Landlord may not use either for his own personal reasons.

Landlord may use Last Month’s Rent for personal reasons once rent for the last month becomes due.

Landlord grants Tenant the use of one parking space behind the house.

Landlord grants Tenant access to the laundry room through the stairway connected to Tenant’s apartment.

Landlord will give tenant 24 hours before entering apartment to give tenant time to respond to request. Landlord entry under this lease is for repair purposes only.

Landlord may enter apartment WITHOUT 24 HOUR NOTICE for emergency purposes only, or with consent of Tenant.

If Tenant is unable to secure working keys for the apartment, Landlord will promptly provide copies of the keys or will replace the lock.

Tenant has the option whether or not to purchase insurance for the home, and to control how and if insurance proceeds are to be used. If Landlord wishes to obtain insurance, he may. Failure to obtain insurance will not breach this lease.

If Tenant damages property owned by Landlord by misuse or intentional destruction, Tenant will be responsible for the costs to repair damaged property, and Landlord may sue tenant for damages and/or make a claim to withhold said amount from the Security Deposit. Damages to the property and/or broken items due to the normal wear and tear, daily use, and or non-misuse of the Tenant will be promptly repaired and paid for by the Landlord.

Tenant may have guests (and even overnight guests) so long as the guests are not living in the apartment as their home. Tenant may not split the rent with anyone other than those occupying the apartment per the terms of this lease, and may not sublet or have others move in without the Landlord’s written permission.

Tenant will NOT give Landlord notice when Tenant is away from the apartment for any amount of time.


At no point does Tenant waive any rights of notice regarding any legal process between the Landlord and the Tenant. Further, Tenant does not agree to pay any legal fees or attorneys fees should a dispute arise.

This is the simplest way I could write this, and the best I could do. Comments?


Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Tea can make the bad feelings go away."

By the way, you should know that my wife and I made up about an hour into the fight. My wife didn't realize that she hurt my feelings, and wounded them even more when she mocked me when I tried to tell her how I felt.

However, a few minutes later, she apologized, and she told me that she appreciated everything I did and all the work I did, and that there were even certain issues she would like me to fight for on our behalf. Namely, the term of the lease must consistently reflect the 3-year option to renew; the penalty for breaking the lease must be limited to the security deposit; and, the last month's rent is not a security deposit, but a rent deposit.

An hour later, she again asked me if I was feeling down about the whole lease thing, and I told her that there weren't any feelings that were still hurt, but I was still having lingering feelings of hurt. I told her that she hurt me pretty deep and that I believed that we resolved everything, but that my feelings were still down from the initial hurt which doesn't go away just because the cause of the hurt has been resolved. She said, "Tea makes it all better, want some?" and I said, "yes, please."

So yes, I feel better about it all, and I am a bit more calm about the whole situation. I can't stop my wife from wanting to live in this apartment, and I can't protect her (us) from sneaky landlords when she won't stand behind me on it. However, I do believe she will be happy here, and I do know that she likes this home very much and me putting the table together and putting the Mezuzahs up (although in my mind, I did it for temporary reasons) made her view the house more as a home that she really wants to live in. So, I'm giving her what she wants, and tomorrow, unless the landlord is unreasonable about the terms of the lease or he pulls another one of his tricks, I'll sign the lease and start our lives in our new home.

Wife told me to accept defeat.

I feel betrayed by my wife. All this time, I have thought about nothing other than how to protect us and the terms of the lease that my wife expressed that were so important to her. This afternoon, our landlord walked in with his family and told us that the lease I suggested we sign was not acceptable. He slammed it down on the table and said that he’s the landlord, he’s the boss, and whatever he says is what we have to agree to, or we could move out. Knowing that my wife told me that morning that she would really like to stay and that she doesn’t want to move again, I decided to be a bit softer and to save us from moving out.

We spoke about the lease, and how important it is for the terms of the lease to match our agreement. We arranged to look at the second version of the lease that they gave us (still a one-sided lease, but not as extreme as the first) and to sit down with them tomorrow and perhaps to sign it.

The interesting outcome is that my point of view of the landlords changed because I understood the family dynamics for the first time. The father is in charge. The son likes to think he’s in charge, and the father has a difficult time controlling him. The mother is the typical Israeli. It was interesting to me to see the son speak in front of the father and to interrupt his father – perhaps the way I interrupt mine. At the time, I only paid attention to what the father said, but after reflecting on it, I realized that I identified with the son because I often have a difficult time respecting my father the way I am supposed to. One interesting outcome is that at one point, the father got annoyed at his son for interrupting him and negotiating for him and he said to his son, “I’m here. Let me talk.”

All in all, the conversation went well. By the end of it, my wife was seduced into thinking that they were good people and she had forgotten everything they had done to us until now. Further, I was also convinced, but I still wanted to be careful by making sure that the lease properly reflects what we want it to say. One thing that I felt was resolved, however, was that at least we know now who is in charge of the lease terms and the decisions; the father.

So I spent the rest of the day shopping with my wife. I wanted to get some tools and nails to put up the Mezuzahs on the house, because even if we were leaving within the month, Jewish Law says, “he who has fringes (Tzitzis) on his Tallis, Tefillin on his arm and on his head, and a Mezuzah on his doors is protected by the Holy One, blessed be He.” I had the first two of those requirements, but so far the mezuzahs were not yet unpacked or put up on our doors. I thought that maybe because we had no mezuzahs up (even though they are not required until we live here for 30 days) this was the reason we were having all these problems in life; namely, that there was no mezuzah protecting us during our travels. So I went to pick up a new toolkit with a hammer, a wrench, and some nails. Unfortunately, the nails that I used to put in the Mezuzah cases were poor quality and my hammer broke the plastic cases for the Mezuzah where the screw is supposed to go. So while they look unsightly, at least they are up.

Anyway, with the new tools, I put together my grandmother’s dining room table (may her soul rest in peace in Gan Eden) and I sat there going over the lease for our discussion with the landlord tomorrow. After discussing my findings with my wife, I found her to be unexcited about my arguments. She felt that I was nit-picking the lease to death and that I was lawyering the whole thing to death. She said that she was tired of fighting the landlords and that she just wanted to give in to their requests. She said that if we broke any term of the landlord’s lease, she’s fine with the landlord keeping the security deposit. She said she was fine moving out and risking the landlord keeping the security deposit for himself. She said she was fine with giving the last month’s rent just to make peace with the landlord and get the lease signed. In short, she gave in to EVERYTHING we have been fighting for daily for almost a month now. In short, she told me that she just wants to live here and that she wants to give in to all of the landlord’s terms. I felt betrayed because all this time I was under the impression that I was fighting for us, and tonight I find out that I was fighting for a cause she didn’t believe in.

I feel that I wasted so much time on this issue for the protection of myself and my family, and now she doesn’t even want me to fight for what we were originally promised. She would rather just have the apartment as it is and risk losing the security deposit. This is the eve of tomorrow’s meeting with the landlord. As far as things stand, and as far as I understand, she just wants me to give in to everything and sign the lease. I feel so defeated.

Discussion with Landlord about lease terms.

I had a meeting with our landlord yesterday after Shabbos. Naturally, we were prepared for the meeting, but we were unprepared for what happened.

As of Friday, after the no-show of the landlord the evening before (and after countless phone calls and requests for him to call us back), I called my wife on the phone and told her that we should make the decision to move out at the end of the month, or as soon as possible, because even if we did get a lease eventually, the landlord would be an absentee landlord, wouldn't fix anything if it broke, and probably wouldn't adhere to the lease terms anyway. So we firmly made a decision that unless the landlord comes through and addresses our issues to our liking, we are deciding to find another place and to move out at the end of the month.

So the landlord showed up after Shabbos, and we sat down to discuss the issues that have come up over the past month with his wife and his kids. He told us that we should ignore everything his wife and his kids say about the rental and its limitations, because he is the boss, he is the owner, and whatever he says is the law. I respected his mentality because it was consistent with the Sefardi ancestry of which he is part of. He also told me that he is a believer in whatever the siddur that was sitting on my table says and then he went on to tell me what a good person he is and how honest he is.

We proceeded to discuss the issues -- the term of the lease, the security deposit, the washer and dryer, repairs that are needed, and he seemed to be friendly to all of them.

Hearing this, I decided to take out the neutral lease that I downloaded from the internet (as opposed to the unfair one-sided lease that his son gave us), and I proceeded to fill in the details and make minor changes to reflect what we would agree to and what we would not agree to.

The changes I made to the lease were items that I felt the lease was unclear about or was improperly written, such as [inter alia]:

1. Location of premises: Instead of writing, "Tenant is leasing XXXX Crown Street, Brooklyn NY 11225 (just an example, not actual address)," I wrote "Tenant is leasing XXXX Crown Street, 2nd Floor with stairway access to laundry room" because I didn't want the landlord one day to lock the stairway door to the basement and say, "sorry, if you want to use your own washer and dryer, you will have to walk outside, walk around the block, and enter the laundry room through the garage access." This is not a likely occurrence, but given the past actions of the landlord, we don't trust that they *wouldn't* do this, and so I felt that it was important to be as specific as possible when describing what we were renting.

2. "Tenant shall not sublet the apartment without written permission from the Landlord." I added in ink, "...landlord shall not unreasonably withhold consent" meaning that if for some reason we needed to sublet and we did our work and found good tenants, the landlord cannot unreasonably reject the new tenants. If there is a reasonable reason for rejection (e.g. they don't trust them, or they have bad credit, etc.) that is understandable, but b'kitzur, I didn't want to give the landlords the ability to stick it to us if we wanted to sublet. By the way, we have no intention of subletting.

3. "Tenant agrees to return property to the landlord in as good condition as property was given to tenant, normal wear and tear *excepted*." As soon as I read that, I saw the word "excepted" was misspelled, and it should have read "expected." So I crossed out the word and replaced it with the correct spelling.

4. Attorneys fees. Being an attorney, we plan on being very honest and good tenants. If we end up in litigation with the landlord, it will be because they did something immoral or illegal, or because they violated the lease terms, not us. The lease originally wrote that "if there are any disputes, Tenant agrees to pay all costs and attorneys fees to litigate the issue." I am not agreeing to this, so I crossed this out.

Anyway, in short, I made these and other changes in front of him and then I told him to have his lawyer check over the lease for fairness and to get back to us. The landlord was shocked and scared and offended by what I marked up, because he felt that I was being unfair and was changing the lease to make it fair to me and unfair to him. I assured him that I was being upfront and that there was nothing sneaky about what I did, and I am totally open to discussing and/or negotiating the changes I made to the lease because I am very flexible about it. I just wanted the lease to reflect the nature of our deal, that's it. If he doesn't like a term I inserted, I am totally open to removing it. He left annoyed and he said, "I'm going to have my lawyer look at this." I told him to please feel free to have the lawyer call me if s/he has any questions.

Later, when I asked my wife about her opinion about what happened, she told me that he and his family have been playing games with us since we moved in, causing us stress and emotional pain unnecessarily by changing terms and taking away things they promised to us. The fact that I was a lawyer and that I was making changes to the face of the lease document made him nervous, and she was glad that he got nervous. At least now he got some of his own medicine and he should learn that it is not right to do that to other people.

I explained to her that I was being as open and fair as possible. As a lawyer, we have an ethical duty of fully disclosing anything we do because we have an advantage over regular folk, especially when it comes to legal terms and reading into and writing contracts. I could have easily written those changes into the document and I could have printed the document out *with* the changes (as his son did to me with the original lease), however I felt that was dishonest, and any changes to the lease template should be made openly and honestly so that we can talk about the terms and come to an understanding and an agreement. I didn't want to trick him into signing a lease with various terms; I wanted him to know what he was signing so that I could hold him to it if there ever was a dispute between us.

In sum, I am no longer stressed about the whole situation. I am ready to move out of this place, and I am ready to tell the landlord that we are no longer interested in the apartment and that we are planning to move out as soon as we find an apartment or house acceptable to move into. The hindrance here is that my wife (and I) really like the apartment and its location within the community, and I want to avoid the ordeal of hiring a U-Haul, packing everything up all over again (we haven't unpacked yet because we knew there were issues with the landlord, but nevertheless we have unpacked a good number of boxes just to find items needed for daily use) and moving all over again with a new set of negotiations and a new lease negotiation, etc. Plus, unlike the last time we moved, now I am employed and so any moving will have to be on a Sunday, which will cut into the only day I have available to rest from the work week. All this being said, the landlord *is* a problem, and they have caused us much stress, and we don't expect them to cause us any fewer problems in the future. Lastly, we expect problems from them regarding the security deposit when we move out, and I am not so sure I want to enter into an agreement knowing down the like the landlord is likely to breach that agreement upon us leaving.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Letter to friend about what is happening with us.

Sam & Joy,

I took a job outside New York City which started on Jan 3rd, and so we moved to Crown Heights. We’re not so far away, except we’re having landlord issues (he keeps changing the terms on us and won’t sign a lease) and so we might need to find another apartment. Last week (my first week on the job) I almost got fired for taking off early on Friday afternoon for Shabbos. With the new job and all my free time sucked away, it’s difficult to take care of everything, especially with one car and pressures from work to be the super-worker and not ever taking lunch because they are looking at me negatively from the Shabbos issue.

My wife, my son, and I do appear to be cocooning a bit, but that is because she is stuck at home without a car or internet, I am stuck at work with the car but no time, and our son is as cute as ever growing into a little boy who is starting to make talking sounds. My work is over an hour away from the house, but this was the best Jewish community with reasonable rent within driving distance, so to schlep my wife and our son with me to work just to give her the car for a few hours (driving home and back will take close to 3 hours of driving alone) is a big hassle for everybody.

We’re not unpacked, and we have no washer or dryer. We have no telephone service at the house (landlord won’t release their phone line to us), and no internet (now I’m using a weak wi-fi signal to connect, albeit the connection is SLOW). So we’re kind of in a tough place right now, but this is the best place we’ve ever been yet. We just have to let things figure themselves out with time.

We’ll resurface soon and will invite you guys over to our house (wherever we end up living) soon, or we’ll go over there soon. I’m just trying to figure out the details because things are difficult now from so many angles.

How are you doing?


Lease Term Dealbreakers.

Okay, here are the terms of the lease that we agreed to when we gave our first month's rent and agreed to rent the apartment. The rent we are paying is higher than the norm, but that is because we were promised some benefits that were recently taken away by the landlord's adult children.

Firstly, the landlords agreed to rent the apartment as an annual lease with us (tennant) having the option to renew the lease for 3-5 years. After we moved in, the landlord's wife came over and said that we can't stay here longer than a year.

Next, when we agreed to pay security, they also wanted us to pay the last month's rent as well. We were okay with that for a 3-5 year lease, but now that they changed the deal to a one-year lease, we are not willing to agree to pay last month's rent for a one-year lease. This wasn't the deal, especially because we have every intention of applying the security to the last month's rent (and we have nothing wrong with telling them that. All that would happen is that 30 days before the lease is over, we would invite the landlords over for a walk-through inspection. If they find no damage which would make them apply a claim against our security, we would apply the security to the last month's rent. If they find damage, then we wouldn't apply the security and we would resolve their damage claim.)

Additionally, we are nervous to even give a security deposit to them in the first place because (with good reason and many examples) we are convinced that they have every intent on trying to keep the security deposit at the end of the lease term, regardless of whether we cause any damage to the property. Nevertheless, we are still willing to give the security deposit.

Next, when they showed us the house, we were told there was a working washing machine and dryer that we were to have exclusive access to. When her son moved out, he took the washing machine with him, leaving us a broken washing machine. Oh, and the dryer is now broken too. When we approached the son about it, he said, "we never provide washing machines nor do we provide dryers to tenants as a rule. Whatever my parents said was wrong and we are not providing this." Both myself and my wife believe that having a W/D was an essential part of the apartment; we would never have rented it without one.

Lastly, there are repairs that must be made before the house becomes bearable. Firstly, we have only one key to the apartment, and the door lock is so old that when we made copies of keys (twice), they did not work. Sharing a key with my wife (where both of us go out during the day, me to work and her shopping) will be highly convenient. Secondly, the top lock (which is required for safety because our door is accessed from outside which isn't the safest neighborhood in the world) has no key. The landlord's son told us to buy a replacement lock and he'll replace it; we purchased the lock, but for days now he hasn't replaced it. Same deal with the showerhead -- there was none. They told me to purchase a replacement, and I did, but it's sitting there with the lock. Additionally, the landlord broke our halogen light bulb when he touched it, and has not replaced it even though we have a replacement bulb.

All of these things might seem like little things, but to us they were dealbreakers. And the fact that the landlord is *still* a no-show shows us the kind of respect he has for us. After all this waiting, it looks to me that I will have a conversation tonight where we will decide that at the end of the month, we will be moving out of this apartment for good.

Landlord giving us lease issues.

My wife and I are sitting here in our unlit living room waiting for the real landlord to show up and negotiate a lease with us... It has almost been two weeks, and we have still not unpacked because we have felt uneasy in our new home because our landlords, as nice as they appear to be, keep acting all innocent and then keep doing things that are totally sledgehammer sneaky. The latest event was our lease.

Since we moved in (and even since we initially negotiated the rent for the apartment), we have been asking almost daily for the lease. The landlords have been hoo-ha'ing and playing dumb about not having the lease. ...then yesterday, the landlord's daughter shows up with the most nasty, one-sided, evil lease agreement that I have ever seen, with 42 clauses in it which by breathing puts us in danger of being in breach and losing all of our deposits and getting forcibly ejected from the premises. My Rabbi thinks that they gave us this lease with the knowledge and intention that we *don't* sign it and that we will leave. Alternatively, if we did sign it, by living a regular daily life, we would be guaranteed to breech and would almost certainly expose ourselves to being sued and losing all of our possessions.

So I pulled down a standard New York Residential Lease which is a simple lease based on the laws of New York, and I set up an appointment with the landlord for him to come over at 9pm (that was five minutes ago) to discuss the lease terms and to sign the lease. The landlord was a no-show. Instead, his daughter came over again asking about the lease she gave me yesterday. I told her the lease was one-sided and was not acceptable, and that we would not sign it. She happily said, "Oh, well I have another lease at my house." I walked over with her and she gave me a slightly more friendly, but still one-sided lease. I'm waiting now, however, for her father to come over so that we can talk about the lease, landlord to tenant. Apparently, she didn't know that her father was coming over. Or, maybe it was her father that sent her over in the first place.

Either way, again, the landlord is a no-show, and we're not signing the lease until certain pre-agreed essential terms are placed in the lease, and the daughter has neglected to insert them, even after we stressed that they must be in the lease.

So in short, this is a tough situation. The daughter of the landlord plays such a sweet innocent role, but then she has sharp teeth and has a strong bite by trying to convince us to sign an unacceptable lease. I'll go over the terms in the next e-mail.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

In apartment, but still NO LEASE.

I am relieved to say that after our landlords kicked us out of the apartment last Wednesday and told us to turn the U-Haul around and go back home to Colorado (what a nightmare that almost was), I was surprised to see that on Tuesday (Jan 1st, 2008), they let us into the apartment and gave us a key. However, we still have NO LEASE.

We knew we were coming back here on Jan 1st to move in, so on our way back to New York, we stopped at the gravesite of [inter alia] the Lubavicher Rebbe (a.k.a. "The Ohel"). I wrote a letter (a Pidyon Nefesh) to the Rebbe, and in my report, I told the Rebbe what was happening with the landlords (who we were afraid wouldn't give us possession of the apartment when we got there), and I even named the landlords BY THEIR HEBREW NAMES in my report -- at least then, the Rebbe and G-d will be notified of them by name rather than just "there are landlords who are cheating us by not letting us move in after taking our money."

When we got to the apartment the following day, they were friendly (and the parents were even slightly apologetic for what happened) because I hope they felt bad about what they did.

However, per our plan, my wife and I *ONLY* spoke to them in English, because I felt that since these were Sefardi Israelis, if we spoke to them in Hebrew or even their own language, they would lure us into playing their game with their rules and their mentality. I felt it was better to speak to them in English (they do speak English, by the way) so that they know that they are not dealing with their own kind, but with Americans, and that we would sue them and would call the police if they didn't let us back into the apartment which contained all of our possesions from the previous Wednesday's move (as you know, in the end my wife convinced them to let us move our possessions into the apartment, but they didn't give us a key or a lease.)

So here is where we are now. We are in the apartment, but we have no lease. I told my wife not to unpack anything unnecessary until we had a signed lease that listed the terms we all agreed to when they took our initial rent deposit. Because they changed the terms of the lease from an annual lease with an option to renew for five years, unless they put that option in the contract (which they likely won't because their son wants the apartment for himself and his girlfriend), we are refusing to give the security deposit or last month's rent in advance (as they have demanded) unless they put a release clause in the lease that says that we (tenants) have the right to terminate the lease without penalty with 30 days notice to the landlord. The reason for this is that if we have no lease, then we are a month-to-month tenant. It makes no sense to give them two-months security if they can kick us out in one month and make up excuses why not to give us back the security and have us chase after them in court to retrieve it. However, if they put the 30-day release clause into the lease, we'll give them the security deposit. If they give us the 5 year option (or even a 3 year option), we'll also give them the last month's rent.

You say this is gutsy of us and that we should just take the lease, but we don't want to have to pack everything up and pay another few hundred to a thousand dollars to move again in 11 months from now. The reason we agreed to rent *this* apartment was because they agreed to the option to renew for 5 years as a condition precedent to us taking the apartment and giving them the initial deposit. Further, you probably will ask me whether a 1 year lease is better than no lease (a.k.a. a month-to-month oral lease), but I say it is not because if we don't have a home in 11 months, then we will be looking for a place now (likely to move in the following month), and we don't want to put money into this apartment just to leave in a few months. Additionally, if we agree to the 1 year lease, then we will be STUCK here even if we do find another place, and we don't want that. We moved here and leased this particular apartment with the intention of staying here for many years (which the landlords agreed to, but changed their minds after we moved in).

I suppose I'm not worried because I took the NY bar, and I know the New York rules for landlord-tenant law. At the very worst case, if they don't sign the lease, we can sue them for the moving expenses and the costs to find a similar apartment, and further, we can always threaten to not move out and force them to evict us (although we would never do this, but we would threaten this if they were not reasonable in the terms of the lease and if they demanded that we move out if we don't do what they demand of us.) Yes, it is totally their house, but this is New York, and they are bound by contract law and the terms of their oral agreement. [As a side note, we are not protected by the oral agreement because in New York, leases for more then a year MUST be in writing or else they are not enforceable. However, at the very least, we could sue them for breach of contract for having us move in and then changing the terms of the agreement.]

Employed, Hindsight into Past Poverty, Prayer, and Planning.

I know nobody likes a blogger who writes about how wonderful things are, but in spite of all my ranting, I *am* relieved that G-d came through for me and my family in such a time of need. I'm not sure if I told you this, but our circumstances were dire because my wife left work to stay full-time at home with our baby and I committed to work full-time at the PCT practice with the firm that I was remotely working for. The problem is that at that exact day that my wife quit, the USPTO stopped giving my firm business because other examiners were falling behind on their deadlines. To add to the difficulty of matters, when scraps would be thrown my way to keep me from quitting when I threatened to quit using terms such as "constructive unemployment" (they don't fire you, but legally, because of the circumstances, it is as if they did), the level of difficulty of those cases were FAR BEYOND my skill set and I physically did not have the technical skills to kill the patent (or even understand them for that matter), so for a few months, my income was literally ZERO and we were 100% living off of the savings from when times were better. So as much of a coincidence it is that the job came when it did, the job also came just as we had run out of the savings that we were living off of to survive.

All-in-all, I'm relieved and thankful to G-d. As a tribute to Hashem (G-d), contrary to what most people do, when good times come, I increase in my yiddishkeit (religious observance) to say thank you to Hashem. Consequently, when things go bad (and this is a problem, I know), while most people pray to Hashem to help them change their situation, I get annoyed at Him for testing me and I often decline in my religious observance by missing minyans, lessening in my Torah study, etc. This isn't intentional, but because during bad times, while I should be doubling my effort in my studies and in my prayer, I double my efforts in remedying the situation in a physical way (such as sending out more resumes and e-mails, calling firms, and working many many hours just to get by). My mashpia (spiritual advisor and Rabbi) tells me that while I should also be davening to Hashem during the bad times, that my actions are understandable because I have a healthy relationship with G-d, and that I get angry at Him when it appears that He has hurt me as one would get angry at a loved one. However, that doesn't excuse my actions (or lack thereof) when things go bad. I just thought this was an interesting side note.

So where am I now? I've been trying to figure out financially how to replenish the deep loss of our savings account from the lack of income these past few months, how to pay off the thousands of dollars in bills that have accumulated, and how to pay for all our new expenses here in the city with the cost of living now increased significantly and still either put away enough into the 401K to retire comfortably or whether to take that money and instead of investing it pre-tax, to pay off my private law school loans with it (which are now hovering at around 10% interest which keeps compounding). I think this is probably the smarter idea.

One last thing. I wanted to mention how wonderful it is to have a wife who is such a hard worker as mine is in keeping our child happy and who works so hard in keeping our family healthy and fed. I don't know where I would be without her. I don't know how I ever managed without her.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My year 2007 in review.

Studied for USPTO Patent Bar Exam. Passed exam on first try. Got admitted in Colorado and in New York as an attorney. Worked various short-term document review jobs. Had my first son born to me. Grew my relationship with my wife and our family. Worked around the clock for almost nothing examining patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Wife quit work to stay with baby; my job stopped giving me work (no paycheck for months). Teshuva through Yom Kippur. Set deadline of November 1st to move out of Colorado and to get a job. Searched for jobs as a patent attorney everywhere. Sent resumes, received rejection letters. Moved out of Colorado by December 1st. Found job though friend. Started online classes to learn electrical engineering. Moved to New York to start new job.

Did not work on self. Abandoned hobbies and life value goals to free up time to work. Ate terribly; gained considerable weight. Paid annual membership to gym twice without going once in between payments. Saw too many movies. While improved in prayer skills, retreated in other areas of discipline. Did not control anger. Did not control sleeping patterns. Lost friends. Fell into depression undetected by others. Still in it. Still undetected. I expect to pull out of it very soon.