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.]

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