Rent-Related Advice Roulette

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

It's time for another round of advice roulette! Call in to get advice about your rent-related dilemma. The catch? You've got to give advice first! If you're wrestling with a tricky question -- should you move in together? How much should you charge your roommate for that tiny "bedroom" (closet)? Should you rent or buy? -- call in to get advice from your fellow Brian Lehrer Show listeners. 212-433-9692. Or, post a question/give advice in the comments below.

Comments [49]

David from Bronx

"Or she can try to make sure her landlord never finds out." Way to go Brian! Stick it to the landlords! I hope you accidently become a landlord some day and find out how much it will cost you when you tenants take on that kind of attitude.

May. 09 2014 09:23 PM
Pat from East Village

re Ceiling repair/soundproofing:

To the woman who would like to fix her ceilings to make the apt. nicer...
seems reasonable, BUT, if you do so without the ll's written consent you could possibly be evicted or forced to return the ceilings to their prior condition in order to prevent evcition.

May. 06 2014 09:30 PM

Please have a show on the biggest real estate scam in NY state.
It was a product of the NY real estate lobby and took many rent stabilized apartments, and reasonable priced rental apartments off the market in NYC and westchester. The big psyops that was used on the younger tenants in the 1980's( i was one) was the likely removal of rent stabilization in the area, and increasing rent prices, having to move. Plus the thinking that owners take better care of their homes and care about the neighborhood.
The conversion plans were approved by the attorney generals office, and NYS laws were suppose to protect the owners,especially the owner occupied apartments
Reality 30 years later, AG refuses to enforce the NYS laws on co--ops, telling the owners o hire a lawyer. We are suppose to pay $450 an hour to do NYS job, these are state laws.
Coops apartments=cash cows for the original building owners.
mortgage fraud ,self dealing, treasurer stating we could keep quiet and basically perform insurance fraud at an annual meeting.
NYS AG do your job!

May. 06 2014 12:52 PM

I'm a little disappointed that this family meeting on rent control has left out all your New Jersey relatives. NJ has serious rent issues not the least are multi-national investment firms such as US Masters Residential Properties Fund which is buying up small multi-unit properties all over Hudson County.

A small group of tenants in Hoboken NJ (Hoboken Fair Housing Association) have been fighting a David-and-Goliath battle to keep rent control protections in place for the past 10 years against enormous odds and the deep pockets of Hoboken's real estate industrial complex. Twice voters have been asked if they want to keep rent control. Twice residents have voted YES to rent control. Twice this vote has been challenged in the courts by the real estate industry. Once they won in the courts and got their do-over. They lost again the second time and took it to court again but dropped their flimsy lawsuit when it became obvious that Hoboken's longstanding tradition of vote buying in the low-income housing authority would be revealed.

There are landlords and their are investors. Landlords care about their properties and understand that tenants rent the homes they live in. Investors views tenants as walking ATM machines who exist simply to increase the investors bottom line. When neighborhoods such as Greenville in Jersey City, a lower-income area, are being bought up by an Australian investment company what can that mean to a neighborhood? This is happening all over the country. The same banks and investment companies that caused the housing meltdown are now profiting from the mess they caused:

May. 06 2014 11:56 AM

rz: that's good to hear it's behind you! My LL is pretty reasonable, but then again I live in an 8 unit building so it's not impersonal. I do have a line, so I've had to be inflexible on a couple of things (one involving a rowdy friend of his family who lived in the building, and thankfully he was told to leave). In other instances I helped organize the mass extermination when we found bedbugs several years ago. I also scheduled the ConEd and repair visits when the boiler had a gas leak.

I'm also happy to give my friends advice, but sometimes they flake out on the footwork or don't want to "make waves." Or they approach it first as a war as opposed to a business discussion and agreement.

Regardless (as I tell everyone), you MUST keep copies of everything, be willing to do the research and follow through.

May. 06 2014 11:49 AM
rz from Uptown

RE: jm

yea, I had fun learning about it too. And friends still call me with advice whenever they have trouble. one did just the other day.

People, it's not hard, nothing really is. Just commit to learning whatever it is you want or need to. So long as we live in a free society, knowledge will serve you well.

May. 06 2014 11:13 AM
rz from Uptown

RE: jm

My troubles with my landlord are immediately behind me - and have been for the last several years. That had much to do with Cuomo's action against them, and also I believe the formation of a tenants group amongst the tenants.

Now, to elaborate, what happened that fired me up enough to devote the energy to learning my rights in depth was the following: When I recieved the cross-executed version of my renewal lease in the mail, I noticed that figures had been changed - in other words, it was not the documents I had signed. Nevermind that there was no heat or hot water for about a week at the same time, and leaks, and no lights in hall... but, hey, water under the bridge.

In short, I do not give them an inch. I remain vigilant, since I have good reason to believe, that to the entity that is my landlord, I am merely a figure on paper. If I assume they are reasonable, I am allowing myself to become vulnerable to their duplicitous machinations.

during my dealings with them and review of the Stabilization Code proved most helpful

May. 06 2014 11:11 AM

rz: preferential rent is indeed the legal rent for you if the legal rent isn't disclosed on your first lease. If you haven't already, definitely get the history and see if the LL has recorded a preferential rent.

In my rent history, the LL records how much I'm charged vs the "legal rent" column. In the 2 years prior to when my current LLs bought the place. They didn't raise my rent for about 5 years, then my neighborhood became really popular and the property taxes skyrocketed. He started mentioning that he needed to raise the rent by $200/mo, which obviously wasn't a stabilized amount. He kept saying "preferential." It turned out that he thought I knew I was preferential. I produced all past leases which did not specify a preferential vs legal amount; this must be stated on your first lease. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I also pointed out that my first leases under both landlords only listed the pref rent.

I actually had fun applying my detective brain to my own rent history, comparing the improvement increases to parts of my place that were decidedly not pre-war (and wondering if the cost actually added up) along with vacancy increases. The most interesting part was a period of about 10 years from the late '70s-80s, when a tenant with the same last name as my old landlord occupied the place. Since she was the last person under rent control for this place, the rent wasn't recorded (they don't have to provide rent while it's still in control). Obviously the landlord "rented" the place to someone in his family to bring the unit out of rent control and into stabilization.

May. 06 2014 10:57 AM

"We're not all ogres."

No, but enough landlords are that it works against you, and you're just going to have to live with that or invest in other things that aren't driven by profits earned when you exploit real people.

May. 06 2014 10:55 AM
Sheila Patterson from NYC

I'm a small real estate investor. I think you started this segment with a prejudice in favor of all renters. It's time to look at things from apartment owners point of view. We're not all ogres. We've used our hard earned money to buy an investment (real estate instead of stock). Real estate taxes have increased enormously. Electric and oil have increased enormously. However, the amount we can charge for rent has not. Please be fair and maybe have a show explaining that landlords are not all bad people looking to rip off the poor renters

May. 06 2014 10:48 AM
Richard Hughes from New York City

For security deposits, tenants can seek redress thru the NYS Attorney General's office. Call their main number
and ask to be connected to the relevant office in the AG's office. We did that for all our tenants when the land-
lord was negligent in this regard. - dh


May. 06 2014 10:47 AM
john from office

Brians socialist guide to harrassing your landlord.

How about a show about landlord rights and horror stories about tenants??

Works both ways Brian. Folks read what you sign and then you will know what kind of apartment you have.

May. 06 2014 10:44 AM
Fausta Daldini

I am renting a month to month room in a 3 room apt. and now I have decided to rent the room for one full year, because the Sublessor prefers that. What kind of rights do I have?

1. On the Sublet Agreement I appear as "sublessee". The agreement says:

Sublessor has the right to terminate the lease with 30 days notice for whatever reason. I have the same rights if I were to leave, 30 days notice.

Now I agreed to stay for one year and I need to sign a different lease. My question is: can the sublessor terminate the lease "for whatever reason"?.
2. I have been trying to rent an apt in Brooklyn NY, and as a retired and not working person I have discovered that landlord discriminate against that. I have been turned down for a rental because I was not making 40 times the rent, although I have excellent credit and am a solid financial person.
Thank you

May. 06 2014 10:43 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Believe it or not but LL's are not OBLIGATED to make repairs UNLESS the safety or health of the tenant or habitability (working appliances) of the apt is in question, most LL's make repairs because it's good business to do so.

May. 06 2014 10:43 AM

LOL "garbage refrigerator" - we call them "vagina freezers" because they always have the built-in freezer compartment (not separate exterior door) and the condensation freezes from the top and bottom until there's no room for contents.

May. 06 2014 10:42 AM
Michael Berman from Brooklyn

In the case of Brian's refrigerator he bought for the apartment, if the apartment had been rent stabilized could the landlord have raised the rent based on the "improvement" Brian had paid for?

May. 06 2014 10:41 AM
Sue from Manhattan

Good info, Jaron. One more thing on repairs: If your landlord says "all I have is a new refrigerator," you can say "That's your problem. I'm happy with a 'working' fridge," and that can mean no Individual Apartment Improvement.

May. 06 2014 10:41 AM

If my landlord deposits the rent check from my roommate, how long does it have to happen before he can be added to the stabilized lease?

May. 06 2014 10:39 AM
rz from Uptown

RE jm

It sounds your experience has been quite different mine. I have a large faceless landlord - with whom I have never dealt with same person twice except my super and their lawyer (not a bad guy, just bad a client and a bad job). But that said, I have been imbued with a deep distrust of property management/LLs. The preferential rent discrepancy is note worthy (and wonder if what bearing that has upon rent history). However, I am inclined to believe that what is frequently stated as 'preferential rent' is in fact the 'legal rent,' and by calling it so is a veiled attempt to raise the legal rent in excess of regulated increases - even if only upon a vacancy lease.

I made the mistake when I first moved in that my landlord was a reasonable person, but they are not, the are an LLC (RE: Brian Lehrer) and have engaged in many moral dubious activities over the years. Even small things - I've tried repeatedly to get my wife's name on lease in addition to my own, but they never give an inch and are constantly trying to edge the price up.

RE: Seth,
Harassment is usually a red-herring and seldom works out for the tenant, better to go after them for other things, or allow them to come after you and then demostrate how they are not acting in good faith. Document all dealings with them.

May. 06 2014 10:37 AM

'I don't know if my place is rent-stabilized."


May. 06 2014 10:37 AM
lesterine from manhattan

many of these questions were easily answered using a quick google search.

i've been in a couple of the same situations, i.e., which is better @ X rent increase: lease renewal #1 (one year) or lease renewal #2 (two year).

come on, people! use the internet, please and thanks!

the most interesting caller was the one living above the new bar.

these landlords are despicable ( regardless of the fact that 'landlords are also people' which actually i think can often be quite debatable ).

i wish this particular caller best of luck!

May. 06 2014 10:36 AM

If my landlord deposits the rent check from my roommate, how long does it have to happen before he can be added to the lease?

May. 06 2014 10:36 AM

You CAN find a stabilized apartment if you know what to look for. If you use Craigs List, then you need to be ready to make a quick decision as well as bring all appropriate paperwork and cash (if they prefer cash for the credit check).

Brokers sometimes have a bad reputation, but you can often find incredible apartments using a small local broker. They have roots in the community and existing relationships with area landlords. If you present yourself well to the broker, you might have that "in" to a good rent-stabilized place (this is how I found my current apartment).

May. 06 2014 10:34 AM
MikeInBk from Clinton Hill

Answers to most tenants' rights questions can be found via the city's website Don't remember the exact link, but a search on "tenants right" will lead to the specific topic pages.

And NO, it is not usually allowed to make renovations to an apartment without the landlord's approval. Any smart landlord WOULD/SHOULD NOT allow this. If you do, the landlord has every right to recoup the cost for restoring the apartment to original condition at time of rental.

Of course, if the place is a dump, a landlord might be happy to allow this. In this case, you should negotiate your rent. That's how it works in commercial leasing.

May. 06 2014 10:32 AM

My landlords have been on the front page of newspapers as among the worst, but they pretty much leave me alone. I have put up new walls (replacing cracked plaster) and a new tin ceiling. I also put in a new loft. They have done nothing. I even bought in a new washer and dryer. The landlord had known about them for years before mentioning them. I said that since they had known about them for years, they were grandfathered in. That was that. I also, on my original least over 40 years ago, inked in a clause allowing me 2 dogs. That is on the copy of my original lease. They can do nothing. Let me say this tho...I am a really good tenant. I don't make noise, I have been known to sweep the halls when the super is on vacation. I guess we have reached detante

May. 06 2014 10:31 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@ Rainy - The LL can demand that you pay in cash. You MUST ALWAYS GET A RECEIPT. The whole paying in broken trash cans thing seems shady however.

May. 06 2014 10:31 AM


Here is the link for the rent-stabilization increases since 2008. I find that if they are low one year, they will be higher the next. Sign a two-year lease when low, and a one-year when high.

May. 06 2014 10:31 AM
ZT from BK

To the gentleman with the noise problem from the bar: Yes, call 311 to file a complaint with the DEP. You will have to schedule an appointment with them, may take a few days/weeks, but worth doing. They will come and measure the noise with a device. If there is loud music, they will issue them a hefty fine. That will make them calm down. If they repeat offend and are inspected again, they will get an even higher fine. If the music is coming from people making noise, it's a bit more tricky, as that's the police who respond, and I don't think that they are measuring noise as exactly. But do file either complaint with 311. When the bar's liquor license comes up for renewal, complaints will be taken into consideration.

May. 06 2014 10:27 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@ CJ, subletting you apt without your LL's consent is a violation of your lease. He/she can take action against you.

2nd question - don't know.

3rd: You can always ask. But the LL is not obligated to.

May. 06 2014 10:27 AM
Ken from Bronx

Why do people think landlords have authority over tenants that are noisy, deal drugs, or create disturbances?

Landlords don't have police powers!

May. 06 2014 10:27 AM

rz: I think the exception is the preferential rent issue. In my case, my current landlord bought the building from the old one. He was put at a disadvantage because he had no idea that my old LL had advertised my place at a price that was preferential, but didn't disclose this to me on any lease (I've saved every lease for the last 12 years). The new LL thought I was aware I was a preferential tenant. He was understandably frustrated when I presented the rent history and copies of my lease.

To his credit, he's been a good landlord, so I came up a bit and we compromised. We did the same for this year's lease, but he knows I'm planning to move to another neighborhood. And, I've been instrumental in coordinating repair people and exterminators for a few emergencies, as well as functioning as a moderator between other tenants over the years. I've also bought my own refrigerator that will be left here, and am capable of minor repairs. He's conflicted because he knows he can get a lot for my place when I leave, but also that I'm an awesome tenant.

May. 06 2014 10:25 AM

Ususally going for the 2 year lease is a better option, mostly because if you choose the one year lease, the increase in the 2nd year is on top of the higher rent from the 1st year. But with the new administration where 0-3% might occur this year, it might make sense (for the first time ever!) to do do a 1 year lease.

May. 06 2014 10:24 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

It's always Russian roulette when deciding between a 1 or 2 year lease but with the Deblasio admin now in charge, the RS board will be more pro-tenant.

May. 06 2014 10:23 AM
robert from Bklyn Hgts

My wife's grandparents moved into a 3 bedroom in Bklyn Hgts in the 1940's. My wife and I live in the same apt with our son who is 23. We are getting ready to retire, and I would like to know if this apt can be passed along under rent control to my son, even though he has my last name. Also - we have no lease. If so, how does one go about processing this? Thanks you, love the show.

May. 06 2014 10:22 AM
Rainy Lehrman from Brooklyn

Is it legal for a landlord to demand rent in cash? My husband and I spent four years in an apartment in park slope where we payed our rent in cash, in a broken drawer, behind a tar spill, behind a bunch of trash in the basement. All the tenets had to pay this way and we each had a hiding place somewhere in the basement to put our cash.

May. 06 2014 10:22 AM

regardless of the 14th amendment I wonder if jews should have the legal right to be landlords.

May. 06 2014 10:21 AM
scotty elyanow from west village

1 year vs 2 year lease...usually do a 2 year...but depends when your lease starts and if its impacted by the new rent guidelines which get voted on in 6 weeks June 23rd but I believe doesn't go into effect until August

May. 06 2014 10:21 AM
b from brooklyn

Sign the two year. Rule of compound interest. Look up historical increases on dhcr

May. 06 2014 10:20 AM
rz from Uptown

RE "Landlords are people too"

Some are, but some are faceless limited liabilities companies that are able to pass the moral ambiguity of their actions amongst their members, none of whom will ever willingly accept responsibility for the dubious activities the 'entity' engages in the pursuit of profit.

May. 06 2014 10:19 AM
sasha from Brooklyn

I always opt for the 2 year lease. It gives me peace of mind even if it's $20 more per month.

May. 06 2014 10:19 AM
CJ from Washington Heights

I have three questions, would love to have any of them answered!

What happens, or can legally happen, if you are subletting your apartment and your landlord finds out? Can they kick you out?

I am a babysitter and one of the moms where I pick up was telling me that she was born and grew up in, and now lives in, a mitchell-lama apartment. She is a social worker, so I'm sure she's not making big bucks, but her husband is a lawyer and she sends her kids to fancy schmancy private school. How does mitchell-lama really work? Who should apply? Are the income guidelines strictly enforced?

Is it possible to ask for your landlord not to raise your rent by showing that you have made significant improvements to the apartment? What is the procedure?

Thank you!

May. 06 2014 10:18 AM
Sheldon from Sheldon

That is NOT good advice Brian. Unless a tenant is a huge red flag. You should put as many people on a non-stabilized lease as possible.

May. 06 2014 10:18 AM
tom from Astoria

Im an artist and my apt looks like an art studio and Im afraid that the landlord will need to come in some day and see it's condition. Does the landlord have the right to visit on demand (other than an emergency) or are tenets supposed to get warning before entering the apt?

May. 06 2014 10:14 AM
bren from brooklyn

Looks like it was a case of landlord harassment.

May. 06 2014 10:13 AM
john from office

To claim that the L & T Judges are pro landlord in 4 of the five boros is laughable. Most are progressive liberals, jews and minorities, who bend over backward for the tenant. It takes months if not years to get people out. Staten Island is the one that is pro landlord.

May. 06 2014 10:12 AM

Advice for the current woman: GET TO THE POINT!

She has got to be more concise. Then sue the landlord for harrassment.

May. 06 2014 10:09 AM
Mark Alan Blumberg from Harlem

I live in the 1st floor street facing apartment. There is a tenant in the building who has friends over to the "stoop" (really just a few steps up the door) nightly until very late into the night/early into the morning. Further, I am fairly certain this particular tenant is dealing drugs off the stoop. Police have been called and have come to deal with the loitering (not the dealing as far as I know). When this happened the tenant yelled threats from outside my door to "whoever called the police." My question is what, if anything, can be done about a noisy and threatening nuisance neighbor? I am in contact with the landlord about this, and he has employed a private investigator to help with the issue. Is it possible to evict a tenant such as this?

May. 06 2014 10:08 AM
rz from Uptown

I've learned this by having engaged in protracted battles in housing court with my landlord (see Cuomo's suit against vantage management from his time as attorney general).

As per the codes regulating rent stabilized apartments, the rent history of an apartment may not be examined more than four years back. Meaning, if a landlord offers a tenant a lease that is in excess of the legal-regulated rent, and that amount is not challenged for four years, that higher rent then effectively become the legal rent (as the record cannot he examined).

This incentives landlords to turnover the apartments as fast a possible and fill them with young college students from outside the city who neither know their rights or have an expectation of long-term tenancy.

I have a low opinion of the my landlord for a litany of other reasons.
That said, know your rights.

May. 06 2014 10:07 AM
Brock from Manhattan

Whatever you do, keep your dignity. The rent regulated Landlord is now seen by tenants as their Baby Daddy. You're better than that.

May. 06 2014 10:02 AM

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