Squat or not?
July 2, 2007 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Can my friend's landlords legally force her out of her apartment with only 30 days notice?

Okay, apologies for the length, but here's the situation...my friend has lived in the garden apartment of a two family home in Brooklyn for the past three years. She used to be quite friendly with her landlords, a married couple who were also her upstairs neighbors.

Well, about a year ago, the couple split up. The husband moved in with his new girlfriend, while the wife lived on in the house and took over all landlord duties such as rent collection and maintenance. Apparently, she's much more proficient at one than the other. I'm sure you can guess which.

Anyway, around the time they split, my friend was to have signed a lease renewal. She never signed one and she's been living without a lease since then. My friend says she has never missed a rent payment and has always paid on time. She says she repeatedly asked for a lease from the wife who basically put her off until she stopped asking. She also says she repeatedly asked for her bathroom plumbing to be fixed, for constant rather than intermittent hot water, and for functional heat during the winter months. These were not forthcoming, either. She claims that, after the last time she went almost a week without hot water, the wife told her, "Well, I don't know what to tell you." Apparently in the last six months the wife has found a new boyfriend and spends only a few days out of each month living in the upstairs unit, so she isn't affected by a lack of heat or hot water in the building.

In any event, my friend received a call this past Friday from the wife's lawyer saying the house has been sold, the new owner does not want a tenant, and that she has to be out of the apartment by August 1. She became livid and panicked - she has two dogs and a cat, no savings at the moment, no car and has just switched jobs. She immediately began searching around on Craig's List and found a place that allows dogs and is within her price range. She viewed the apartment on Saturday, talked with the broker, and, after venting to him about the whole mess, he apparently told her that if the landlords have been cashing her rent checks, under New York law, that implies a lease agreement, which means that she can't be forced to move with only 30 days notice.

She is now under the impression that this gives her the upper hand with her landlords, and has decided to try to talk to the husband about paying for her move AND giving back her security deposit if she AGREES to leave in 30 days. She's also considering squatting in the apartment if he refuses, until she saves up money for a new place (her mother could financially help her out but, ah, familial issues are preventing her from going this route for the time being.) I think she ought to take the new apartment, forfeit her security deposit for her last month's rent, bite the bullet and borrow the security deposit/first month's rent from her mother and step-father, and charge the move to a credit card. She doesn't want to do any of that. She is angry and panicked, and wants somebody to pay rather than cutting her losses and getting out of this situation ASAP. She kept saying, "It's illegal!" Well, perhaps she's right and I'm wrong. I just can't see getting involved in a legal battle doing her any good right now, given that she has so few resources as it is. She also is just recently getting over a bad breakup, and suffers with depression. If she took the new apartment, she'd be closer to me and my SO, and closer to work, as well.

So, can she legally be put out of the apartment after only 30 days notice if she doesn't have a lease? If not, what's her best course of action? I can't imagine her landlord is going to give her what amounts to $3000 for the cost of her move and security deposit combined. I care for her and want to support her through this, but I need some additional opinions/insight in order to do that effectively. Google yields conflicting, sometimes directly contradictory, results. Thanks to all.
posted by TryTheTilapia to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Find a tenants rights organization for the area, you're gong to have to go reasonably local for good information, it may take an hour or two explaining to them what the deal is but tenancy is generally governed by state, county and sometimes even city regulations.
posted by iamabot at 3:36 PM on July 2, 2007


Looks like 30 days is all that's required. (Source)

MONTH-TO-MONTH TENANTS

Tenants who do not have leases and pay rent on a monthly basis are called "month-to-month" tenants. In localities without rent regulations, tenants who stay past the end of a lease are treated as month-to-month tenants if the landlord accepts their rent. (Real Property Law § 232-c)

A month-to-month tenancy outside New York City may be terminated by either party by giving at least one month's notice before the expiration of the term. For example, if the rent is due on the first of each month, the landlord must inform the tenant by September 30th before the October rent is due that he wants the tenant to move out by November 1st. The termination notice need not specify why the landlord seeks possession of the apartment. Such notice does not automatically allow the landlord to evict the tenant. A landlord may raise the rent of a month-to-month tenant with the consent of the tenant. If the tenant does not consent, however, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice. (Real Property Law § 232-b)

In New York City, the landlord must serve the tenant with a written termination giving 30 days notice before the expiration of the term. The notice must state that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to eviction proceedings. (Real Property Law § 232-a)
posted by sanko at 3:46 PM on July 2, 2007


It sounds like your friend received nothing in writing, which might help buy her a little extra time -- that is, according to the example in sanko's post, her landlords would now be serving her with the official notice of termination in July, giving her until the end of August to vacate. I found tenant.net to be a good resource when I lived in NYC, but really, if she's considering refusing to vacate, she should of course speak with a lawyer.

An eviction is a (sometimes lengthy) legal process, not a question of just changing the locks; even if the lease termination is valid, it would be illegal for the owners to simply kick your friend out after 30 days. However, staying in an apartment that she's been asked to leave promises to be messy and miserable, and could get ugly very fast. I tend to agree with you that it's best to leave the deposit as the last month's rent, suck it up, and move as soon as possible.
posted by Siobhan at 3:58 PM on July 2, 2007


Your friend has no lease, and no rent regulation protections. She can be evicted with 30 days written notice. [What the broker said might be true in some regulated apartments, but not your friend's.]

The landlord can't evict her without going to court and getting a marshal to put her out. But, this should be avoided if at all possible because landlords check housing court records, and your friend might have a terrible time finding another apartment if she has a court history. Google "New York City" tenant blacklist for the dirty details.

She might, might be able to get a little more time if she shows the lawyer for the landlord that she knows her rights (ie. "you can't evict me without taking me to court") and makes them think she'll be expensive to evict. I wouldn't recommend it, though.

Ultimately, she'll be out of the apartment. If she has a place to go, she should go. [IAAL who represents tenants in NYC. Your friend could consult a lawyer, but it probably isn't worth it.]
posted by Mavri at 4:04 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thank you all so much. This is incredibly useful information. I have forwarded it all to my friend, and she is grateful, as well. I am continuously amazed at the generosity of MeFites with their time, personal experiences and professional expertise.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:42 PM on July 2, 2007


If your friend squats, there will be no "waiting until she can save up money", she'll be evicted. Does she want her shit on the street? And her pets? Because that is what will happen.

30 days seems pretty standard (and fair) for any state I know of.
posted by schroedinger at 4:49 PM on July 2, 2007


Um. Her tenancy is ending? And she gave them a security deposit? Assuming she didn't get dog piss everywhere or something, I don't see why she shouldn't get back the security deposit. I mean, it is her money.

Getting them to pay for her move is a bit ridiculous though. But she definitely should have had more warning, and she should definitely be given more time to prepare for the move, esp since nothing in writing yet.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2007


I don't see why she shouldn't get back the security deposit.

Well, if she doesn't pay her last month's rent as the OP suggested, she probably won't get the whole thing back.
posted by grouse at 5:32 PM on July 2, 2007


OK, the very first question here is whether your friend is in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartment, or neither. The rules can be quite different.

The second question is whether your friend's lease contained an "automatic renewal" clause. If it did, they are still on a lease beginning the date the last one expired, for the same term (a year, 95% of the time).

Otherwise, they are on a month-to-month tenancy and a 30-day notice is all the landlord needs.

The NY Tenants Rights Guide might be of use but mostly in terms of future landlord-tenant relationships they may enter into.

Note that some jurisdictions specify automatic renewal as the default condition, but most do not. Also note that automatic renewal is generally considered a protection for the landlord, not the tenant. Their failure to pursue renewal meant that they preferred the month-to-month provisions and were also able to leave the landlord in the lurch with a 30-day notice.
posted by dhartung at 6:29 PM on July 2, 2007


Even if the landlord can legally require 30 days, realistically in NY it is more like 30 years or longer. Talk to a tenant's rights org to get schooled and then negotiate a reasonable exit date. If the landlored balks, tell them to lawyer up. They will be surprised at their legal disadvantage, at least in the short term. Eviction is a messy and lengthy process, and frankly it usually is a rent free period. If your friend offers rent and a reasonable and assured exit time the landlord would be a fool not to take the offer. Lawyer up yourself if push comes to shove.
posted by caddis at 7:01 PM on July 2, 2007


Apologies for not answering the actual question, I have no idea about the applicable tenants rights.

I'd just like to say that my heart goes out to your friend, as I was evicted a few months ago, into a terribly expensive & competitive rental market. I totally empathise with the panic and anxiety she must be feeling. I received some great advice on how to fight if I needed/wanted to do so, but I really didn't want to go that route. I agree with your opinion that she should just move on. Why stay somewhere where the landlord wants you out - your home becomes the centre of a conflict and that can't be healthy. I think she should let go, do what she needs to do to get herself secure and comfortably settled into a new home.
My warmest wishes & best of luck to her.
posted by goshling at 7:51 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


If she is in a two family home, she is not rent controlled or rent stabilized. There are a bunch of rules about when an apt is regulated, but if there aren't at least 6 units in the building, then it's just not. No need to go into the other requirements.

I agree with Caddis that she might be able to negotiate for more time due to the expense of an eviction, but she really should look at the blacklist stuff before "lawyering up." She can really stick it to the landlord in the short run if she does that, but the long-term harm will be hers.
posted by Mavri at 8:10 AM on July 5, 2007


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