NYC real estate Q: We put a deposit on an apartment that became uninhabitable before we signed any forms or agreements. We decided to see if it was fixable, but in the meantime we found a new place to live. Now the owner doesn't want to give our deposit back. Are we screwed? A full, gripping narrative inside.
posted by GilloD to law & government (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So my wife and I have been apartment hunting for about two weeks. Last Wednesday, the 9th, we found a beautiful apartment for a good price. They sold it as a new construction, no problems except for a spot of water damage on the one ceiling. I take a picture, we agree it'll be in the lease. We toured the place, made sure everything worked and then put down a deposit (500$) on the space around 3 that afternoon. We returned around 6 to do a final tour and fill out some paperwork. While we were there, it began to rain. And then the bed rooms and downstairs flooded. I don't mean a trickle, we're talking full on flood, pouring from the recessed lighting, from the walls, inside the closets. The place was no longer fit for living in, the downstairs bedroom areas were ruined.
We called the broker who said he'd call the owner, find out how severe the problem was and get back to us Thursday morning. In the meantime I very stupidly let him hold on to the deposit. Thursday morning comes and goes and no word from Broker. I call him in the afternoon, around 12, and he says he has nothing to tell me yet, but keep looking at apartments. My deposit, he says, is safe with him. I inquire about getting it back, he says it won't a problem, he won't pass it to the owner.
Thursday passes, Friday passes and Friday evening he calls to say, "No word yet, but hold in there, I'll call you on Sunday, give you an update and you can decide whether or not to proceed". Sunday comes and goes, no call, but it was my sister's birthday so I wasn't 100% on point.
I call him Monday morning and leave a voicemail. Monday afternoon we find a beautiful apartment with a wonderful owner in a bigger space for less money. Great! I call Broker and he doesn't answer, so I leave a voicemail. I call again in the evening, but don't leave a voicemail.
Tuesday, I call Broker and he acts like his voicemail is broken and he never got my message. In the meantime he says he gave the Owner the deposit. He hems and haws a bit, goes ice cold on me and says he'll call back, that he has to talk to his boss. That evening his boss calls my wife, leaves a voicemail, but doesn't answer our return call. I call Broker, leave a voicemail.
Today I call Broker in the early afternoon he says that the Owner sent in a crew, he's not sure if he can get the deposit back. I tell him I never consented to giving the deposit over and reminded him that he said he'd check in on Sunday. He says he'll have to call his boss and see what can be done.
He calls this afternoon and wants me to talk to his boss. Before I do this, I want to see where we are legally speaking. Yes, we handed the deposit to him, but with the assurance that the deposit would not go to the owner without our consent. We DID NOT sign ANYTHING. No application, no lease, no contract, no agreement. Dumbdumbdumb, I know. But what's the status of a deposit in this case?
Almost certainly a crew we have to be sent in to clean up regardless. The space would surely have been illegal to rent in the shape it was in. Are they just looking to make this hard or am I well and truly screwed? Help rescue my money!