NYC landlord douchebaggery — what would you do?
November 26, 2018 10:29 AM   Subscribe

We signed two copies of the lease at the broker’s office. One copy was supposed to be sent back to us signed by the landlord. It wasn’t. We emailed. They emailed us a PDF of a xerox with our signatures nominally on it that did not match the lease we signed.

When we asked for a hard copy they said that due to a mix up they only have one signed copy and we can come in to sign another.

I think I have pictures of the original lease, but am not positive I do. I told them I did anyway and asked for a hard copy of the lease we signed. They asked for the pictures. I ignored that and said please send a hard copy of the lease we signed as required.

They have not responded to that yet.

This is obviously...not good. It is a level of shadiness — like out right fraud — that makes me anxious. This is obviously a building that they’re gentrifying, possibly with a view to sell it or to refinance or something (there was a bank inspection this past month).

At this point my thinking is that this will result in a stalemate, and we won’t stay here more than a year. But I’m anxious, and I hate that. Assume that the lease they emailed us would put us in violation of the lease (I read the originally lease we signed with a view towards this specific clause; it was not there).

How would you handle this going forward?
posted by schadenfrau to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Update: we appear to be at a stalemate. They just reiterated the come in to sign a new lease thing.

What would the hive mind do to protect themselves, their credit, and their security deposit in this scenario?
posted by schadenfrau at 10:36 AM on November 26, 2018

A letter from an attorney requesting a legitimate copy of the lease be sent to the tenant under whatever law applies there will often result in the landlord paying more attention to following your state laws.

There's likely to be a local tenants rights group that can help you if you can't afford a lawyer.
posted by yohko at 10:39 AM on November 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

If you don't want to lease from such people, don't go in and sign a new lease without talking to a lawyer first.
posted by yohko at 10:40 AM on November 26, 2018

I think this is a huge warning sign. I don’t know what is involved in validating a fraudulent contact but given the costs involved, you’ll want to consult with a lawyer. If they are really forging contracts that’s not trivial. I wouldn’t want them to come after me for costs on invalidating what they consider an executed contract.
posted by geoff. at 10:50 AM on November 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

In a similar situation (this isn't Space Realty in Brooklyn, is it?) I really regret not stopping payment on the checks and walking away. I don't know if that option is available to you, but if it is, I would move quickly.

If that's not an option, I would contact the NYS attorney general's office. They have a tenant rights unit which focuses largely on rent disputes and deposit returns, but their tenants' rights guide does say that you are entitled to a copy of the fully-executed lease, so maybe they would help with this as well. If they are willing to contact the landlord it will be cheaper than a private lawyer and maybe more effective.

This will not help with your immediate situation, but please consider filing a complaint against the broker with the NYS Division of Licensing Services. They move incredibly slowly but they do seem to address these complaints eventually (after many months).
posted by enn at 10:53 AM on November 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

Giving them the benefit of the doubt (I know), it's possible that they just fucked up and "due to a mix up" they don't have any signed copy, and they just are trying to cover their butts. Have you told them that the PDF they sent does not match up with the documents you have? If you do, I suspect they might be able to "find" the correct documents after all.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:01 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Find the pictures or verify for yourself that you don't have them.

Have you talked to the broker? Perhaps they have one of the copies or at least a copy that matches the one you signed.

If they really do have one signed copy, they can show it to you in person. If you agree that is the one you signed, they can provide you with a copy that day.
posted by soelo at 11:15 AM on November 26, 2018

We have no problem staying the year (they’ve responded to our issues with the heat) and paying rent for the year, assuming nothing terrible happens. After that our lease would be up and we assume they’d pull something sketchy so we’d need to leave anyway.

We already told them the lease doesn’t match. They demanded the pictures. They want us to come in and sign a new lease. I assume this new lease would match the bullshit lease they sent us. If we don’t come in and sign it then the state of play remains that they claim they have a signed lease, have sent us a fraudulent scan of a lease, and we claim we have evidence that it’s fraudulent. (Phrased differently, obviously.)

And then...what? I think we have the upper hand as long as we don’t go in and sign a bullshit lease. But I want to make sure we protect ourselves as much as possible, hence the Ask. Previous tenants say that they did not have any problems with the lease, but they do not trust the landlords or the management company at all. (“Such fuck boys I can’t even tell you.” I am too old to know exactly what that means, but it’s not good.)

It’s not Space Realty, but I’ll be making the broker’s life difficult.

If you could clarify why you wished you’d walked away (and what that means?), that would be helpful.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:26 AM on November 26, 2018

Call a tenant's rights hotline. They're on your side.

These are both NYC-based.
Met Council on Housing Hotline
Housing Court Answers
posted by suedehead at 11:57 AM on November 26, 2018

I'm slightly confused. First, check whether you do actually have pictures - that seems relevant to your interests. Second, can you go in and demand to see the one hard copy they claim to still have? Are the changes on a page you only initialled (i.e. relatively easy to forge) or did you sign on every page, in which case you could expect to be able to verify that it's the original?

I might (especially if I knew I had the pictures, and expected to be able to identify a forgery) go in, demand to see the originals, and give them a really hard time about 'how could you just lose a lease, why were the two leases not together, this says bad things about your organization levels, how do I know you won't just lose a rent check' etc. etc. You might also want to google these guys and see if someone else has had this complaint against them.

ETA: Yet another possibility is to pressure the broker to pressure them. They might care more about staying on the broker's good side.
posted by trig at 11:59 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

In my experience of renting apartments in NYC for almost 30 years, this sort of thing can almost always be chalked up to mismanagement and back-office fuckups rather than skullduggery. Do they have any signed original of the lease? Or do they seem to have lost both copies? If they have a copy, go in to the office, verify that the copy they have is legitimate (i.e., that it is signed in ink with your signature and initials), get them to copy that document and then have both parties re-sign the copy. Now you have a signed copy that is the same as the signed copy in their files. In the future, never send back a signed contract of any kind without retaining a full copy. iPhone pictures or whatever are not sufficient for this purpose, but if that's all you have you should see if you can convert them into a facsimile copy of the lease.
posted by slkinsey at 12:16 PM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you could clarify why you wished you’d walked away (and what that means?), that would be helpful.

In our case we were signing a new lease, not a renewal, and the broker lied about the copy of the lease at signing being the same as the lease they'd sent us beforehand. (In fact, they had inserted several additional restrictive clauses.) We didn't live in the apartment yet when we signed the lease, so we could have stopped payment on the checks when we discovered the lease changes and looked for a different apartment. It sounds like your situation is different.
posted by enn at 1:06 PM on November 26, 2018

This is a big red flashing warning sign, but unfortunately as you did not handle your business properly you are going to have serious issues backing out of the lease. A suit by a (putative) landlord will seriously injure your ability to rent in the city, even if you prevail (note: you are now entitled to an attorney once an HP case is brought). And "My landlord forged my signature on the lease!" is always a hard sell to a judge without documentary evidence. Also, presumably these guys already have certified or cashier's checks from you, making it harder to just walk away.

Try TPU (which is the state, NOT the AG; AFAIK the AG only deals with disputes over security deposits or large-scale rent-stabilization violations) and the hotlines, as discussed; it's possible that pressure may back the landlords off and get you off the hook.

If that doesn't help, I'd probably walk rather than put my stuff in the hands of these people, expecting to lose the money. Next time, keep copies of anything you sign!
posted by praemunire at 1:48 PM on November 26, 2018

Have you checked if you have pictures of the signed lease yet?
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:54 PM on November 26, 2018

« Older new boss blues   |   Traveling to Europe. What Do I Need To Know &... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments