my current subletter in nyc has ghosted me - what should i do?
March 24, 2020 6:26 PM   Subscribe

my subletter was supposed to sublet my nyc apartment until june - i haven't heard from him since covid started, and haven't gotten the rent for march. i know he works at a cafe that's probably shut down now and that his parents have been helping him with the rent. things have been a little haphazard this whole time, but now he's not responding to texts/calls/emails at all. i'm worried and am not sure what to do! more details below...

my subletter signed a subletting agreement we printed off online, but isn't officially on the lease - (he was also supposed to give us a deposit - we've been generous in waiting on it and he has not sent it yet). my boyfriend and i are in california right now, and i'm not even sure if we can / should go back any time in the near future. the rent on our apartment is quite high and neither of us are making any income right now (it was part of the reason we decided to leave ny for a few months before all this began)...i know that my subletter is likely having a hard time, but this leaves us in a bad place too, and i think it's highly, highly unlikely that the management company/landlord will be sympathetic.

save for hoping that a rent-freeze goes through in ny (though it may not even help if we had a subletter / as a freelancer it would be hard for me to give proof of income or loss thereof), is there anything else we can/should do right now? our lease runs out at the end of june, and we're not planning to renew, but we did leave a lot of furniture and possessions there....i'm just feeling stuck and worried and have no idea what to do right now - should we continue to pay rent/bills for the next few months? should we assume worst case scenario and have to face an eventual eviction? is there anything else we can do? please help, if you can.
posted by lightgray to Law & Government (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The state has a 90 day moratorium on evictions that should help.
posted by pinochiette at 6:37 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

The eviction moratorium will prevent actual eviction before June, but you can be sure that, barring some externally-imposed rent moratorium, the landlord will eventually pursue you for the unpaid rent (four months is just too much). As you almost certainly violated the terms of your contract by (it sounds like, correct me if I'm wrong) not bothering to get consent to the sublet, if the landlord used one of the common form leases, you will be on the hook for the court costs, too. You will be blacklisted and, barring putting down huge up-front payments, never be able to rent in NYC again. Ordinarily I'd say to talk to the landlord, but, again, sublet without consent means they are really not going to be inclined to do you favors. If you can pay the rent yourself without imperiling yourselves financially, you should. You may find yourself having to choose between a couple of bad alternatives--I certainly won't say you have a moral obligation to pay your rent at the expense of, you know, eating, or paying the rent for the place you're actually staying, but the consequences are unpleasant enough that you should try to avoid them if you can.

The landlord is not entitled to your belongings just because you're not paying your rent, but if you check your lease, you'll probably see provisions for what happens if you abandon property there--I doubt it will get to stay there long after the end of the lease. Cross your fingers that this scumbag subletter doesn't leave more damages for the landlord to charge you for.

(If you have subletter's family's number, I'd call them out of "concern for their well-being" and make it clear in the process that they're defaulting on their rent. And if a local friend has keys, sending them over to make sure no one's dead in the living room would be justifiable--send subletter an email at least 24 hours in advance telling them they're coming. If you're extremely lucky, subletter may have blown town and you might be able to try to get someone in there to replace them. Even if not, having someone show up and Be You at them may shake something loose.)
posted by praemunire at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

A craigslist roommate once ghosted me. In desperation I was able to find his mother on facebook explaining that I couldn’t get in touch with him and didn’t know where he was and that he was a month late on the rent and if she knew where he was could she please ask him to let me know what was going on. Within a few days his dad came to pick up his things and left me the missing rent in cash.

We were in our early twenties and there was no global pandemic at the time, FWIW.
posted by STFUDonnie at 10:16 PM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

From what you're saying it doesn't really sound like you have a good reason to go back to NYC in the near furure, so I don't see the downside in just not paying rent. You only need to maintain good standing if you're going to stay in NYC. Your only real concern is with your possessions, is there a chance you could get a friend to collect the more important ones?

Being evicted from an apartment you can't afford and that you are not using is not really that horrible and is better than wasting 3 months of rent money you really need. You will not be the only person this happens to in 3 months so I bet your landlord will be willing to coordinate with you. If they ask why you can't pay rent just blame the virus.
posted by JZig at 8:45 AM on March 25, 2020

so I don't see the downside in just not paying rent.

Sleazy debt collectors hounding you daily. There's a whole industry around this. (And badly damaged credit.)
posted by praemunire at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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