My landlord is a slime bucket and I need to break my lease. What kind of repercussions might I face?
May 14, 2008 9:28 AM   Subscribe

My landlord is a slime bucket and I need to break my lease. What kind of repercussions might I face?

Over the last year and a half, I've had some problems with my landlord. Leaky roofs, heat and hot water that randomly stop working, mice, roaches, and, most recently, bedbugs. Although it turned out that we didn't have a full-on infestation, the landlord has refused to have the whole building inspected, and I don't trust him to stay on top of the problem. In short, I want to break my lease and leave the apartment. I have a feeling that he'll let me out of the lease, but his security deposit policy is a bit whacked out. His policy is to release the security deposit a full 30 days after you move out. Plus, in order to break my lease, he may try to get me to sign something that would allow him to take my deposit. Basically, he's a slimy, slimy man, and I don't trust him to actually give me my deposit back. What I want to do is move the hell out and tell him to keep my security deposit in lieu of last month's rent. If I do this, what can he do to me? Can he mess up my credit? Can he sue me? Would he sue me? Do I have any recourse, other than spending lots of money on a lawyer?

Thanks for the help.
posted by Sloop John B to Law & Government (11 answers total)
 
Oh yeah, and I live in NYC, if that makes a difference.
posted by Sloop John B at 9:29 AM on May 14, 2008


Your lease agreement spells out the terms and conditions that detail his responsibilities and what happens if you want to break the lease. I am sure someone else will chime in and tell you about some NYC resource that helps renters deal with the landlords and if any of the problems you state will help you get out of the agreement without being penalized.
posted by mmascolino at 9:34 AM on May 14, 2008


One main question I have is this - is he allowed to wait 30 days before giving me back my deposit? If I don't pay last month's rent, and tell him to keep the deposit, can he still sue me, even though he has my money? What kinds of nasty things can he do to my credit?
posted by Sloop John B at 9:46 AM on May 14, 2008


I live in Vermont and here there is state laws that require the landlord to return the security deposit within 14 days (2 weeks) or else provide a written statement explaining why any amount has been withheld. If that isn't done within that time frame the landlord is required to return the security deposit in full regardless of anything else. This law supersedes any rental lease agreement.

If you have a law like that, get him to agree to release you from the lease in writing and then wait for your security deposit. If you don't get it within the time frame for NY (assuming there is such a law there) then let him know he is required by law to return the deposit in full.
posted by doomtop at 9:56 AM on May 14, 2008


In my experience (all outside of New York!), the deposit is not good as the last month's rent because that's just not what it's for, and usually the landlord has some amount of time before he must return it. (In Maryland, for instance, it's 45 days.)
posted by Airhen at 9:57 AM on May 14, 2008


If you use the deposit for last month's rent, yes, he could charge you more money for repairs, etc. He would have to bill you, and then if you refused to pay, he could sue you. Of course to just terminate the lease early, you'd probably need his consent, or be prepared to back up your move with some legal threats. And to get his consent, he might, say, want to keep the security deposit so he doesn't lose money if the apartment is empty for a month after you move.

So if you're talking about just leaving because he has not lived up to the lease, then the most he can do is charge you for repairs and maintenance needed. Besides of course try to sue you for all the months rent left in the lease.

I would talk to the guy and just say, "look, if I stay for 30 or 60 more days so you can find another tennant, will you let me out of the lease early?" If yes, that's probably the cheapest options. If no, then tell him you intend to move anyway because he's in violation of the lease. If the threatens to sue, it might be worth it to try to work out a compromise where he just keeps the deposit, and lets you go, since you may have to hire (and pay) a lawyer.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:57 AM on May 14, 2008


is he allowed to wait 30 days before giving me back my deposit?

Again, as mmascolino said, it depends on your lease agreement. The NYC Rent Guidelines Board says "the landlord must return the security deposit, less any lawful deduction, to the tenant at the end of the lease or within a reasonable time thereafter," and 30 days is not an unreasonable amount of time.

If I don't pay last month's rent, and tell him to keep the deposit, can he still sue me, even though he has my money?

He could sue and claim damages to the apartment that you owe him money for, which makes it important that you document the state of the apartment before you move out and turn the keys over. Really, if you've been having so many problems with him all this time, you should've a) been calling 311 to report the problems and documenting every call, and b) documenting all the problems and his problems, in case things go to court.
posted by lia at 9:58 AM on May 14, 2008


Err, documenting all the problems and his responses.
posted by lia at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2008




One main question I have is this - is he allowed to wait 30 days before giving me back my deposit?

Yes. It may be more specific in NYC, but New York state law says that the deposit must be returned, "within a reasonable amount of time". Many other states explicitly state 30 days, so 30 days is probably reasonable.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:42 AM on May 14, 2008


He is not allowed to use the security deposit as last month's rent. By law, the security deposit is to be put into a bank account (NYC law, anyway) and he is to return this money to you plus the interest it has earned, unless you damaged the apartment beyond reasonable wear and tear. He has to provide you with the bank name and type of acconut where this money is deposited if requested. That said, most landlords will just use up the security as last months rent, unless there is actual damage to the apartment. It's not usually worth taking a tenant to court for a personal vendetta, especially as most apartments don't stay on the market too long.

Leaky roofs, heat and hot water that randomly stop working, mice, roaches, and, most recently, bedbugs.

And if this is your definition of a "slimy landlord" than you have greater problems than just your deposit... you should either get some thicker skin or move out of the city (or at least into an area where buildings are newer than 100 years old)
posted by Debaser626 at 2:00 PM on May 14, 2008


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