Apartment rent being consolidated: stay or go?
August 8, 2008 10:31 AM   Subscribe

My landlady is going to start charging rent by apartment ($2000/month for all) rather than by room ($530/month for me). Is it worth it to stay?

Backstory: I moved to NYC a month and a half ago. I found my current apartment in Jamaica, Queens from a guy on Craigslist. He had advertised it as $530/month, and I would only be responsible for my room (aka if another room was vacant or someone else was late, then that wasn’t my problem). I appreciated the lack of lease because I wasn’t sure how long I would stay there. The Craigslist guy (Bryan) lived in an adjacent room. He is in another country for the summer and hard to get a hold of.

The landlady is a Chinese woman whose English is very poor. Her daughter’s English is fine. I had them approach me when I returned home the other day and told me that since they’ve had issues with other roommates not paying rent (Bryan hasn’t paid for August, these two Ukranian boys in the other room had people in the empty room without telling the landlady, forcing her to clean it again) that now she is going to switch how people pay and charge $2000 for the whole apartment each month, rather than require individual payments.

This sucks. The Ukranians are moving out in early September and the other room is currently vacant. Clearly Bryan is not a trustworthy renter and I do not want to be stuck with his financial problems. However, $530/month is very good for this area, and I also have my own bathroom/two closets in my room that I do not want to give up if I move.

I paid the landlady one month’s security deposit when I moved in and she is allowing me to stay at the same price until October 1st.

Question, at last: based on others’ experiences, what should I keep in mind if I stay? Would Craigslist be the best way to find new roommates? Should I have them sign a lease? Advance deposits? I would rather not be responsible for others in this apartment, but if anyone has some good systems for dealing with this I will listen avidly.

Also, I would rather not have answers relating to lawyers or be in any way contentious. I do not want to be on bad terms with the landlady, and I can definitely understand her frustration. However, I just moved in and have been a model tenant. I don’t like being faced with this difficulty.
posted by amicamentis to Grab Bag (12 answers total)

who actually HOLDS the lease? IS there a single lease for the entire apartment, or has the landlady just been collecting the money per room?

If there HAS been no lease, perhaps you could get her to draw up a lease with YOU as the leaseholder, and that gives you the power to go on Craigslist for new roommates and screen them yourself.

Craigslist is the fastest option -- you will be spoiled for choice that way, so you will find reasonable people; you'll just have to go through a CRAPTON of people in the process, because a CRAPTON of people will answer. This is ultimately good, but really time-consuming.

There are other online services that screen roommates a little (roommatefinder.com is one I used) when it comes to whether they actually have a job. You'll see marginally less people, but you'll have the comfort of knowing they all will be able to hold down rent and you can concentrate on the "can I live with you without killing you" factor.

But it'd be worth it to sort out the who the leaseholder actually is. If there IS a lease, and Brian holds it, you may want to talk to Brian and the landlord together to get the lease transferred to your name, because you've been a more stable tenant. And that way you have some leverage to get Bryan out of there. If Bryan won't budge, that's a trickier situation.

But it sounds like there hasn't ever been an actual lease on the place, and you getting your name ON a lease would give you a lot of power.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:39 AM on August 8, 2008

Do you have a lease? Your landlady might not be able to change the terms on you until it is up.

Unless you know trustworthy people who would be willing to rent the remaining rooms, it is not worth the headache. Essentially, you'll be doing the landlord's job of finding new tenants and making sure rent is collected all for the privilege of keeping your current living arrangement.

When in doubt, call someone who knows what they are talking about.
posted by Alison at 10:40 AM on August 8, 2008

$530/month is very good for this area

But I'm guessing that $1060 isn't—and this is what you might get stuck with if Bryan doesn't pay the rent. I would move rather than live with someone I didn't trust.
posted by grouse at 10:43 AM on August 8, 2008

No, there is no lease - apparently, the original tenants had a lease and they just kept subletting and subletting. I have just been paying the landlady by check each month. I did not sign anything yet.
posted by amicamentis at 10:48 AM on August 8, 2008

Who are they expecting the one fat check to come from? If it's you, then you hold all the responsibility for collecting rent. And if that's the case then tell the owners that you want a new lease drawn up with you as the leaseholder.
posted by junesix at 11:17 AM on August 8, 2008

Could you ask her for a lease just for your room ($530/month) and see if she'll treat the other roooms as another seperate lease?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:26 AM on August 8, 2008

You're in Jamaica and according to your profile you're a student. Are you going to St. John's or CUNY Law School? If so, why not check out the housing ads at the schools - do you really need the grief of trying to be a minor landlord, without the benefits?
posted by Calloused_Foot at 11:42 AM on August 8, 2008

Yeah, I second the motion to move out. If they won't reason with you, go somewhere else.

I think what will happen when you threaten to move out is that the landlady will realize that it's better to lose $500 a month instead of $2000 a month. Then you can hopefully get the $530/room/month in writing, and she will be legally obligated to honor the agreement. It's good for you because you get the deal you want, and it's good for her because she is at least guaranteed some money from someone who has been good about paying rent in the past.

However, it's possible that bluffing won't work, and you'll need to actually leave. So be prepared to actually move out.
posted by jrockway at 12:17 PM on August 8, 2008

I wouldn't want to have the ensuing mess that would come from you (a) having to collect the money from everyone else and then (b) writing some ginormous check, and (c) hoping all those deposits work in a timely and non-awkward manner.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:17 PM on August 8, 2008

Leases include the standard terminology "joint and several liability" for a reason. It's so the landlord can go after any one of the individuals they can find for the complete amount of the rent. Unless you're prepared, as noted, to shoulder the entire rent in a worst case scenario, you'd best move.
posted by dhartung at 12:20 AM on August 9, 2008

Clearly you'd have to be insane to agree to that. But just as you are likely looking at $2000/mth if you stay she would likely be looking at $0/mth if you go. If it were me, I'd say get these chuckleheads out of here and then we can talk.

My guess is - she just wants it paid and doesn't care how. Maybe either of you would be able to find people that pay their rent. Maybe not. I would counter with No. But I am willing to help with finding decent tenants. Paying rent and not being a jerk to live with would be ideal for all concerned. I mean really.. those are the only kinds of people you would even consider signing a lease with!

But just quietly, life is such that things are guaranteed to happen. Why the fuck should you be held accountable for the 'goings on' of some random strangers life. I'd say "I'd be open to exploring that as an option in the future but as it stands I don't see how it would benefit either of us in any way". (Even though that's just a fancy way of saying Hell No.)

A group of people with their own leases paying their own rent are not worth insulting with such a rude condition. Yet another reason to help with finding perfect tenants perhaps...? (ie. No. But I'd prefer not to move out and I completely understand your position so I'd like to help as much as I can.)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:16 AM on August 9, 2008

Eeek. It seems like the landlord is trying to switch her problem to you - which is that she needs to select tenants who are reliable and clean, and toss those who aren't. Rather than deal with that, she is putting the burden on you.

I like what mu~ha~ha~ha~har suggested about you helping her out - but no matter how good of a deal the room is, it's never worth you being on the hook for $2,000. And it probably isn't worth it for you to take of being the primary lease person- because you're still doing her job for her (tossing out triffling roommates, etc.). And that's not what you signed up for cause that can take time)

Unless she figures out how to select good tenants, she's going to be tracking people down and cleaning icky stuff up, regardless if she has 4 leases or 1.
posted by anitanita at 3:11 PM on August 9, 2008

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