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NYC tenants sue landlord over rent by the room arrangement

It can be difficult for an individual to find a rental property in New York City that suits his or her needs. There is often high demand and short supply, accompanied by steep rent payments. Some tenants may only want to rent a room, rather than a whole apartment, whether to save money, because they do not need much space, or because they do not want to commit to a long-term lease. Unfortunately, some New York City landlords may be following illegal rental practices by taking advantage of tenants who are interested in only renting a room.

The tenants and landlord of an apartment building in Crown Heights are involved in a dispute that arises from this rent-by-the-room trend. Renting by the room is increasingly popular in Brooklyn, as it offers tenants lower rent prices and rental terms that are often shorter than other available options.

The building at issue, located at 80 New York Avenue, was purchased by the landlord in 2014 for $2.3 million. The landlord then renovated the premises and turned the majority of the building's eight units into apartments with five bedrooms. He rents the apartments to tenants by the room.

The practice of renting by the room is only legal if all of the tenants renting a room co-sign a single lease as co-tenants. However, some of the tenants of 80 New York Avenue contend that the landlord is following illegal rental practices and did not require co-singing of a single lease. They have sued the landlord, contending both rent overcharges and illegal deregulation. In their suit, some tenants allege that the landlord and his broker did not inform them of the co-leasing arrangement. Furthermore, some tenants allege that they were not informed that the landlord would have control over those with whom they ended up sharing an apartment.

While landlords may be responding to growing demand for rent by the room options, it is imperative that all parties follow legal rental practices. It will be interesting for both New York City tenants and landlords to see how this lawsuit is resolved.

Source: The Real Deal, "Landlords in gentrifying Brooklyn are increasingly renting by the room," Sep. 16, 2016

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