RENTAL LEASE in NY, and sketchy landlords...

Hey, all. A couple of friends got into a pickle with a shady landlord, and I’m not really sure what to tell them. The short end of the story is this:

Three would be roommates apply for a three bedroom apartment in upper Manhattan. Included in the application, along with paperwork, are two bank issued checks, one for security, one for first months rent, which they were told would only be cashed if the three ended up taking the place (or the checks would be returned).

The following day, the realty company calls them, says they would like to offer them a lease, and wants to know when they come by and sign it.

One person goes down to meet with them, and finds the lease has some sketchy elements to it. They negotiate, and the problems are corrected in writing.

Roommate # 1 is told that, since all three names are on the lease, all three signatures, plus the landlord’s, is required for the lease to be binding. Roommate #1 signs the lease.

The following day, Roommate #2 goes down to sign the lease. The realtor watches her sign it, and, AFTER she signs it, tells her that it is NOT a done deal, they are not being offered a lease, or the apartment, that the lease signing is just a formality, in case it all works out. The realtors want further paperwork, and they want either a guarantor or an extra TWO months rent on top of what they’ve already paid to secure the apartment.

Realizing a potentially bad situation when they see it, and angry at being mislead to begin with, they decide to walk away. They request their bank checks back.

The would-be landlord tells them that if he wanted to, he could still hold the two people who signed the lease to it, if he “wanted to”, because, although the third roommate’s name is listed on the lease, but without a signature, the two are still bound to the lease because THEY signed it.

He asks them to give it one more day to think about it, and if they still want to walk away, he’d give them back their checks. They have since left several messages stating they do in fact want to walk away, want their checks back, and have yet to get a call back.

So. What are they legally bound to at this point, and what are their recourses to get the checks back?

Thanks, Folks. (:

  • Freewill39.

They should all go to the landlord together in person.

If he won’t hand back the checks, take him to renters court.

They should DEFINITELY call the bank and put a hold on the checks, so they cannot be cashed.

Call bank, request stop payments on checks. Costs about $20 per check.

They apparently tried that. The checks in question are bank issued checks. Once they are issued, the bank no longer has control over them.

I guess their main question is: are the two who signed the lease bound by it, if there are three tenants listed on it, and only two have signed? Or do all three tenants listed on the lease, with signature lines after their names, have to be signed for the lease to be binding?

If not, they can always track if the checks are deposited illegally. They have their receipts from it. It’s more a matter of if this guy’s thinly veiled threat of holding them to it carries weight or not.

Anyone who actually knows the law know the answer? Obviously, we can all speculate, but if anyone has an informed answer, that would be great.

Even if the landlord signs the lease, since there are three names on the lease but only two have signed it’s not a completed contract yet. Even if the landlord crosses the third name off the lease that will require the two signees to approve the change. Just tell your friends to demand the return of their check and say that they will take the landlord to court otherwise.

Get a lawyer to just write a letter to send to the landlord. It would probably cost around $50 for the letter. The landlord will probably get scared enough to return the money, and your friends probably won’t have to go to court.

I’m not a lawyer btw.

For NYC, I’d begin by having your friends check out the NYC Rent Guidelines Board - they have some information on the site, and a couple of links for where people can get specific and personal assistance with legal questions.

Worst comes to worst, NYC does have two housing courts where such disputes can be brought before a judge.