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Old 09-19-2009, 09:26 AM
Location: Out of this world
277 posts, read 868,374 times
Reputation: 151


We are trying to evict a tenant. However, we heard that the tenant can sue us for back rent. Is this true? How common is this in NY? Does it matter that the tenant and the landlord both knew it was an illegal apartment? No one has called the city regarding the apartment. We are currently serving hold over papers through landlord and tenant court.
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Old 09-19-2009, 03:32 PM
Location: The Hall of Justice
22,316 posts, read 21,294,449 times
Reputation: 32028
I'm sorry, I don't understand your question. You're the landlord, right? Why would the tenant sue you for back rent?
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Old 09-19-2009, 06:06 PM
Location: Charlotte. Or Detroit.
1,438 posts, read 2,524,576 times
Reputation: 3104
Lemme see if I got this: you are renting an illegal apartment to someone who you want to evict. The tenant, now that he's facing eviction, is threatening to sue you for the rent he has already paid on the grounds that the apartment is illegal?

Sounds like an empty threat to me. But what do I know - I install lawn sprinklers. I'd wait to hear from someone who may actually know what they're talking about.
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Old 09-19-2009, 06:30 PM
Location: In The Outland
6,037 posts, read 7,510,423 times
Reputation: 3535
I think that it may depend on why the apartment is illegal. A person bringing a tort action has to prove that they were hurt in some form and I doubt if a lawyer would take the case unless you pay the lawyer the big bucks up front for their time representing you. If the tenant got a lung disease from bad insulation or got sick from toxic mold, or contracted some virus from mice droppings it may be a totally different story.
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Old 09-19-2009, 06:38 PM
6,574 posts, read 5,662,375 times
Reputation: 1825
Sounds to me like Timm has the situation right. As a former LL a can say the following with 90% confidence
1. no he cannot sue you for the money.
2. he can report you to the IRS on the off-chance you were not declaring the rent on your IT form because it came from an illegal unit
3. he can report you to the city, which will then send out an inspector. If your unit is, indeed, illegal you can be fined and/or the city will make you tear out the unit and/or convert it back to being part of your house if you walled a section off and made it into a separate unit, which is what happened to me (nosy neighbor).
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Old 09-19-2009, 06:38 PM
Location: The #1 sunshine state, Arizona.
11,579 posts, read 10,380,124 times
Reputation: 62800
If you are a land lord, renting an illegal apartment, you are going into court with dirty hands. The court may not help you.
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Old 09-20-2009, 01:07 AM
Location: 39 20' 59"N / 75 30' 53"W
12,572 posts, read 13,813,893 times
Reputation: 14001
Thats a tricky situation. You might be able to evict, but you
will not be able to go to small claims and get a judgement for
delinquent rental monies. You can't sue for something illegal. If the
tenant shows at the eviction hearing and tells a judge, plan on
having to do some renovating, you'll most likely be fined.

Can the tenant sue you? I can't give you a yes or no answer,
however, if you rented to the tenant, without their knowledge
that the unit was illegal, theres certainly the possibility.

Last edited by virgode; 09-20-2009 at 01:12 AM.. Reason: added info
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:57 AM
Location: St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
24,349 posts, read 31,186,020 times
Reputation: 25310
A recent episode of "The People's Court" on TV addressed a similar issue where the tenant was suing the LL for return of his security deposit and all the rent he had paid for the "illegal" apartment and moving expenses. He did get back the security deposit but wasn't awarded any back rent or moving expenses because, as poster rickers noted, he couldn't prove any damages.

As far as whether or not the tenant can sue you, sure he can but suing and winning don't go hand in hand. Good luck!
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Old 09-20-2009, 10:18 AM
Location: In The Outland
6,037 posts, read 7,510,423 times
Reputation: 3535
The pics below are of a triplex that I actually rented the center unit in, this is no joke ! Friends recommended this place to us when we needed to rent a place in a hurry. They used to live in it and told us it was really nice and rustic. I think they just wanted us close to have a free babysitter (my wife) and a firewood cutting helper (me) ! We could smell the neighbors in one unit cooking and hear their toothless hillbilly giggling having farting contests and the neighbor on the other side on the first day of us living there welcomed us by asking to use our restroom and peeing all over our bathroom. We lasted two weeks there.

No light fixture in the kitchen, 2 inch gap under back door, 14 roof leaks, live electrical wires sticking out of walls all over, rotten porch you could step through, no bedroom door, no opening windows, only a huge wood-stove for heat and the landlord was an old burned out hippy who is brain dead from drugs and a very paranoid son who threw a hissy fit when he saw me taking these pictures.
I'm not sure if there is any such thing as an "illegal apartment" in our state ! The guy wanted to use the building for a restaurant but the county wouldn't let him so he made it into a 3 plex and charges 400 bucks per month. Freaking insane, the group of shacks and trailers is called Sourdough Village and is up Prospect Creek a few miles up from Thompson Falls Mt.
The first picture is the front and the second picture is the back. You can see my kayak trailer with the blue tarp on it in the second picture next to my wood pile. One of the kayaks under that tarp is a sit on top that I call my "Tupperware Trawler" and it is shown on my City-Data forum profile picture.
Never rent a place sight unseen no matter what so called friends say.

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Old 09-20-2009, 12:27 PM
Location: Out of this world
277 posts, read 868,374 times
Reputation: 151
Thanks for the sound advice. I suspect because it is an illegal apartment the judge will allow the tenant tenant to occupy the apartment rent free. I just hope it's not longer than 2 or 3 months.
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