I live in brooklyn, NY in a 2 story home that has a basement apartment (illegal conversion). Lived here for 5 years and pay $1500. the Landlord has recently paid the tenants on the first and second floor to leave, so he could renovate and charge $3500 for floor 1 & 2. he did not have permits to renovate, so the city put a stop work notice on the doors. the landlord had us living in the basement while they demolished and gutted the first and second floor. all of the construction dust and debris was in our home, making it extremely difficult to breathe or sleep. the city later sent inspectors to see his newly added balconies and illegal pluming/renovations. they noticed people were living in the basement. my landlord had me move some of my belongings upstairs including my pets, so he could remove my kitchen and bathroom to make it look like no one had been living there when the inspectors came. he said we would be in this renovated apt. for one week but it's been at least 2 months now. all of my belongings are still in the basement which is now a construction site. some of my clothes and my tv is upstairs in the renovated one.
You cannot get back any money you paid in rent. Unless you have property damage or a personal injury as a result of the landlord's action in my opinion you don't have a case against the landlord.
You are not entitled to a refund of the money you paid on the theory that it is an illegal apartment. However, to the extent that your living conditions are substandard, you ARE entitled to a partial refund of the rent you paid for "violation of the warranty of habitability." You could do some on line research to get more details on that or you could retain an attorney. The amounts you get back, however, are going to be relatively small, compared to what a lawyer will need to charge you.
You cannot get a refund for money already paid. If you wanted to leave you could, in theory, stop paying and live rent free until the landlord can evict you.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and have been handling criminal defense and personal injury cases for over 18 years. The above answer, and any follow up comments or emails, is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.
Dear Brooklyn Tenant:
I read your additional comments. Please explain if you were residing in the basement apartment, and moved upstairs for the convenience of your landlord, while leaving your property in the basement apartment, so the landlord could tear out the kitchen and bathroom, to fool inspectors into believing that the building was restored to a legal two family dwelling, and you had to transport your cats and possesions with you, into that other apartment, where do you plan to live after the building passes inspection?
You cannot move back to the basement since the kitchen and bathroom are gone. You cannot remain in the new apartment since you do not have a lease. What did you gain cooperating with your landlord? Why did you continue to pay rent for an illegal basement apartment that no longer exists?
How much money did the other tenants take to leave? Why did you not take money to leave the only illegal apartment in the building?
I have forty years experience in the specialty of Housing Law and Tenant's Rights advocacy. The answer I provided to you does not create an attorney and client relation. You are free to check my office contact information at my AVVO profile. The answer offered is in the nature of general information, and should not be considered as tailored legal advice. I offer answers as a service to the community with my firm belief that you should try gain a good outcome for your legal issue and to avoid a bad outcome if you can.
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