Author Topic: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?  (Read 7171 times)

xenon5

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Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« on: January 13, 2016, 05:33:02 PM »
I'm supposed to have a lease for an apartment in Jersey City, NJ that begins this Friday, January 15th.  However, I've encountered several warning signs that the management company is totally inept.  I already gave them the security deposit and first months' rent, but I haven't actually moved in yet.

The apartment is a brand new renovation.  When I first saw it, the kitchen sink, countertop, and appliances were not in place.  Overall though, the apartment was quite nice and in a great location, and I knew everything there would be brand new.

  • I went to sign the lease on Saturday 1/9.  While walking in with the realtor, we bump into a previous client who moved in.  She says that she'd been living there for 2 weeks without a kitchen sink , but that she was well otherwise. I found this concerning but told myself I wouldn't move in if anything is missing.
  • I go to the apartment to inspect it and sign the lease.  Its condition had not changed in a week, though I test all outlets and plumbing fixtures.  They promise that it would be finished before moving in.  I signed, because it was a new apartment for a good price, and gave my deposit.  Also, the lease agreement specifically says that if the apartment isn't habitable on move-in day, that my rent would be prorated until it is.
  • A few days later, I return to pay the first months' rent.  The realtor tells me that they got the apartments confused, and that the apartment that would be mine is actually a different one.  The second apartment has an identical layout and is being renovated as well, so it didn't bother me much.  I haven't signed a new lease for the correct apartment.
  • I return to the apartment today, 1/13 and I'm given the keys by the super.  All the fixtures are in place, but the apartment is still DIRTY.
  • The kitchen sink is filled with what appears (and smells) like sewage water
  • A roach emerges from behind the kitchen cabinets
  • There are other problems with the apartment, though they're things that could be reasonably fixed before Friday - for example, large gaps between pipes and the floor, open space around the kitchen sink pipes, and a dirty rug on the fire escape.
  • I tell the super and the realtor about the problems I find, and they both shrug it off.  The realtor says "I've been renting to people in this building for 3 years and nobody ever saw a roach.  Maybe it came in from outside."  The super says "we won't clean it because they don't pay us to do that, but here's the number for the contractor".
  • The realtor and super both say that the exterminator already came for the month, and I'd have to wait until he comes back for roach supplies and an inspection.
  • I call the Health Department to find out what my rights are.  They say the place must be treated before I move in.
  • when I tell the realtor what the health department said, he lashes out and asks why I called them.  He tries to reassure me that everything will be fine.
  • I call the management company to get answers.  The head of building management isn't available, and he is supposed to call me tomorrow.  I've also emailed him pictures of the apartment.

So far I've had a negative experience renting this place, and I get the impression that the super doesn't take responsibility for the building upkeep.  I haven't actually corresponded with anyone from the management company in a meaningful way, so I have yet to see how responsive they'll be.  Here are my questions for all of you.

  • If I decide to back out, can I get my deposit and first month rent back?  The checks were both certified checks.  I haven't yet moved in and technically I don't even have a lease for the right apartment, and my walkthrough was also for the wrong apartment.
  • What the heck is up with the sink?  How did poop get in there?  How concerned should I be that it's clogged like that?
  • Am I overreacting to the roach?  Is it really a roach? (pic attached) I'm upset that the super and realtor didn't take it more seriously.  I know that bugs are a fact of life, especially in urban apartment buildings.  But I'm worried that they might not be doing enough to keep them out and I'll be moving into an infestation.
  • Why would they give me the keys when the apartment is not even presentable?

My pictures of the sink and roach are attached below.

pbkmaine

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Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2016, 05:49:57 PM »
Run! These people are all lying to you. Document everything. If they do not give you back your money, write to every official you can find, with photos.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2016, 05:52:02 PM by pbkmaine »

lbmustache

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2016, 06:03:56 PM »
My gut reaction: run. The roach, by itself, eh I could let slide. The poop-filled sink? What the hell is that??? RUN RUN RUN. Also they seem inept like you mentioned.

Are there any reviews for the building or property management place online?

pbkmaine

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xenon5

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2016, 06:33:37 PM »
http://www.lsnjlaw.org/Housing/Landlord-Tenant/Repairs-Habitability/Pages/Safe-Decent-Housing.aspx#.Vpbz-q88KrU

Thanks!  I was trying to find something like this.  My biggest worry is that they won't return the money and I'd have to go to court for it.

pbkmaine

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2016, 06:37:01 PM »
I am not a lawyer, but the way I would approach it if I were in your situation is to tell them it is a breach of warranty of habitability, and that if necessary you will take them to court, where you will win, and they will have to pay your legal fees.

xenon5

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2016, 06:40:25 PM »
I found their yelp page, and there's actually a review from 1/3/16 complaining about a missing sink in a renovated apartment!

http://www.yelp.com/biz/margules-properties-new-york

Tester

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2016, 06:47:03 PM »
Do not move in.
You will have to continue to deal with the same situation.

"If I decide to back out, can I get my deposit and first month rent back?  The checks were both certified checks.  I haven't yet moved in and technically I don't even have a lease for the right apartment, and my walkthrough was also for the wrong apartment."
So, as I see it: you signed a document for something and did not get it.
So, of course you should get all your money back.
I would call them and tell them that you want the money back at "insert exact date with hour and minutes".
If not you will get your money back in court.
You do not negotiate, you DO NOT MOVE IN.

I really hope you will not move in as this situation just signals how you will be treated.

xenon5

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2016, 07:24:28 PM »
Any thoughts on what I should do with the keys?  I have them in my possession and from my understanding they're the only set.

JLee

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2016, 07:48:32 PM »
My roommate had an amazingly good experience with the Bergen County Consumer Protection office when he had a problem with a car dealer -- I would strongly consider talking to the office and see if they are able to assist you (or direct you to the appropriate avenue).

llorona

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2016, 10:10:33 PM »
RUN FOR THE HILLS!

These people are crooks. Look at the Yelp reviews - seems like you're not the only one who's experienced a bait and switch.

Where there is one roach, there are probably many.

It's not your problem the sink is clogged. It's their problem - and if they're not going to lift a finger to take care of it now, they're certainly not going to jump into action when bigger problems emerge.


pbkmaine

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2016, 10:13:14 PM »

Any thoughts on what I should do with the keys?  I have them in my possession and from my understanding they're the only set.

Trade the keys for a certified check for the full amount owed you.

cupcakes4all

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2016, 02:08:16 AM »
bait-and-switch.

ltt

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2016, 04:59:24 AM »
Do not move in here.  Send them a certified letter asking for a return of all your money and attach the pictures.  Give them a date to return your money.  If not, take them to court.  I'm not sure how much money you are talking about, but I'm assuming this could be done through small claims court.

xenon5

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2016, 10:36:48 AM »
Update!

I contacted the guy who left the sink review on Yelp, and it was indeed the same couple that I met.  They too warned me to get out while I can.  I told them about my roach and sink, and they also said that they've seen a roach in their apartment.

I contacted the broker and management about getting my certified check in exchange for the keys.  I'm trying to arrange a meeting between me and the broker by Sunday.  I'll be flying to Maine from Monday to Thursday.  They seem to be cooperating, but I plan to send a certified letter tomorrow for protection.

At first, the management was rude and insisted I wouldn't get anything back, but when I reminded them that I never signed a lease for the right apartment, they changed their tune.

Do not move in here.  Send them a certified letter asking for a return of all your money and attach the pictures.  Give them a date to return your money.  If not, take them to court.  I'm not sure how much money you are talking about, but I'm assuming this could be done through small claims court.

It's about $3500.

partgypsy

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2016, 11:39:01 AM »
 Would trust your gut instinct on this one. The fact that they switched apartments on you, and acted like a (grossly) clogged sink was not their problem, is not a good sign. Good luck on new apartment search.


OmahaSteph

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2016, 11:44:15 AM »
I'm assuming the checks have already been cashed? Not sure how a certified check works, but can you put a stop payment on it?

freezerburn

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2016, 11:45:29 AM »
Do not move in here.  Send them a certified letter asking for a return of all your money and attach the pictures.  Give them a date to return your money.  If not, take them to court.  I'm not sure how much money you are talking about, but I'm assuming this could be done through small claims court.

+1.

Don't move in. I backed out of a rental earlier this year under similar circumstances. (There were different reasons for the lack of habitability, chronicled in a thread here somewhere while I was trying to figure out what my options were.) I got my lease canceled and my money returned, but not without a lot of worry while figuring out what to do. What worked was sending a letter with documentation/deadline as described above, basically politely outlining that it was going to be more expensive for the landlord to actually fix all the problems and compensate us for a delayed move-in etc than if they just canceled the lease and returned our money asap.

This followed multiple phone calls and prior attempts at trying to get the problems fixed without resolution. I'm not a lawyer, but Mr Freezerburn and I did get advice from one about our options and what to do (we would've taken it to small claims court) if the landlord wouldn't comply, and we figured out what protections were available to us locally.

Good luck, it sucks having housing trouble like this.

TheOldestYoungMan

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2016, 12:11:00 PM »
I wouldn't worry about it being a mess, but that's because hiring someone to do a final clean just isn't that big of a deal to me, it's an expense yes, but in the scheme of things it isn't going to be as bad as the last-minute hunt for an alternate place to crash for the time it takes the landlord to do a halfassed job of cleaning.

As to the dirty water in the sink, it is cause for concern but if you can run the water a bunch before you move in and flush the toilets alot and it doesn't repeat it was probably just from an overflow during a test (which happens).  The renovation would have had to have a plumbing inspection, you can actually talk to whoever did that inspection at the city (at least for me it's a job requirement to take those calls).  Literally every sink/tub in every construction project will look like that at least once during the project.

There's a lot of plumbing realities that you don't want to know anything about.  Like why is it, in many older buildings, you get blue ice cubes out of the icemaker randomly?  But only in homes where they use blue colored tyd-bol?  Probably unrelated.

Matumba

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2016, 12:33:52 PM »
How big is the apartment and how much is the rent if you don't mind me asking?

xenon5

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2016, 07:21:10 PM »
I wouldn't worry about it being a mess, but that's because hiring someone to do a final clean just isn't that big of a deal to me, it's an expense yes, but in the scheme of things it isn't going to be as bad as the last-minute hunt for an alternate place to crash for the time it takes the landlord to do a halfassed job of cleaning.

As to the dirty water in the sink, it is cause for concern but if you can run the water a bunch before you move in and flush the toilets alot and it doesn't repeat it was probably just from an overflow during a test (which happens).  The renovation would have had to have a plumbing inspection, you can actually talk to whoever did that inspection at the city (at least for me it's a job requirement to take those calls).  Literally every sink/tub in every construction project will look like that at least once during the project.

There's a lot of plumbing realities that you don't want to know anything about.  Like why is it, in many older buildings, you get blue ice cubes out of the icemaker randomly?  But only in homes where they use blue colored tyd-bol?  Probably unrelated.

I already decided to back out.  There's no turning back at this point.  I already saw how they handle a maintenance issue here, which is extremely poorly, and they haven't been straightforward about anything.  Nobody from the management company ever contacted me about how they would address the issues or when, and the super certainly had no role in that.  Regardless of whether it's fixable, the apartment was disgusting when I was given the keys, and I never signed a lease for the correct apartment.

xenon5

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2016, 07:26:06 PM »
Do not move in here.  Send them a certified letter asking for a return of all your money and attach the pictures.  Give them a date to return your money.  If not, take them to court.  I'm not sure how much money you are talking about, but I'm assuming this could be done through small claims court.

+1.

Don't move in. I backed out of a rental earlier this year under similar circumstances. (There were different reasons for the lack of habitability, chronicled in a thread here somewhere while I was trying to figure out what my options were.) I got my lease canceled and my money returned, but not without a lot of worry while figuring out what to do. What worked was sending a letter with documentation/deadline as described above, basically politely outlining that it was going to be more expensive for the landlord to actually fix all the problems and compensate us for a delayed move-in etc than if they just canceled the lease and returned our money asap.

This followed multiple phone calls and prior attempts at trying to get the problems fixed without resolution. I'm not a lawyer, but Mr Freezerburn and I did get advice from one about our options and what to do (we would've taken it to small claims court) if the landlord wouldn't comply, and we figured out what protections were available to us locally.

Good luck, it sucks having housing trouble like this.
Was the person who you got legal counsel a friend, or someone who works for a government or nonprofit agency?  I would really like to have someone to talk to for advice on this.  The realtor I'm working with claims he's trying to get my money back to me by Sunday.  I'm leaving for a business trip Monday through Thursday.

Luckily, I currently live with family, so I still have a place to live without moving.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2016, 07:38:33 PM by xenon5 »

FeelingRosie

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #22 on: January 14, 2016, 07:39:54 PM »
I agree with the other Mustachians when they say, "RUN". I've had a couple of bad apartment experiences in my time, including one place where the windows didn't close (in December), but they swore the windows would be replaced before I moved in. When they weren't replaced 2 weeks later and I finally decided to move because of other little problems, it was so much harder getting any of my money back after I had already moved in.

junglejim83

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #23 on: January 15, 2016, 07:44:59 AM »
Hudson County has a ton of renters, I imagine they have a responsive agency. Explain to them [the landlord] that all the proper state agencies for landlord over site will be called and they will be taken to small claims court if you do not receive refund of your payment in a period of time that the agency recommends. 

Although small claims court would be a pain, I don't think you would need a lawyer for that, so your costs beyond time spent would be minimal (if you lose wages b/c you miss work to go to court you should request compensatory damages as well).

The owner of the property is clearly in breach of contract.  Even if he gave assurances that the sewage issues and non-working appliances would be corrected before move in, he inadvertently indicated that he would be breaching (repudiating) his contract, by not fulfilling his obligation to provide you with a clean roach-free living space.  He did this when he said he would not call the exterminator before your move-in.  It is not your problem that they already paid for an exterminator this month.

The broker is receiving payment here too and he/she is materially misrepresenting the realities of the property she is helping rent.  Let her know that and that you will contact the state agency responsible for licensing real estate agents.  Other leverage would be contacting some of the local new agencies, like for example ABC news NY has a thing called "7 on your side" and they will show up with TV cameras and reporters if something outrage-worthy like this comes up and put it on the news, just a thought...

« Last Edit: January 15, 2016, 09:50:28 AM by junglejim83 »

freezerburn

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Re: Help! New Apartment Nightmare (with Pictures!) - what can I do?
« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2016, 08:55:23 PM »
Do not move in here.  Send them a certified letter asking for a return of all your money and attach the pictures.  Give them a date to return your money.  If not, take them to court.  I'm not sure how much money you are talking about, but I'm assuming this could be done through small claims court.

+1.

Don't move in. I backed out of a rental earlier this year under similar circumstances. (There were different reasons for the lack of habitability, chronicled in a thread here somewhere while I was trying to figure out what my options were.) I got my lease canceled and my money returned, but not without a lot of worry while figuring out what to do. What worked was sending a letter with documentation/deadline as described above, basically politely outlining that it was going to be more expensive for the landlord to actually fix all the problems and compensate us for a delayed move-in etc than if they just canceled the lease and returned our money asap.

This followed multiple phone calls and prior attempts at trying to get the problems fixed without resolution. I'm not a lawyer, but Mr Freezerburn and I did get advice from one about our options and what to do (we would've taken it to small claims court) if the landlord wouldn't comply, and we figured out what protections were available to us locally.

Good luck, it sucks having housing trouble like this.
Was the person who you got legal counsel a friend, or someone who works for a government or nonprofit agency?  I would really like to have someone to talk to for advice on this.  The realtor I'm working with claims he's trying to get my money back to me by Sunday.  I'm leaving for a business trip Monday through Thursday.

Luckily, I currently live with family, so I still have a place to live without moving.

We paid for a phone consultation with a lawyer, half an hour or so for a nominal fee (I think it was like $45 or $50) to advise us on our rights and possible actions in our particular scenario. IIRC we found the lawyer through local bar association listings--chose one that represented tenants from a list of landlord-tenant lawyers.

Maybe worth noting that we sought legal advice because the laws (such as they are) in our city/state are so vague that all our internet research was no help. In our case the consultation was well worth it since it helped to get clarity on who was responsible for what and what our options were, and helped us decide how to proceed.

Glad you have a place to live in the meantime! In our case we were very lucky to be able to extend our prior lease on short notice, since our landlord hadn't yet found new tenants for our apartment.