From dream apartment to real-life nightmare, that's how a Brooklyn resident describes her living situation after a woman who subletted her apartment stopped paying rent and refuses to leave. NY1's Leisha Majtan has this exclusive report.
Artist Pinar Yolacan has the kind of apartment many New Yorkers dream about. A sunny, affordable two-bedroom in a thriving Brooklyn neighborhood. But these days she tries to stay away as much as possible.
"It's been a nightmare for me. I just can't believe it," Yolacan said.
Her problems began October 13 as she returned from a two-month-long work trip overseas.
When she got to her door it was chainlocked.
The woman she sublet it to in July - Maria Sevely - who says she studied architecture at Harvard, would not let her in.
Police were called, and when Yolacan finally got inside she discovered the subletter's boyfriend and their pets had moved in, too.
"It took me a good three, four days to realize there were seven cats in the apartment, I just kept thinking I was seeing the same one," Yolacan said.
The subletter refuses to leave and is withholding rent at $2,000 a month.
And there's more.
The subletter convinced a judge to issue an order of protection after complaining that Yolacan harasses her, in part, by refusing to let her keep food in the fridge.
"They insist on staying. And I don't understand. And I feel like they're comfortable in that," Yolacan said.
Even the law is of no immediate help.
A Legal Aid attorney says state housing laws are designed to give protections to all tenants, including subletters, making eviction overwhelmingly difficult even when that subletter like Sevely is withholding rent.
Only a judge can boot her, a process that experts say can grind on for a year.
"The landlord, or person whose name is on the lease, the only recourse that person has is to go to court and seek this person's eviction," said attorney Sateesh Nori.
NY1 tried to speak to the couple, but after repeated attempts they refused to talk.
Yolacan says she found the subletter through listingsproject.com and got an initial payment of $2,500 in rent and security, but no more.
The apartment is now cluttered with boxes and bags belonging to the couple who Yolacan says are usually holed up in their room.
Yolacan, who is from Turkey, says it all makes her feels like a prisoner in her own home.
She says she has no choice but to stay in the same apartment as the couple, while paying the full rent on her own.
"I just don't feel like I need to leave my home for people who just you know came to invade my space, they just clearly want me out of my apartment," Yolacan said.
After a little detective work, Yolacan says she found that Sevely had sublet space in another Greenpoint apartment, and withheld rent there too.
That lease-holder, who did not want to appear on camera, tells NY1 it took her seven months and almost $40,000 in legal fees to get the couple out.