The realtor that let a Manhattan couple unknowingly rent out an illegal apartment offered a refund but has still not taken responsibility for the situation. NY1's Susan Jhun filed a follow-up NY1 For You report.
James Wesley and his partner, actor-writer Seth Rudetsky, thought they had found the perfect apartment in Manhattan, until they were forced to move out.
"We got an e-mail from our landlord saying, 'I’ve just been informed that the apartment is illegal, and you need to vacate as soon as possible,'" says Rudetsky.??
The couple and their daughter had already lived in the apartment for 10 months. They had also paid a $2,100 fee to their realtor, Citi Habitats, and a $2,500 fee to their landlord as a co-broker.
When NY1 first reported on the renters in February, they were outraged that neither the realtor or landlord knew that the apartment was illegal before they showed and rented it to them.
NY1 contacted Citi Habitats, and the president told the station, "It's a landlord/tenant issue." NY1 then contacted the landlord and he claimed he was not aware that it was illegal to put two bedrooms in the basement, and when he became aware of that he asked the tenants to move out.
After NY1 first reported on the renters, Citi Habitats had a change of heart.
"Citi Habitats decided to refund our money. They refunded the broker fee and the moving fee," says Wesley.
The refunded $3,600 was a relief to the couple, but as the realtor gave no letter of apology, the renters are not satisfied.
"We were disappointed that Citi Habitats seemed to still not take responsibility for their actions," says Wesley. "They still seemed to believe they had no obligation to even check the certificate of occupancy, for example."
"There was no acknowledgement that they did anything wrong," says Rudetsky.
Citi Habitats and the landlord refused to comment further on the story.
Wesley and Rudetsky say their former landlord still owes them their security deposit and the $2,500 co-broker fee. It is an expensive lesson that the couple wants to share with others.
"You need to investigate before you sign a lease and don't be bullied into signing a lease," says Rudetsky.
"You have to do your research and you can't depend on just the broker or the landlord," says Wesley.
To avoid renting an illegal apartment, the Department of Buildings recommends checking the legal use and occupancy of a building at the Buildings Department Information System at www.nyc.gov/buildings.
If you'd like "NY1 For You" to look into a problem, call our 24-hour helpline at 1-212-379-3599 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.