The Rise of the Professional Tenant

“When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.”

— Rodney Dangerfield

Among the problems that tenants and landlords face in this brutal on again off again pandemic, is the one that is surging just outside of expected norms. The abuses that landlords have used to evict people were based in part on “vacancy decontrol,” which allowed owners to raise rent-regulated rents to whatever the market would bear once an apartment was vacated. By whatever means necessary, it made sense for landlords to litigate the shit out of tenants in order to gain back certain apartments. In fact, in my own case the two Dentists that took over our building racked up nearly a half a million dollars in legal fees just to evict one family. While I know I’m popular, that’s pushing it.

No more. Vacancy decontrol has been scrapped, in part, owing to people like State Senator Brad Hoylman, a hard worker in the Legislature that got that killed. There’s now little advantage in evicting a paying tenant.

However, there is a subclass of people, not homeless or unhoused as they are now called in places like Venice Beach, who move in to apartments, hotels, motels, sublets and shared living situations — who have no intention of paying rent. These are people who are “on the grift” and who claim everything from mental illness to poverty. In fact, many of them have learned how to game the system at the expense of others, not just landlord-property owners. They also prey upon other tenants who pay their rent and have shared their apartments. Subletters or apartment shares can now simply stop paying any rent and refuse to leave like the krockers in Amsterdam. A city where — if anyone manages to get into your property — it’s your problem in getting them out. Meaning, you have to pay them to leave. Basically, it’s an extortion racket. With no law enforcement and no courts it will only get worse.

You would think that the City would assist someone with a rental apartment attempting to sublet space to others as some in my building do. Some tenants pay their rent from that income and essentially live rent-free. However, if you let someone into your apartment in Manhattan or elsewhere in New York City, don’t expect anyone to escort them out — like the Police or the Sheriff. Not going to happen. Of course, they may leave upon request. But, anything more than that, like pushing them out or changing the locks after putting their possessions in the hallway can earn you an arrest AND a lawsuit. In fact, it’s not just in New York City these days. A family in the Hamptons has recently been in the news for refusing to move out of a rental. A Cantor Fitzgerald executive recently refused to leave their Water Mill rental. In Hampton Bays, a hoarder has refused to leave the house she was renting. And, tenants like Nancy Strebel in the Hamptons have basically extorted money out of one motel owner because she’d rented a room and stayed for more than 30 days and then refused to leave. The same is true for hotels.

In some cases the only solution for exasperated owners or tenants sharing their apartments for a few weeks or months is to buy off the grifters because law enforcement will do nothing and the courts, when they reopen, carefully avoid assuming any responsibility. The rent laws need to be re-written to address this loophole caused by professional tenants.

So, keep in mind that if you rent a room to someone in your apartment whether you are there yourself or not, no one is going to come to your aid and move the offending party out for you. You’ll have to go to court for assistance. When they reopen, that is.

Stay Tuned, folks.

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