General Question

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

My previous landlord rented out an "illegal" apartment to what is my best option in this case?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (11973points) May 22nd, 2011 from iPhone

I rented an upstairs apartment for over 3 years. My now ex husband eventually bought a house, which I lived in for about a year with him but we separated and I got my own place eventually. I’ve been in my current apartment less than a year. My partner and I are trying to move into a 2 bedroom by the time our baby is born in September but we’re having issues. The place we really wanted sent us a rejection letter this week. I called their office to ask for an explanation and she informed me I didn’t have long enough rental history. I was very confused of course because the last apartment I resided in was well over a 3 year period. She then told me that it wasn’t listed as an apartment according to the town so she couldn’t count that as a “real” apartment! What?! She also said it looked suspicious because the landlord shared the same address. I tried to explain to her the landlord lived in the downstairs apartment and rented out his upstairs. It was a 1 bed, 1 bath, kitchen, living room. It was an apartment! She argued that it was listed as a single family home so basically I was out of luck. Is this legal for him to do this? I’m so upset that I had a perfect rental history with this guy for such a long period of time and it doesn’t even count! What a waste! Is there anything I can do at this point? I’m running out of time and now it looks like I’ll be having a lot more trouble than I originally thought. Any advice?

I live in NY state if that matters.

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14 Answers

HungryGuy's avatar

Apartment complexes are like corporations. They have a lot of silly inflexible rules.

Try another complex run by a different management company.

Or rent another apartment in a 2 family house by a private owner.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If you bring rental receipts, or show you paid utilities that might be enough proof.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@worriedguy I didn’t save any receipts from rent and the utility bills were in my ex’s name. The lady refused to even send a referral letter to the landlord or give him a quick phone call to verify I actually did rent with him.

YARNLADY's avatar

The person you were dealing with was following such rigid rules that you should be glad you weren’t accepted. They would have ruled you to death after you moved in. I say you were lucky you discovered it before you moved.

Very few apartments will be that unforgiving, keep looking.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@YARNLADY That’s a very good point! The rejection was probably a blessing in disguise.

marinelife's avatar

You would have better luck now renting from an individual. A different corporation may not care about the status of your previous apartment.,

Just move on from this one.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

If your word isn’t good enough and there is no back-up for your past rental history, then it sounds like you are out of luck in this scenario. It might have resulted in a different situation had your SO been the only one to fill out the lease, but since this is not the case, it is probably better to find another location.

An apartment manager holds the responsibility of conducting reference checks. If you claimed this apartment as such, yet the owner doesn’t, it can come across as questionable. It is not the responsibility of the leaser to seek out the proof of a reference, as far as I know. The burden of proof would fall on your shoulders.

JLeslie's avatar


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SuperMouse's avatar

@YARNLADY makes a great point, but if you are still interested in this apartment, maybe the manager will accept alternate documentation. Do you have canceled checks or bank statements showing the money going to this fellow every month? Or you might want to take it upon yourself to contact your former landlord and get a referral letter. This place might take it or might not, but it could be helpful to have it either way just in case you run into this problem somewhere else.

augustlan's avatar

I’d definitely ask the old landlord for a letter of recommendation for future use.

funkdaddy's avatar

I’m sorry you’re having trouble finding a place. I went through basically the same thing the first 3–4 apartments I lived in, the reasons they give are not always the actual reasons they’re not renting to you.

In short, I don’t think it’s about the previous apartment at all.

Apartment complexes want to rent their units, it doesn’t benefit them at all to have empty apartments which they gather no rent on and also pay the utilities for while they’re empty. Because there are so many laws protecting tenants (rightfully so) it’s very expensive to get someone who can’t or won’t pay their rent out of an apartment, so they prequalify applicants just like a bank would before lending them money to buy a house.

From talking to office staff, I’d guess it goes something like this

1) If you can prove enough steady income from a typical job, you’re in unless something else disqualifies you (you left a previous place trashed, etc)
2) If you don’t have sufficient income, or can’t prove your income (not everyone gets a check stub), they’ll look at your credit history as best they can and make a decision there
3) If those two don’t get you in, they’ll look at your rental history, but really that’s more to make sure you’re not breaking leases or trashing previous rentals

If you don’t qualify they’ll usually come up with a “nice” way to say you don’t qualify. They won’t say “you don’t make enough to live here” or “we don’t think you can pay rent”. For me it was either “you don’t have enough credit history” or “you haven’t been at your job long enough” or “you’re not currently working”.. all true, but really their only concerns are whether you’ll pay the rent and if you’ll keep the place in good condition. If you have sufficient income (usually 3–4x the rent I believe is the guideline) they’ll rent to you.

In every case but one I’ve been able to provide something to get past their objections, I don’t know if all those options are available to you, but maybe one will help.

One place I rented right after the company I was working with had shut down. They didn’t want to rent to me because I was unemployed and rejected my initial application. I went in and told them that I hadn’t applied at any other apartments, I wanted to live there, and asked what it would take. After showing income from my previous job, a bank statement showing I had some cash in the bank, and explaining I was looking for new employment but had some options to get by, they rented to me.

Another place was right after I got out of school, they didn’t want to rent to me because I didn’t have any credit history. I was able to rent the place after getting a cosigner on the lease. A cosigner goes a long way if that’s an option, basically they’re saying they’ll pay the rent if you don’t so there’s a safety net for the property.

The toughest one was when I moved with my wife and she started school again. We were broke, her school funding hadn’t come in yet, I didn’t have a job yet in the new city, and they were rightfully concerned that we may not be able to pay the rent. I spoke to the office several times, had the people we were renting with before that contact them and eventually worked it out so our deposit from one place would be sent directly to the other (I had to sign it, but they were reassured since it was mailed to them). That along with my wife proving she was in school and me proving I hadn’t been without a job for very long in the past got us in.

Basically the rules are there to make it easy to say no when someone doesn’t qualify on income alone. The company has laid those rules out to protect their investment and give the property management guidelines. Ultimately it’s the people that say yes or no though and I think they have quite a bit of leeway in most cases. The same basic “facts” can be seen quite a bit differently after you explain it. If you treat them as the enemy, blocking you from what you want, they’ll definitely say no. If you ask for their advice, explain your situation, and be open to what they suggest, they can probably get you in the place as long as you’re not overextending yourself financially.

I know all these aren’t always options (can’t always find a cosigner, can’t always prove there’s money in the bank, not everyone is going to school, etc) but I guess I’ve just learned that there’s usually ways around that initial rejection.

I hope it works out and you find a great place.

AshlynM's avatar

Don’t about legal or not, but the only thing you can do is keep looking.

Potential landlords shouldn’t be focusing on your previous apartment itself, but more on contacting the previous landlord and asking about you and your rental history. As long as you were in good standing and paid rent on time with your old LL, I don’t see any reason why you should be having problems finding a new apartment.

Also, I don’t get why this new landlord isn’t checking your credit history or asking for proof of income instead of rejecting you solely based on where you lived before.

However… you will come across those stubborn, set in their ways people and unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to change their minds or behavior.

If you truly still want this place, perhaps you can offer a substanstial security deposit and a month’s rent in advance to give peace of mind.

But it sounds like this is a losing battle, and it’s best to look elsewhere.

Judi's avatar

I have worked in the rental housing industry and am considered by some to be an expert, especially in fair housing, so I will try to explain where the landlord is coming from.
There is a lot of pressure in the apartment industry to always be consistent in order to avoid fair housing trouble. While the manager probably believes that this apartment was a legitimate rental, the next person might be manufacturing false information trying to “fake” a rental history. Management needs to to draw a line in the sand that they do not cross. If they accept you, but don’t accept the black applicant, or the single parent, or the gay couple, or someone in a wheel chair under the same or similar circumstance because they suspect that they are just using a friends address then they have discriminated. It sucks for you, but with fair housing laws the way they are, it is not safe, (or even right) to make decisions about who to rent to based on your gut feelings. They have to have a policy, a criteria that says how they will handle every potential situation and apply it consistantly. They have to stick to their written criteria in order to be fair to everyone. Don’t take it personally. It’s just they way it is today. For every company that sticks to the rules, you will probably find another manager that is being pressured by the owner to fill those apartments no matter what who will be more than happy to rent to you.

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