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Renter Locked Out by Former Roommate Pays Two Rents

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Curbed Horror Stories are firsthand reader reports about terrible NYC apartment experiences past and present. This week, in honor of Renters Week, we're having a rental horror story showdown. We'll post one or two horror stories each day with a vote for the best on Thursday. The winner will advance to the national round of our network-wide contest. Horror stories to, if you please.

I lived with a close college friend ("John") upon moving to NYC in 2006. I made a decision to move out and the decision happened very quickly, and I gave my roommate an admittedly abrupt 2 weeks' notice. I struck a deal that I would sign up a subletter for only 2 months, even though I needed someone for 8 months. This afforded John some time to seek out someone he actually wanted to live with, rather than a stranger.

I found a great subletter, Ashley, who John approved her for 2 months. She would hardly be around because of a late night TV job. After Ashley moved in, John sent regular emails to me insisting that I pay him the outstanding rent for the 8 remaining months of the lease. This was money I didn't have, as I was paying rent on my new apartment at the time. John's job was in real estate and he threatened to lock me out of the apartment if I didn't pay our landlord thousands of dollars in rent.

I couldn't figure out why I would need to pay anything to John, so I continued to ignore his demands. After approximately 1 month living at my old apartment, I was traveling out of town and Ashley called me to say that her key did not work. We had been locked out of the apartment! With all of her belongings inside! I had to call a locksmith to open it up and even had to call the police, to prevent any possible physical altercation between John and Ashley (ie physically blocking entry/exit).

Ashley was rightfully very shaken by this entire ordeal and immediately collected her belongings and moved out. I immediately refunded the 2nd month of rent in addition to the security deposit. I had to pay for two rents, on my new apartment and my old apartment.

After another month and half, John found a friend to live in my room for the remaining 6 months of my lease. Once his friend had moved in, then John stopped demanding the prepayment and extra security deposit. John had cost me thousands from a month of an empty room and a locksmith. And that was just the money.

There was an unbelievable amount of stress involved in the entire ordeal. I spoke to a lot of lawyers to find out my rights for and against the landlord and for and against my roommates. I did a lot of research myself, tapping free and public resources about tenant law (plentiful resources in NYC) and roommate law (for which there is none).

After John's friend had lived in my room for the remaining months on the lease, I sued John for his illegal actions. Almost a full year after I had lost the money, we sat before an arbitrator. John was forced to go to an ATM and give me cash for a settlement.

Fortunately, my new apartment and roommates were great and I haven't had anything like that happen since. I do keep all my legal documents together and organized should another roommate or landlord situation arise.
· Curbed Horror Stories archive [Curbed]
· All Renters Week 2012 coverage [Curbed]