Sunday, December 9, 2012

It Sucks To Be Me: A Narrative Advisory Against Sub-Leasing

On Friday, Dec 7th 2012 at 6:15 PM I arrived home to my apartment in Brooklyn to find a troubling state of affairs. There was an eviction notice for the lease holder (I had a sub-lease so she's not actually the landlord so I'll just refer to her as L.H from now on) on the door and the locks had been changed. Hmmm. That's new. The eviction notice was dated 12/06 and said that she had 6 days to vacate. I knocked on the door. I tried calling L.H. No response. I also texted and emailed and with each message my undertones expressed an increasing level of frantic rage that she probably missed entirely because  A)English is not her first language, B) she is generally oblivious, and c) she might be on cocaine (more on that later). I tried calling the City Marshall whose number was on the notice. It was Friday night though so my chances of speaking to anyone in any kind of official position were limited at best. I read the notice a few times. Despite the extreme information deficit I was operating under I was pretty sure that whoever changed the locks was definitely not supposed to do that yet. So I called the cops.  I spoke to an officer who told me this was not the Police's jurisdiction. To be specific I yelled at an officer who explained to me that this was no the Police's jurisdiction. I was, perhaps, slightly unhinged at this point. I tried knocking again and cursed myself for not having my roommates' numbers in my phone.

I sat on the stairs and wept quietly for a minute or two before switching gears very rapidly into full-on pissed as HELL mode. I couldn't think of anything else to do for a few minutes so I just paced in circles and tried not to throw up. Had my roommates already been hauled out? Would all of my belongings be ransacked. Was it maybe all a hoax and had my roommates just stolen everything I own, changed the locks and left town? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? I called my boyfriend and left a shaky voiced, cryptic, and undoubtably disturbing voicemail.

An undetermined amount of time later L.H came thundering down the stairs. Apparently she had been upstairs in another apartment and just now got my messages. She was angry and seemed genuinely surprised. She thought it had something to do with one of the recent sub-leasers who was Swiss and had, according to her, been sending her weird emails so she had asked him to find a new place and get out. Again, this was all coming from her and most of what she says makes no sense so it was all very difficult to follow. It seemed unlikely on the surface though. All I really cared about was getting into the apartment so I could see if my stuff was still there.

We called a locksmith and, despite the eviction notice, somehow convinced him to open the door. While he was drilling to door the Swiss sub-letter came to the door and a melee of high-volume accusations began. I remained very quiet and, making no sudden movements, slithered past the argument and went to my room, leaving the bewildered locksmith behind. Everything was still there. Things looked normal. Nothing was condemned or boarded up.

Meanwhile, L.H was still convinced that the Swisserd(as he will now be known) was behind the eviction. At some point the cops were summoned. While they were explaining that this entire situation was really fucked up but not technically a legal matter, one of my other roommates came home. based on her account, and  of the Swisserd's (who I'm still not sure can be trusted), here is what happened while I was at work that day that induced the current state of affairs:

The real landlord came and said L.H had not been paying rent. She claims this is not true and that her only outstanding debt is for a different apartment that is the basis of a current lawsuit regarding bedbugs. The building manager tells the roommates who were home that L.H is an alcoholic and a coke head. This part was not mentioned while L.H was present but relayed to me later. The landlord says the eviction doesn't actually take effect for 6 days but that "we" (the sub-leasers) could change the locks ourselves to protect our belongings from L.H. For the record I had been in the apartment almost 4 months and never had any of my belongings gone missing so I'm fairly sure the building manager was either slightly racist or was trying to manipulate the situation to his favor by playing us against her. He also said that although this sub-lease was approved by him, it wasn't actually licensed by the City Marshall's office and therefor our sub-lease contracts did not protect us from evictions directed at L.H. He was planning on resolving the matter in court and getting the apartment back under his full stewardship and then we could potentially take over the lease. So they changed the locks, but couldn't tell me because no one had my number. I am aware that this part of the complications is my fault, or, all of our faults but I'm the only one who got fucked by our lack of communication.

The building owner had been there sometime in the mid morning on Friday, but he was observantly Jewish and lived in Williamsburg so there was no hope of getting in touch with him on Friday at 7:00 PM. The best thing we could do is have the locksmith, who luckily did not get arrested and who had been very patiently waiting out this entire ordeal to be paid, put on yet another lock, and hand out the two keys that come with it to L.H and one of the roommates.

At this point the situation is somewhat resolved in that I was fairly certain that I don't have to leave either right now or in 6 days and I was no longer worried that all of my belongings were gone a. Still, I was feeling unreconciably rattled so I loaded up some valuables and some clothes and headed uptown to my boyfriend's place. He had to work very early the next day but very graciously stayed up to let me in and endured my half-crazed, extremely snippish mood. I did my best to go to sleep because I knew there was nothing I could really do until the next day but my insides were knotted and all I could do is sweat and grind my teeth.

Saturday morning I woke up knowing only one thing: No matter what happens I need to get out of there even if I am allowed to stay until the end of the month and beyond. I set up some appointments to go look at short term leases, which luckily are readily available due to the upcoming winter break at schools like Columbia and NYU. I felt better with each productive step I took towards living elsewhere but I still had to go back to Brooklyn to see if I could get a key for the new lock and remove any remaining valuables from my room.
Here is what my day looked like on Saturday, December 8th 2012:
8:00 AM: Wake up. Send a bunch of emails to people looking for short term sub-leasers.
9:00 AM: Take the 2 train from 96th street to Franklin street in Brooklyn where I get the shuttle to Prospect Park...this is not the fastest way to get to where I live but it is the easiest.
10:00: Call L.H, whose phone is apparently off. Knock on the door of the apartment she told me to meet her at to no answer.
10:30: Knock at my apartment. Maybe someone's home. Success!
Swisserd opens the door and we chat for a moment about the current state of affairs. He is weird and racist. "Well, the landlord, he's a Jew, so he only cares about "this" (rubs fingers together to indicate money)- In reference to why we might be allowed to stay as long as he gets the rent. It is hard for me to find an apartment because people just see a foreigner. They can't tell the difference between someone from Africa and someone from a wealthy country like mine. Fuck this guy. Seriously. At this point I am more than resolved to only live in a place where I choose my roommates from now on.
10:30-11:00 Pack up another bag and my TV, which is only 22" and in a flatscreen but isn't exactly a joy to carry on the subway for an hour.
11-12:00: Head back uptown. This time I take the Q to 42nd and transfer to the C because it's raining by this point and I need to get the subway that brings my closest to where my boyfriend lives. Anyone who has ever done this transfer with a heavy load will know why I included this bit of information. It is indoors but it is very long, and very uphill.
 12:00-2:15  I think I kind of blacked out from stress during these hours but I at least made a couple of appointments to see some apartments. and my boyfriend ordered us lunch which is good because I hadn't actually eaten a meal since lunch on Friday and I was too stressed to know whether or not I was hungry.
2:15: Earlier in the week I ordered special Hanukkah donuts from a Bakery on 77th and Lexington so I had to go pick them up. It is still raining and both the crosstown bus and the 6 train are very crowded, but I make it home safely at around 3:15.
3:15-5:00 Partial decompression
5:00 Went to see a place.
The day didn't end here but the part of my day that was uniquely stressful sort of tapered off. Dinner was made. Hanukkah was celebrated. Everyone is very kind to me because they are kind people and because I probably looked deranged and potentially hazardous.

Today is Sunday and I have been back at the scene of the crime packing all of my clothes into the two suitcases I still have stashed on top of the wardrobe I paid $200 for and spent a whole day building that I will probably have to leave behind. I still don't actually know when I HAVE to be out of here but I know I want it to be asap. The short-term sublet I'm looking at is from a Columbia student on the UWS in a very soothing part of town. It starts in 10 days and as long as nothing else unexpected happens I think I should be able to get out of here fairly painlessly...if you don't count the half-month of recent I'll be eating as well as my security deposit. If you're feeling a little bummed out by this story please watch the following video. I'm trying to have a sense of humor while I sort this all out.

I don't work until noon tomorrow but I am thoroughly exhausted and although I feel much better than I did two nights ago I have the vague sense that nothing is going to be normal or easy for a while and I might just have to deal with that.

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