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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 111449
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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The following has happened: 1. 6 month ago I used a broker

Customer Question

Hello,
The following has happened:
1. 6 month ago I used a broker to find me and my husband an apartment in Boston MA. We were living in Europe at that time so had to trust all information/details provided by the broker. After thoroughly stating all our needs/demands, the broker found us the prefect place. She filmed the apartment in detail and emailed it to us.
2. The broker wrote in an email dated 07/30/2015, and I quote, that there were "2 identical units, in the exact same spot overlooking the exact same street, just 3 floors apart". Only difference was that the 7th floor unit was a little more expensive. As my husband and I believed the 7th (vs. 4th) floor apartment would give even more light to the place, we chose to move forward with the pricier one.
3. We received a leasing agreement for apartment "#733" in end of August 2015 and signed it. We signed it based on the film we'd seen and the promise of this unit being identical but higher up in the building. We were in Europe at the time and had no possibility to physically check that #733 was in fact the apt number of the "identical" unit. We had to trust the information provided by al parties involved.
4. We began paying a monthly rent of 3770 dollars 09/01/2015, to lock down the unit even though we weren't ready to move yet. Six months and 22,620 dollars later we finally arrived in Boston.
5. Entering our new home, we immediately realized that it was in fact not at all the same apartment. This one was located on the opposite side of the building, surrounded by close buildings with all windows facing brick wall and NOT the main street, as shown in the film. The floor plan might be same, even though reversed, but there is no light and absolutely no view whatsoever. The written words by the broker, of which be based our decision, were in fact a total lie.
6. We went straight to our landlord and explained that this is NOT the apartment we agreed to and not an apartment we'd ever pick/lock down, let alone pay a dime for, had we known the truth. The landlord says we can move in to the one we were originally promised 1.5 month from now, when it's finally vacant. This means we'd have to pay another 7,540 dollars for the current apartment we never agreed to, and have no interest even spending a day in. In 1.5 months we have paid 8 months out of a 12 months lease for a unit we'd never said yes to had we known the real facts.
7. We have been under the full belief that we've paid 6 months rent for the apartment, told to us in writing (prior to signing), located in the north east corner of the 7th floor of the building. We have done so, even though not living there, in order to secure it remained ours when we finally arrived. This specific "7th floor north east corner" apartment has in fact been rented out to another couple throughout this entire period, and will remain so until 04/21/2016.
8. The leasing agreement is for apartment #733, but that was simply an apt number we believed to belong to the "identical" unit as promised. The apartment description, off of which we agreed, was still completely false. My questions are - What legal rights do we have? Have we been paying rent for an apartment already being leased by others?
It's such an awful lot of money we've spent on this apartment, and we are absolutely devastated. We truly appreciate your help!
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
This is not only breach of contract, it is unfair and deceptive practices contrary to MA General Statues 93A. If the broker did this to you and the landlord was part of it because he did not rent you the specified apartment you need to send a letter to both the broker and the landlord informing them this was a breach of contract, fraud/misrepresentation and also an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of Section 93A which would entitle you to recover TREBLE DAMAGES plus attorney's fees against them for their conduct. Here is a sample 93 A letter for you to modify and send them as soon as you can and demand a refund of your money or to be moved into the proper apartment immediately. See: http://www.mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/consumer-assistance/93a-demand-letter.html
If they refuse, then you need to sue BOTH the landlord and broker and take them to court for 93A plus breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation and you should hire a local consumer attorney at that point to pursue them in court, since the damages here are significant, especially with the triple damage award available.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Hello,Thank you so much for your quick reply.
As all our correspondence was through the broker, I can't be certain whether the landlord was in on it. The landlord was however in the film showing us the apartment we agreed to. After talking to the landlord it was clear, based on her reaction, that she knew. However, that would of course not hold up in court.After agreeing to the 7th floor unit, the landlord asked for proof of income etc. and sent the leasing agreement for #733. To what extent is it our (the tenant) responsibility to look up what exact apartment #733 is, and where in the building it was located? Could they hold us responsible for not looking into this ourselves before signing, and therefore say the lease for #733 is binding? As I said, I have no clue how we could have double-checked this apartment #, unless the entire building floor plan was made available. Even then we'd probably have a very hard time knowing north from south. Maybe it was naive of us to assume the apartment # ***** in fact the one promised.Would you advise us to send the "demand" letter to the broker firm solely, as I don't know the extent of the landlords involvement?Again, thank you!
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
If the landlord was in the film, he would be part of any legal action.
Your broker as your agent owed you the duty to do this for you, since you were not in the US it was reasonable to rely on the broker, so the court is not going to say you should have looked at the property. You did look at it through the broker's video and the broker committed fraud and misrepresentation.
If the landlord was present in the video, you should include the landlord in your letter and your claim.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Ok, thank you. ***** state the total amount of 22,620 + 7,540 + security deposit as damages in my letter?As the apartment we believed we were renting is occupied by others, it won't be possible to demand immediate transfer. I am guessing the other couple renting it has a lease agreement too, with the accurate apt#. Could we demand that they move us to another vacant apartment on the "view" side of the building and have them cover the added cost? I believe the only vacancies left mid-year are the larger more expensive apartments, and my husband and I have no second alternative to move to in Boston.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
Yes, you claim the whole amount including security deposit in your letter for damages.
You can demand that they reduce your price and credit you for the lower priced apartment you are in until your apartment you agreed upon is available. Then demand they pay to move you to the correct apartment when it is available.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
To the best of your knowledge, do you believe this is a case we'd win if legal action is taken? Last thing we'd want is to end up paying more than we already have. I have attached two emails received from the broker right before signing the lease agreement. Please have a look at it.I emailed both the broker responsible and the president of the Agency on Friday, demanding an explanation. But so far we have not received a response. I know for a fact that they work all weekend as we've always received emails around the clock, no matter the day or time. Do you believe they'll choose not to address it?After this my questions are hopefully covered.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.

Based on everything you said and knowing the MA laws, especially 93A which is a powerful consumer tool, you have a significantly high chance of winning if this goes to court. The broker and landlord simply committed fraud, plain and simple they showed you one apartment and rented you something else, that is a bait and switch and violation of 93A and a breach of contract. If this were to go to the MA courts, they would not treat the broker or the landlord kindly on this type of case.

This is why sending the 93A letter is important, generally that will get them moving and if they do not respond in 30 days you take them to court and based on the facts you disclosed you will win here.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Hello,Just talked to 2 local lawyers. Both said we don't have a case as the landlord is trying to right the wrong by giving us a new apartment end of April.....
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
You said he was not giving you the new apartment for several months AND he charged you for the higher price for the apartment that was not the right apartment, did you explain that to those attorneys, because I disagree with their opinion if you did. The landlord can cure the problem by giving you credit for the higher priced apartment you paid for but did not get and agree to move you to the better apartment when available, but until that happens you do have a case based on exactly what you said above to me.

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