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MDLawyer, Lawyer
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 6135
Experience:  10 years in legal practice. Over 5 years in advising clients on landlord/tenant issues, including on a pro bono basis.
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My girlfriend and I recently applied for a one-year lease in

Customer Question

Good evening,
My girlfriend and I recently applied for a one-year lease in NYC through a real estate firm. The broker, that was acting on behalf of the landlord, accepted our application, and asked us three days after our application if we could come on Friday to sign the lease. We let her know that Friday may not have worked, and after a back and forth between us, she suggested we come in to sign on Saturday. At this point, we ended our current lease, got our 5,000 ready for our big move, and declined the other apartment offers. We did not hear back from her for a few days, and then once we followed up with an updated time for the signing, she told us that the Landlord had to make a final decision, not specifying what the decision was for. About 20 minutes later, she told us that our application was denied, leaving us without an apartment/place to live only a day before the signing/move in date.
We then followed up with the broker, and she called back, she refused to speak with me, and hung up the phone. We then had to call her back and she only agreed to speak with my girlfriend, threatening us that if we take action against her we will have "made an enemy" (documented via voice recording). Again, we are at a point where we have no place to live, and would like to know what our legal options are.
Thank you for your time, hope to hear from you soon.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Hello Devin and thank you for using the Just Answer website. I look forward to assisting this evening. I'm sorry to hear about the situation you found yourself in. Being originally from NYC, i can certainly understand your frustration. In order to best assist you, let me just clarify a fact or two. Did you have anything in writing such as a lease or anything else guaranteeing you a place?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We had received an email stating to come sign the lease after viewing the apartment twice, submitting our application, and speaking to both the landlord and the broker together. We were then told by the broker that she would confirm the time of lease signing with the landlord, with no reference or inclusion that our application had been still up for review, or was in danger of being declined. At the point of asking us to come and sign the lease, we understood that we had gotten the apartment.
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Unfortunately, there is no written contract until the lease is actually signed. There is, however, a legal doctrine called detrimental reliance or equitable estoppel . Generally speaking, the elements of equitable estoppel are the following:

1) a promise reasonably expected by the promissor to induce action or forbearance,
2) action or forbearance by the promisee in justifiable reliance on the promise (i.e. “detrimental reliance”), and
3) injustice can be avoided only through enforcement of the promise.

Therefore, if you can show that you took certain actions (turning down other offers, for example) that caused you to have a loss due to your being led to believe that you had a contract, then you have a cause of action. It would probably be a small claims action unless your monetary losses are more significant.

Please let me know if this has answered your question.