Ask Sam: My apartment was advertised as having a washer-dryer but there isn't one. What can I do?
My apartment was advertised as having an in-unit washer-dryer, but when I moved in, that turned out not to be the case, and after several months, the appliances still have not been delivered. My landlord and real estate agent say that everything is on back order and we have to wait. A washer-dryer isn’t mentioned in the lease. Is there anything I can do?
As a general rule, your rental lease governs the details of your living situation, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer with the firm Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.
“The whole point of a contract is to finalize what was negotiated in advance,” Himmelstein says. “Whatever has been discussed should be merged into the final document. That’s why it’s really important to read a lease carefully before you sign it, in order to ensure that everything that was promised to you is explicitly set forth in the lease.”
Without language specifying that your lease includes an in-unit washer-dryer, you may have little recourse other than to continue checking in with your landlord and wait for it to turn up.
Another factor that might be at play here: There are currently long delays in appliance delivery due to pandemic shortages across the country.
Still, on the other hand, if you can prove you were induced to sign your lease based on a fraudulent representation, you might have grounds to sue.
“You can’t get out of the lease, necessarily, or deduct laundry expenses from your rent, but you might be able to sue for damages,” Himmelstein says. “If fraudulent representations were made by a broker and/or a landlord, you might have a claim.”
Complaint against brokers must be filed with the Secretary of State; to sue for damages against the broker or the landlord, you’ll likely need to go to small claims court. If you choose to take this route, estimate what it costs you to not have the appliance you were promised. Damages would be the cost of paying to use a laundromat, which over the course of your lease would likely only amount to a sum in the hundreds of dollars.
"For claims under $10,000, you’d go to small claims court,” Himmelstein says. (For sums between $10,000 and $25,000, the case would be handled by civil court; for sums over $25,000, you would go to the state Supreme Court.)
Note that tenants in rent-stabilized apartments can file a reduction of services complaint when a service that was present when they moved in—like elevators, functioning washer-dryers, a gym or laundry room and other services—is no longer available.
But in your case, even if you’re a stabilized tenant, this likely does not apply.
“Reduction of services means the same level of services you had when you moved in have to be maintained,” Himmelstein explains.
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Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.