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My landlord threatens to keep my security if I don't manage apartment showings. Is this legal?

Refusing to give brokers access to your apartment at all hours is not grounds for withholding your security deposit.

Mimi O'Connor for Brick Underground/Flickr

 

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Question:

My landlord requires me to manage all showings to prospective renters. Our lease requires us to provide access to brokers, which I do, but I am being forced to handle communications with every single broker, sometimes upwards of 10 requests a day to see the unit. Periodically, my landlord texts me, saying that he is getting complaints from brokers and if I do not comply he will withhold my security deposit, and give out the keys so brokers can come and go as needed. It's really hard with my day job! The brokers run late, cancel, or don't show up. It it legal for the landlord to keep my security deposit, or even put me in this situation?

Answer:

It is legal for your landlord to ask you to provide access to brokers, but this situation is pushing the boundaries of what's reasonable, our experts say.

"Typically, leases have a clause that says in the last month, the tenant will provide access to the landlord and brokers for showing the apartment," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and is a Brick sponsor). "But everything has a reasonableness standard to it, and this is unreasonable." 

Check your lease to see exactly what the language is around apartment showings. Then, consider having a one-on-one conversation with your landlord and explaining your position.

"Perhaps a call or a letter from the tenant to the landlord is needed to explain his/her willingness to cooperate but within reason and at reasonable hours," says Dennis R. Hughes, a broker with Corcoran. "A tenant should not have to quit their day job to accommodate showing schedules and hopefully a message to this effect will make the landlord more sympathetic." 

Ideally, you'll work out an arrangement in which you're given advance notice of appointments, and the visits are grouped together on specific days so that you're not constantly required to be at home. If your landlord is unwilling to compromise with you on this, consider referring the brokers to him. 

"You could write back to the brokers telling them to speak to the landlord, because you're not giving access to the apartment under these circumstances. You certainly don't have to hand over your keys—that's supposed to be only for emergencies," Himmelstein says. 

As for your security deposit question, refusing to give brokers access to your apartment at all hours is not grounds for withholding it. If you're concerned your landlord might refuse to return your deposit, you could use it as your last month's rent. 

"Even though you're technically not supposed to use your security deposit for the last month's rent, I might do it, because the landlord is threatening to act illegally," Himmelstein says. "And by the time the landlord could do anything about it, the tenant will be gone." 

One silver lining to this frustrating situation: The fact that there are so many showings of your apartment suggest it's a great find, and will probably get a new tenant soon. 

"It seems from the volume of showings as described, the apartment is desirable," Hughes says. "The good news is it should rent quickly, thus putting an end to further disruptions of your normal every day schedule." 


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