Venue is NYC/New York State/US.

The Situation:

Landlord's real estate agent shows an apartment to Bob. Bob likes the apartment, puts down a deposit, submits an application. Application is approved, Bob signs the lease for move in on a certain day, and pays first months rent and security deposit by certified check.

Move in day comes, and the landlord/real estate agent doesn't show up to give keys to Bob. Bob has to do an emergency month-long rental extension to avoid being homeless. After probing, the real estate agent first says that the keys will be available in a few days, and later in the week says that the landlord hasn't signed the lease, but nor has he said that he is not going to sign the lease, and in fact is unreachable, after having told the agent that he is getting cold feet about the rental.

Bob rents another apartment and moves in a week later, paying two rents for most of the month.

The Question:

Bob would like to recover the fee three weeks of his emergency rental extension where he is paying both for the old apartment and the new apartment. Is it likely for this to succeed, whether in small claims court or in a civil action with a lawyer?


I haven't been able to find anything quite on point for this situation - everything I can find is about recovering rent when the apartment is rendered uninhabitable. Haven't been able to find anything about this odd little situation. The agent had never seen a landlord he was working for refuse to talk to him, so he had little insight.

1 Answer 1


If there is a contract, Bob is entitled to damages

There probably is a contract in this case - the landlord (through their agent) has made an unambiguous offer which Bob has accepted by signing the lease. The contract comes into effect with Bob’s acceptance irrespective of if the landlord has (or ever does) sign it. If the agent has acted without the landlord’s authority that is a matter between them - the landlord is in a binding contract with Bob by virtue of the agency doctrine.

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