'The Rent Is Too Damn High' Guy Gets Eviction Notice

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on January 28, 2015 9:00 AM

In 2010, New York resident Jimmy McMillan ran for mayor on the platform that "the rent is too damn high." He didn't win that election, but he did become one of the Internet's most popular memes, along with his Franz Josef beard and ubiquitous gloves.

It looks like McMillan won't have to worry about his rent anymore. Earlier this week, he was evicted from his rent-stabilized apartment in New York's artsy East Village, the New York Daily News reports.

The Rent Is Actually Really Low

We were really tempted to make this about the rent being too high, but that apparently had nothing to do with McMillan's eviction. Since 2011, he's been embroiled in a legal battle with his landlord. The landlord, of course, has an economic reason to want McMillan out. A cursory Google search shows that the market rate for a one-bedroom apartment in the East Village is at least $2,300.

The landlord claimed that the one-bedroom East Village apartment, for which McMillan was paying only $872 a month, wasn't McMillan's primary residence. The landlord insisted that McMillan really lived in Brooklyn and that his 32-year-old son was the person living in the East Village. McMillan didn't disagree that he also owned an apartment in Brooklyn; however, he claimed he used that space as an office.

McMillan apparently pays nothing to rent the Brooklyn apartment. According to The New York Times, he's performed maintenance work in lieu of paying rent since the 1980s.

The 'Primary Residence' Excuse

In New York City, a landlord can refuse to renew a lease on the ground that the tenant isn't using the leased unit as his or her "primary residence." A landlord has to give the tenant a notice that he intends not to renew the lease at least three months before the lease expires, but no earlier than five months before the lease expires. If the tenant stays after the lease expires, then he's a "holdover tenant" and the landlord can start eviction proceedings.

A landlord can't unilaterally determine that a tenant isn't using a unit as his primary residence, though. A court has to first make that determination -- which it may have already done in order for the eviction order to be issued.

The "primary residence" excuse is apparently a popular reason for landlords to evict tenants -- especially those living in rent-controlled apartments in high-demand areas. Those could easily be re-rented to new tenants at much higher rates, which is what McMillan says is happening.

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