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Cab Driver Uses Legal Loophole to Win Rent-Free Apartment for Life

An immigrant cab driver used the U.S. legal system to his advantage earlier this month and might wind up with a lifetime of free rent in one of the most expensive cities in the world because of it.

Manhattan Skyline with ReflectionsOltimdje Ouattara, a Taxi and Limousine Commission-licensed driver, used an obscure provision of New York City’s rent-stabilization law to secure a room at the Chelsea Highline Hotel completely for free, according to the New York Post.

Ouattara started renting a room in what was being run as an illegal hostel in Chelsea for $48 a night in August. He soon learned from recent similar cases that because the building was registered with the city for single-room occupancy, all he had to do was submit a written request to become a permanent tenant and his rent would be locked in for life.

Since the official listed rate of the room was $0, a judge decided that’s exactly the rate he would get for the rest of his life for an apartment that typically costs over $3,000 a month.

It’s unclear if Ouattara had an inventory of his possessions, as 52% of renters reported having in one National Association of Insurance Commissioners survey. Even if he did it certainly couldn’t have been very long, considering he had been living in a one-room Bronx apartment with five other people prior.

Manhattan Housing Court Justice Sabrina Kraus had no sympathy saying the Chelsea landlord should have been, “well aware of [his] obligations,” and in fact was visibly upset with him, according to reports. Apparently, the landlord had lost an almost identical case just weeks earlier.

The building owner, Chelsea Skybox LLC, has since closed down the hostel to avoid anymore such situations, but not before Ouattara was able to get his lease request in. Lawyers for Skybox have already filed a lawsuit against the city, state, and Ouattara. They claim that the housing laws used in this circumstance are “unconstitutional” and “tantamount to taking property without due process.”