New York Cabbie Uses Obscure Legal Loophole To Secure A Free Manhattan Apartment (And He Can Stay There For Life)
For many people, an apartment in New York City's Chelsea area is nothing more than a dream.
But one cabbie has managed to secure such a home for life - at no cost to himself.
Oltimdje Ouattara, a TLC-licensed driver, used an obscure legal loophole to score a free and permanent room at the Chelsea Highline Hotel, an illegal hostel at 184 11th Avenue in Manhattan.
Unbelievably, his rent is $0 a month - and he can stay in the apartment for as long as he likes.
Ouattara achieved the incredible deal via New York's Single Room Occupancy law, which allows people to become permanent tenants of such buildings by requesting leases of six months or more.
If their hotel or SRO falls within particular parameters, they can also benefit from rent stabilization.
The tenants have the right to remain in occupancy, regardless of whether the owner renews their lease, according to the law. They cannot be evicted unless the owner obtains a Court Order.
In Ouattara's case, he apparently began renting a room for $48 a night at the Chelsea Highline Hotel, a former SRO, in August before discovering he could become a permanent tenant there.
He filed a written request to be such a tenant and, therefore, have his rent stabilized until he dies.
Incredibly, Ouattara then discovered he would be able to live in his apartment, unit 201, for free - because it had no record with the state of New York, according to the New York Post.
Home: Ouattara's room is situated in the Chelsea Highline Hotel, an illegal hostel at 184 11th Ave, Manhattan
Cabbie: Ouattara (pictured) secured such an incredible deal via the Single Room Occupancy law, which allows people to become permanent tenants of such buildings by requesting leases of six months or more
This meant it was officially listed for $0 a month - a stark contrast to the thousands of dollars a month that tenants typically have to fork out if they wish to live in a pad in Chelsea.
Shortly after the cab driver submitted his request, the building's owner, Chelsea Skybox LLC, shut down the hostel in a bid to prevent any other customers from doing the same, the Post reports.
Real-estate developer John Leitersdorf and his partner John Jacobsen, who apparently run the company, also ejected Ouattara from his room, deeming the housing laws 'unconstitutional'.
Ouattara temporarily moved to The Bronx, where he reportedly shared a one-room apartment with five others, and sued Leitersdorf and Joacobsen for residency, according to Gothamist.
Similar case: Hamidou Guira (pictured) is also living in a room in the Chelsea Highline Hotel - in his case, for a mere $226 a month - after submitting a written request to become a permanent tenant under the housing laws
And now, a judge has sided with him.
Manhattan Housing Court Justice Sabrina Kraus agreed Ouattara's rent can stay at $0 a month.
She added that the landlord of the building should have been 'well aware of [his] obligations' because he had recently lost a similar case brought by Ouattara’s neighbor, Hamidou Guira.
Guira is also living in a room in the building - in his case, for a mere $226 a month - after submitting a written request to become a permanent tenant under the state's rent stabilization laws.
And four others in the property have also used the same legal loophole to their advantage.
Leitersdorf and Jacobson have now filed a lawsuit against Ouattara, the city and the state.
They claim the laws are 'tantamount to taking property without due process.