How this couple managed to avoid paying rent for six years and counting

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THIS couple found a way to make living in New York affordable: just stop paying rent.

Digital content producers Zachary Bennett and Karen Nourse have not paid a cent for their Chelsea loft in more than six years, relying on a bizarre law to back their claim that they shouldnt have to, the New York Post reports.

According to legal documents, the pair quit paying the $6504.34 ($US4,754.02) monthly rent on their West 26th Street place back in 2010, according to a lawsuit.

They owe $560,952 ($US410,000) in rent and electric charges, their landlord claims.

Theirs is the only residential loft in the nine-story building, where other units house art galleries or businesses.

The couple were month-to-month tenants before June 2010, when the state of New York expanded the Loft Law, which is intended to protect people whose apartments are in mostly commercial or industrial buildings.

Mr Bennett and Ms Nourse, who have two children and run a video content company called KZ Films, claim they dont have to pay rent because the building doesnt have a residential certificate of occupancy, according to court papers.

This building does not comply with the Loft Law, said their lawyer, Margaret Sandercock. The owner is not entitled to collect rent and my clients are not required to pay rent.

It has been 80 months since the two paid rent or electric charges, the landlord said in its Manhattan Supreme Court filing against the couple.

The Loft Law applies to buildings with at least three residential tenants but Bennett and Nourse are in the buildings only non-commercial unit, said Harry Shapiro, the landlords lawyer.

If the couple wont pay, they need to leave, Mr Shapiro told The Post.

They can stay if they pay, he said, adding, The unit is legal ... We really dont want to evict them. We just want them to pay the rent. Theyre getting all the services but the landlord got zippo.

Mr Bennett and Ms Nourses building is in a special district that requires only two or more residential units for a building to be covered by the Loft Law, said Ms Sandercock. She claimed that at the time the law was changed, there were other residential tenants living there.

For the building to be safe and legal for them to live in, the law requires the landlord to have a residential certificate of occupancy, she said, adding that the landlord had not made any move to get the document.

The lawyer insisted the building is unsafe, but defended her clients choice to stay for years rent-free with a young family.

Theyre entitled to be there, she said.

This article first appeared at the New York Post and is reproduced here with permission.

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