I have a sticky situation here:
Late November last year, I came across this advert for a sublet apartment, made a call to the number provided and it was a guy lets call him James. He told me the apartment would be available from the 1st Dec 2011. So since I was desperate, I showed a lot of interest in it and told him i want a place for a long time. He agreed to show me the apartment and I liked it, So I said I would take it. During the visit, he let me know that the apartment's original tenant is his sister ( lets call her Susan) who is out of the country for an unknown period of time, so he is taking care of subletting it on her behalf i.e finding a good tenant, conducting the visits, repairs, etc.
Before moving in on the 1st of December 2011, James came with a simple drafted contract that said how much the apartment would be, how much deposit I've payed, and the contract stated it was for 3 months ending on 29th Feb 2012, to be renewed if we agreed. Some vital details were missing from the contract like the address, actual tenants name (Susan) and details of the apartment. In fact it said that I am renting the apartment from James himself. However, we were doing the signing outside on a cold night and I didn't notice all these details were missing from the contract until later.
So I moved in and got stern warnings from James about not disturbing the neighbours, not inviting friends and all this but I just thought it was the usual tenant rules. I also couldn't put my name on the mailbox and had to receive my letters under the original tenant (Susan's) care. Which again, I did't see any problem with. I should also say that I felt very lucky to have finally found an apartment after all the trouble I had gone through searching so I didn't care about all these small details and rules I was being given.
When the indicated day of the end of the contract neared, I got a call from James saying that his sister has postponed her returning, so I can stay longer which was of course, to my relief. It didn't cross my mind to ask for a proper contract extension. I should also mention that James collects the rent from me every month in cash and its usually a handshake exchange with no receipt or documentation. Maybe I gave James too much trust since he seemed to be concerned about helping me get this place in the beginning so I was very naive.
Now months have gone by and Im still living there without a contract and I asked him the other day to sign a contract but he brushed it off and said there is no problem and that it was unnecessary. I couldn't insist because I don't speak french very well so I was like ok but a little puzzled. About his sister Susan, its occurring to me that she may not come back and since I realised that I am in an illegal sublet, they are using this apartment to make money off helpless foreigners. I should also mention that I recently learnt that the actual rent of this apartment is way lower than what I pay to James.
My problem is that I have been looking for an apartment for so long now so that I can get out of here but I haven't been successful. I also don't want James and his sister to know that I am suspicious of them since they can do something like run away with my deposit or take my stuff especially becuse I don't have any proof that I rent this place.....I know it sound panicky but I have to be very careful. Also because I have never met this Susan who is the actual tenant. My instinct tells me that they have been doing this for a while and that Susan will never come back, but she wants to benefit from the extra money and she doesn't want to release the apartment to the regie.
I know there is ASLOCA but how can they help me without any proof and especially for an illegal sublet ? I would be interested in keeping the apartment but whats the best way to go about it?
Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your suggestions.