Landlord v. Tenant
Discrimination: Landlord Discriminated Against Wheelchair-Bound Tenant
Disabled tenants, a couple, complained to the local Human Rights Commission (HRC) about landlord's disability discrimination. Tenants said that landlord refused to accommodate their disabilities, repeatedly stating that he wouldn't have rented to them had he known that one tenant used a wheelchair and that he would evict them if they continued to complain. The HRC ruled for tenants and ordered landlord to pay $9,500 in compensatory damages, $5,000 in punitive damages, a $10,000 civil penalty, and attorney's fees of $12,700.
Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord claimed that the HRC couldn't impose punitive damages or civil penalties. But the Westchester County Fair Housing Law authorized the agency to do so. And the other damages were supported by substantial evidence. Tenants credibly testified that landlord's refusal to install an adequate ramp caused irreparable damage to tenant's wheelchair, which had to be replaced at a cost of $7,000. Both tenants testified in detail about the inconvenience and stress they suffered as a result of landlord's conduct.
Mukattash v. Human Rights Commission of Westchester County: NYLJ, 7/9/12, p. 20, col. 5 (App. Div. 2 Dept.)
DOB Violations: Landlord Didn't Register Boiler
DOB issued violation notices to landlord for failing to register the boilers for an apartment building. The inspector stated that the boilers were installed without a permit and that at the time of inspection they were still unregistered. Landlord claimed that its boilers were exempt from registration and annual inspection requirements because they were each under 100,000 BTUs and each serviced only a single apartment. The ALJ ruled against landlord and fined it $30,000.
Landlord appealed and lost. Because landlord didn't register the 12 boilers as DOB required, it didn't maintain them in good working order, and therefore had violated Building Code Section 28-301.1. Mechanical Code (MC) Section 1011.1 requires a new boiler to undergo inspections and tests in order to receive a DOB sign-off of the boiler installation job and a certificate of compliance. Upon sign-off, the new boiler receives a boiler registration number that shows that the boiler is safe to operate and is in good working order. Although MC Section 1011.1 exempts boilers of less than 350,000 BTUs, the exemption is expressly limited to buildings with fewer than six apartments and reasonably doesn't apply to low-pressure boilers in multiple dwellings with more than six families because it would pose a serious threat to public safety.
Yaakov Henry Realty LLC: ECB App. No. 1200005 (6/28/12)
DOS Violations: Violation Issued at Improper Time
DOS issued a violation notice to landlord for having a dirty sidewalk. The notice stated that loose debris was found in front of the building between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Landlord argued that the ground-floor commercial tenant didn't open its store until 10 a.m. and that no violation should have been issued before that time. The ALJ ruled against landlord and fined it $100. Landlord appealed and won. The commercial tenant was responsible for cleaning the sidewalk. DOS had posted a notice on the building stating that inspections would occur during commercial routing hours between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., and between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. ECB ruled for landlord and revoked the fine. DOS violated its own enforcement policy for mixed-use buildings by issuing the violation early in the day.
Lee's 545 Realty, Inc.: ECB App. No. 1200354 (6/28/12)
Primary Residence: Tenant Permanently Relocated to Assisted Living Facility
Landlord sued to evict rent-controlled tenant for nonprimary residence. The trial court ruled for landlord. Tenant appealed and lost. Landlord showed that tenant had lived in a Westchester County assisted living facility since 2005 and didn't intend to return to the apartment. Tenant received all her mail at the facility, and listed that address on her financial documents, including pension checks, bank statements, and tax returns. She also removed all her belongings from the apartment and visited only a few times in four years for family events. She never stayed overnight. During tenant's prolonged absence, the apartment was used for storage by tenant's brother, who paid the rent and utilities. Tenant's relocation wasn't a temporary, excusable absence but an abandonment of the apartment as her primary residence.
Manhattan Transfer, LP v. Quon: NYLJ, 7/30/12, p. 18, col. 1 (App. T. 1 Dept.)
Procedure—DHCR: Landlord Didn't Attach ICF to Deregulation Application
Landlord applied for high-rent/high-income deregulation of tenant's apartment in 2011. The DRA dismissed the application because landlord failed to attach a copy of the Income Certification Form (ICF) to the filed application. This was required by Rent Stabilization Code Section 2531.3.
Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord argued that it generally did attach the ICF, but that failure to do so didn't violate the Rent Stabilization Code. But landlord was incorrect. The Rent Stabilization Law and Code required landlord to deliver a copy of the ICF to tenant by May 1, and then file its deregulation application by June 30. Landlord was required to attach the ICF to show that it properly complied with this prerequisite. DHCR instructions also specified that the ICF should be attached to the application form. Landlord also claimed that the DHCR should have notified him of the missing ICF. But the DHCR will reject a defective petition without prejudice and advise landlord that it may refile only if the defective application is filed by June 15. Landlord didn't file its application until June 27, so there was no time to correct the defect.
200 West 58th St. LLC: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZI410042RO (6/3/12)
Renewal Leases: No Lease in Effect When Nonrenewal Notice Sent
Landlord sued to evict rent-stabilized tenant for nonprimary residence after landlord sent tenant a lease nonrenewal notice stating that tenant's current lease expired on Nov. 30, 2008. The court dismissed the case after a trial, finding that the nonrenewal notice was premature. The last written renewal lease signed by landlord and tenant expired on Nov. 30, 2007. Landlord claimed that he then deemed the lease renewed for one year, which ended on Nov. 30, 2008, after tenant failed to sign a timely renewal lease offer sent in July 2007. Tenant claimed that he signed and returned the renewal offer in 2007 and chose a two-year renewal term, not one year. The court believed landlord's testimony that tenant hadn't returned a signed renewal in 2007. But, while landlord then was permitted to deem a renewal lease, it was improper to deem the renewal for one year, because tenant's original lease and all prior renewals had been for two-year terms.
Landlord appealed and lost, although the appeals court based its decision on a different reason. The appeals court found that Rent Stabilization Code Section 2523.5(c)(2) concerning deemed leases was invalid to the extent that it conflicted with Real Property Law Section 232-c. Landlord can't deem the prior lease renewed solely because tenant remained in possession after the prior lease expired.
Weiss v. Straw: 36 Misc. 3d 139(A), 2012 NY Slip Op 51452(U) (App. T. 2 Dept.)
Rent Stabilization Coverage: Building Is Part of Horizontal Multiple Dwelling
Tenant complained of a rent overcharge. Landlord claimed that the building wasn't rent stabilized. The DRA ruled for tenant, finding that the building was part of a horizontal multiple dwelling and therefore subject to rent stabilization.
Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord claimed that a front building built in 1906 was a seven-unit tenement building, but that the back building where tenant lived was built in 1900 as a two-family dwelling. Landlord also claimed that DOB listed the buildings as two separate dwellings. A property next door also had the same configuration and had been determined to be two separate structures. But tenant couldn't enter her apartment from the street. She must first enter the front building, then cross a yard to get access. The two buildings had been managed by the same person for at least 20 years. The two buildings also shared the same boiler, a single water main line, and common gas and lighting systems. How the property next door was treated was unrelated to whether landlord's building was a horizontal multiple dwelling.
Musovic: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZG610019RO (6/23/12)