Landlord v. Tenant
Landlord's Negligence: Tenant Attacked and Robbed in Building
Tenant sued landlord for negligence after she was attacked and robbed in landlord's building. Landlord claimed that it wasn't responsible because the attack wasn't foreseeable, and asked the court to dismiss the case without a trial. The court ruled against landlord.
Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord had a common-law duty to take minimal security precautions to protect tenants and the public from foreseeable criminal activity. Tenants in the building had complained of continuously broken locks on the exterior doors of the building. They said that, despite these complaints, the locks weren't repaired. Police reports and other published accounts showed there was prior violent criminal activity near the building, including attacks on female tenants by persons who gained access to the buildings. Landlord claimed that the attack on tenant wasn't like the prior attacks in the area, but the fact that this crime may be somewhat different from some other crimes didn't mean it wasn't foreseeable. A trial was needed to determine if landlord was responsible.
- Ungruhe v. Blake-Riv Realty LLC: NYLJ, 12/15/11, p. 24, col. 5 (App. Div. 1 Dept.)
MCIs: Courtyard Concrete Replacement Done in Piecemeal Fashion
Landlord applied for MCI rent hikes based on the replacement of concrete in the building's courtyard and walkways. The DRA ruled against landlord because the work was done on a piecemeal basis and some of it was done outside the property lines. Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord claimed that the work was done as a unified project, in phases. Landlord's first contractor went out of business before completing the job, causing an interruption in the work. But the original contract was only for the resurfacing of the courtyard in the back of the building. Landlord's diagram showed that the entire original area within the property lines wasn't completely resurfaced. The additional work in the front of the building wasn't contracted for until landlord's application for the back work was denied. Landlord couldn't claim mere delay since the back courtyard work was completed per contract in November 2006, while work on the walkways didn't start until June 2007 under a second contract. There was no indication of a unified plan for the work now claimed to be one project.
- 90-10 149 St.: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. YL110012RP (11/3/11)
Passing on Apartments: Daughter Can't Get Rent-Stabilized Apartment
Landlord sued to evict rent-stabilized tenants for nonprimary residence. Tenants had moved to Florida, but tenants' daughter claimed pass-on rights. Landlord claimed that there was no issue requiring a trial and asked the court to grant possession. The court ruled against landlord, who appealed and won. Tenants had moved to Florida a number of years earlier but didn't permanently vacate the apartment until, at best, April 1, 2009. At that time they notified landlord that they had vacated and surrendered the apartment. There was no proof that the daughter lived with tenants in the apartment during the two-year period immediately before tenants' surrender. So the daughter can't claim succession. The fact that the daughter may on occasion have paid rent in her own name during tenants' extended absence from the apartment didn't, by itself, raise an issue of fact requiring a trial, especially since tenants continued to make rent payments while they were living in Florida.
- Manhattan Mansions LP v. Garvey: 2011 NY Slip Op 52339(U), 2011 WL 6819197 (App. T. 1 Dept.)
Procedure—Court: Tenant Can't Sue for Unlawful Eviction in Federal Court
Tenant sued landlord, landlords' attorneys, and a housing court judge for wrongful eviction a year after he was evicted. He also claimed that his property was damaged when removed and that the landlord kept the interest on his security deposit.
The court dismissed the case. Landlord had sued to evict the 84-year-old tenant based on the apartment's filthy condition and serious roach and bedbug infestation. The housing court ruled for landlord after a trial. Execution on the eviction warrant was postponed several times based on tenant's claim that he would clean the apartment and to allow Adult Protective Services to intervene. Eviction eventually went forward. Tenant didn't claim that he appealed. Tenant then filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights, claiming that he was evicted due to racial discrimination. That case was dismissed, and there was no appeal.
The case against the housing court judge was dismissed outright as judges have absolute immunity for acts performed in their judicial capacities. In addition, the federal court wasn't authorized to hear landlord-tenant claims covered by New York State housing law. Tenant should have appealed the housing court decision if he wished to contest the ruling. It also was improper for tenant, having lost in state court, to seek review of that court's actions by a federal court.
- Matthews v. LandB Realty Assocs., Inc.: Index No. 11-CV-4989, 2011 WL 6136028 (EDNY; 12/9/11)
Rent Overcharge: Fraud Claim Triggers Review of Earlier Rent History
Tenant complained of a rent overcharge in 2008. His September 2001 rent was $3,000 per month, while the April 2001 registered rent was $1,515. Before that, the apartment had been rent controlled until 1999. Tenant questioned how the rent could have increased so much. The DRA ruled against tenant and dismissed the case because tenant's rent was more than $2,000 on the base date four years before tenant's complaint was filed, and therefore, the apartment was deregulated. Tenant appealed. The DHCR denied tenant's PAR. Tenant then filed a court appeal, and the case was sent back to the DHCR for further consideration.
The DHCR found that the facts suggested fraud. There was a substantial increase in the 2001 rent, no individual apartment improvements were made that year during vacancy, landlord didn't inform tenant that the apartment had been previously rent regulated, and landlord made a vague claim that a prior tenant briefly occupied the apartment before tenant moved in. So there was a possibility of fraud that would justify examination of the rental history earlier than the four-year limitation period. The case was sent back to the DRA for investigation.
- Sanchez: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZA410005RP (11/10/11)
Rent Stabilization Coverage: Tenant's Primary Residence Irrelevant to Deregulation
Landlord applied for high-rent/high-income deregulation of tenants' apartment in 2009. Tenants claimed that their household income was below the $175,000 deregulation threshold in both 2007 and 2008. The DRA ruled for landlord after DTF records showed that tenants' household income was more than $175,000 during the relevant period.
Tenants, a husband and wife, appealed and lost. They claimed that the husband's primary residence was in Connecticut, so his income didn't count toward the annual household income. But tenants misinterpreted the law. Rent Stabilization Law Section 2531.1(b) provides that the annual income of all tenants “who occupy” an apartment will be considered. In addition, the income of all other occupants who live in an apartment “as their primary residence” will be considered. DHCR Operational Bulletin 95-3 further defines the relevant total annual household income to include that of all tenants named on the lease who occupy an apartment “whether or not as their primary residence.” Tenants' apartment was properly deregulated.
- Fitzgerald: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZE410012RT (11/17/11)