Landlord v. Tenant
DOH Violations: Mouse Droppings in Apartment Show Pest Harborage Violation
DOHMH issued a violation notice to landlord for failing to keep the premises free of pests and conditions conducive to pests. The issuing officer observed fresh mouse droppings in an apartment, on the kitchen window sill, inside the kitchen sink and cabinet, and on the floor along the baseboard in the living room. Landlord claimed that it didn't get notice of the complaint leading to placement of the violation. It had received two prior complaints from tenant regarding mice and had responded promptly. There were also no complaints noted on HPD's Web site. The ALJ ruled against landlord and fined it $300.
Landlord appealed and lost. Lack of notice wasn't a defense to the charge. Landlord was responsible for keeping the premises free from rodents and any conditions that caused them. There was no proof that landlord regularly had the apartment exterminated or that tenant had refused access to address the condition.
- 471 Vanderbilt Ave. Assoc. LLC: ECB App. No. 1101220 (4/26/12)
Landlord's Negligence: Child Severely Burned by Apartment's Uncovered Heat Riser
While prospective tenants visited an apartment they considered renting, their child ran over to an uncovered heat riser, grabbed it, and was unable to let go since fresh paint acted as a glue binding her hands to the pipe. The child suffered severe burns, and tenants sued landlord for negligence. Landlord asked the court to dismiss the case without a trial. Landlord claimed that it had no duty to insulate or regulate the pipes because the building was over 40 years old and predated the current building code. Landlord also argued that the child's actions weren't a foreseeable risk that was caused by landlord's claimed failure to insulate the pipes.
The court ruled against landlord. There were questions of fact that required a trial to determine whether landlord was obligated to insulate pipes that carried steam or hot water with temperatures above 165 degrees. And landlord may have a duty to protect prospective tenants from heat-related hazards of the pipe.
- Mora v. Cammbey's Realty: Index No. 10240/09, NYLJ No. 1202555576159 (Sup. Ct. Kings; 5/7/12)
Passing-On Apartments: Life Partner Proves Family Relationship with Deceased Tenant
Landlord sued to evict apartment occupant after rent-stabilized tenant died, claiming that he was a licensee who had no right to remain in the apartment. Occupant claimed that he was tenant's life partner entitled to succession rights. The court ruled for occupant after a trial. Tenant lived in the apartment from 1967 until her death in 2010. Occupant dated and lived with tenant during the 1980s, but moved out when they broke up in 1993. He then lived elsewhere and was at one point married to another woman. Tenant and occupant started dating again in 1998, and he moved back in with tenant in 2002. Landlord emphasized that occupant had left tenant, married another, didn't share money with tenant, and traveled during the last two years of tenant's life while she was critically ill. He also rented another apartment and most of his documents connected him with the other apartment. They also didn't commingle their finances.
However, it was clear that tenant and occupant were family to each other. Friends and neighbors credibly testified that they were a couple who lived together at tenant's apartment. Both occupant and his subtenant testified that occupant sublet his other apartment for the last eight years of tenant's life. He also cared for tenant during a severe depression that occurred during the last two years of her life. He also listed tenant's apartment as his address on tax returns from 2008 through 2010. Occupant proved his long-term relationship with tenant and that they regularly engaged in family-type activities, shared holidays and celebrations, and held themselves out as family to society.
- WSC Riverside Drive Owners LLC v. Williams: Index No. 55954/2011, 2012 NY Slip Op 50995(U), 2012 WL 2005605 (Civ. Ct. NY; 5/30/12)
Renewal Leases: Landlord Can't Deem Renewal Lease for Holdover Tenant
Rent-stabilized tenant's initial lease ran for one year, expiring on April 30, 2004. Landlord offered tenant a timely renewal lease, which tenant failed to sign. Tenant then remained in the apartment until Oct. 6, 2004, and paid the rent increase cited in the renewal offer. After tenant moved out, landlord sued tenant for the remainder of the rent due under a deemed one-year lease that landlord claimed started on May 1, 2004. The court ruled for landlord.
Tenant appealed and won. The next appellate court gave landlord permission to appeal and again denied any judgment for rent to landlord. Real Property Law (RPL) Section 232-c states that landlord has the option of treating tenant as a month-to-month tenant after a lease expires. The statute abolished an earlier common law rule that a holdover tenant could be held as a tenant for a new term. While Rent Stabilization Code Section 2523.5(c)(2) permits landlords to deem a renewal lease when tenant fails to sign the renewal, it's invalid to the extent that it impairs a right granted to tenants by RPL Section 232-c.
Landlord then asked the appeals court for permission to reargue its appeal or, alternatively, for permission to appeal to New York's highest court. RSA and CHIP, two landlord advocacy organizations, also filed separate motions in support of landlord's position. The appeals court again ruled against landlord. Landlord can't deem the prior lease renewed solely by virtue of the fact that tenant remained in the apartment after the expiration of the lease.
- Samson Management LLC v. Hubert: NYLJ, 5/21/12, p. 22, col. 4 (App. Div. 2 Dept.)
Rent Reduction Ordered: Rent Reduced for Missing Terrace Awning Covering
Yonkers rent-stabilized tenant complained of a reduction in services after landlord failed to replace a missing terrace awning covering that was blown away during a storm. The DRA ruled for tenant and reduced her rent.
Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord claimed that the terrace awning was tenant's property, so landlord wasn't responsible for replacing it. Landlord pointed out that the initial 1984 registration (RR-1) form for tenant's apartment didn't list the awning as an apartment service or equipment. Landlord's contractor also submitted a letter indicating that installation of an awning wasn't recommended since it could impede snow removal and otherwise cause wear and tear to the building. Tenant claimed that the awning was there when she moved into the apartment in December 1974 and that the exact same awning was found on the opposite end of the building. The DHCR noted that the absence of any reference to the awning on the RR-1 form didn't preclude tenant from showing that the awning was installed at some time by landlord and therefore became a required service. DHCR inspection also showed that two other awnings outside top-floor apartments had the exact same frame and bracket as one that remained outside tenant's window after the awning blew away. Landlord didn't claim that the other awnings were installed by tenants.
- S. Garson, LLC: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZE910001RO (4/3/12)
Tenant Nuisances: Tenant Refused Access for Bedbug Extermination
Landlord sued to evict tenant for objectionable conduct after tenant refused to allow access for the treatment of a bedbug condition in her apartment. The court ruled for landlord. Tenant appealed and lost. Landlord proved not only that tenant failed to provide access, but that she failed to cure this breach of her lease when given notice to do so or face eviction. Although tenant eventually permitted access, she didn't prepare the apartment so that the exterminators could do their work. And although tenant claimed retaliatory eviction, there was no proof of this and proceedings based on tenant's violation of her lease terms were exempt from the presumption of retaliation under Real Property Law Section 223-b.
- London Terrace Assocs. v. Perykaz: NYLJ, 5/11/12, p. 27, col. 4 (App. T. 2 Dept.)