Landlord v. Tenant: December 2016
Landlord Responsible for Exterminating Bedbugs in Tenants' Apartment
Tenants sued landlord for negligence, claiming that landlord never eradicated a bedbug infestation in their apartment that began in 2012. Landlord claimed that it wasn’t responsible for the conditions in tenants’ apartment. The court ruled for tenants after a jury trial, and granted tenants’ request to direct a verdict on the issue of landlord’s liability for failing to eradicate the bedbugs, despite efforts to do so. The law makes eradication of bedbugs in a tenant’s apartment the obligation of the landlord, and this can’t be waived.
- Aponte v. NYCHA: 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 26334, 2016 WL 5952723 (Sup. Ct. Richmond; 10/13/16)
Landlord Proves Rent-Controlled Tenant Primarily Resided in South Carolina
Landlord sued to evict rent-controlled tenant for nonprimary residence and claimed that tenant primarily resided in South Carolina. The trial court ruled for landlord. Tenant appealed and lost. Landlord presented proof that, over a three and a half-year period, tenant wasn’t using the apartment as her primary residence. Tenant had purchased property in South Carolina, her bank statements showed that she had been living in Charleston most of the time, her initial 2008 New York State tax return didn’t list New York as her place of residence, her car insurance and registration were in South Carolina, her 2007 and 2008 tax returns were prepared in South Carolina, and she sent rent to landlord in envelopes postmarked from South Carolina for a number of months. The trial court properly found that tenant wasn’t using the Brooklyn apartment in an ongoing and substantial manner consistent with physically living at the apartment.
- Johnson v. Smith: 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 51562(U), 2016 WL 6304991 (App. T. 2 Dept.; 10/21/16)
DHCR Can't Add Guideline Rent Increases After Setting Rent Using Default Method
Tenant complained of rent overcharge. The DHCR ruled for tenant but found no willful overcharge and granted landlord Rent Guidelines Board increases in calculating the rent during the period of overcharge. The DHCR also applied the default method to determine tenant’s base date rent and denied landlord’s claim that tenant waited too long to claim rent overcharge.
Landlord appealed and lost. The court upheld the DHCR’s finding that the inclusion of a fraudulent nonprimary residence rider in tenant’s initial lease was a legal nullity and required that the base date rent, for purposes of calculating a rent overcharge, be set by using the default method.
Landlord appealed and won in part. The appeals court found that the court correctly upheld use of the default method and correctly denied triple damages. Landlord, who bought the building 12 years after tenant moved in, couldn’t reasonably be deemed to have been aware of the overcharge. But the appeals court found that the DHCR improperly added rent increases to the base date rent after using the default method. The DHCR didn’t have the discretion to do this. Rent Stabilization Code Section 2528.4 provides that a landlord who filed an improper rent registration is barred from collecting rent in excess of the base date rent and is retroactively relieved of that penalty upon filing a proper registration only when “increases in the legal regulated rent were lawful except for the failure to file a timely registration.” The case was sent back to the DHCR for further calculation of the rent overcharge.
- 215 W 88th Street Holdings LLC v. DHCR: 2016 N.Y. Slip Op 07096, 2016 WL 6271042 (App. Div. 1 Dept.; 10/27/16)
Tenant Entitled to Return of Commingled Security Deposit Despite Breach of Lease
Tenant sued landlord and prior landlord for recovery of his security deposit. The court ruled against tenant, who appealed and won. Landlord’s failure to give tenant written notice of what bank held tenant’s security deposit permitted an inference of commingling of the security deposit at the time of tenant’s lease expiration. Landlord didn’t rebut this inference, so tenant was entitled to immediate return of the deposit even though he may have breached his lease.
- Milkie v. Guzzone: 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 06806, 2016 WL 6089194 (App. Div. 2 Dept.; 10/19/16)