Landlord v. Tenant: February 2021
Court Issues Eviction Warrant Under DRP 213 for Pre-Pandemic Case
Landlord sued to evict tenant for nonpayment of rent in October 2019. Landlord and tenant, represented by an attorney, signed a settlement agreement in December 2019. Tenant agreed to pay back rent due, and landlord agreed to make certain repairs. Landlord later sought a judgment and warrant based on tenant’s default. By further agreement, a judgment was entered for landlord, but no warrant was issued and tenant agreed to pay back rent owed.
Landlord later requested an order directing issuance of the eviction warrant because tenant still owed $15,000 through September 2020. Tenant claimed that landlord’s request was improper because it failed to indicate when the motion would be heard by the court, in violation by CPLR Section 2214(a).
The court ruled against tenant and explained its current procedures. On March 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency and, since then, had issued several Executive Orders (EOs) relating to management of eviction proceedings in NY courts. In addition, court directive (DRP) number 213, titled “Management of Pre-Pandemic Eviction Proceedings in the NYC Civil Court,” took effect on Aug. 12, 2020. DRP 213 specifically provided that it was anticipated that motions made under the directive would be heard remotely by the court and were noticed for a time and date to be determined in the future in order to allow the court to schedule the proceedings virtually given the limitations imposed on in-person appearances.
The court sent a letter to each party informing them about the specific date on which the motion would be heard. The notice also provided a telephone number to call for further details and/or questions as well as a telephone number to connect to counsel. Once the motion was scheduled, if a party didn’t appear, the motion would be adjourned and a second letter would be mailed to the parties with a specific date and time for the next conference with a warning that a default could be entered if the party once again didn’t appear.
So in this case, as in others at this time, the court balanced the provisions of CPLR 2214(a) with those of CPLR Section 104, which provided that court rules be liberally interpreted to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every court proceeding. Landlord in this case made its motion request returnable to the location of the court, the room number and part, but left the date to be determined by the court. Landlord properly filed the motion through the Electronic Document Delivery System (EDDS) in September 2020, and the court sent letters to tenant and attorneys for both sides on Oct. 21, telling them that the motion was calendared for Nov. 13, 2020. Landlord’s request for issuance of a warrant was granted under DRP 213(1)(A).
- 911 LLC v. Rivera: Index No. L&T44384/19, 2020 NY Slip Op 20310 (Civ. Ct. Bronx; 11/18/20)
Virtual Trial Doesn’t Deny Tenants Due Process
Landlord sued to evict rent-stabilized tenant for nonpayment of rent in 2017. Other apartment occupants responded, claiming that they were the rightful tenants. They also claimed rent overcharge and that the monthly rent should be reduced from $2,100 to $1,450. After eight adjournments, including a six-month delay to permit pretrial questioning, the case was sent to a trial part in early March 2020 and the court scheduled a conference for March 28. That was cancelled due to the court lockdown on March 17, 2020, in response to the COVID pandemic.
When the courts reopened several months later, a virtual pretrial conference was held in September 2020 and a trial was scheduled for Oct. 13. Both sides were represented by attorneys. This was adjourned to Nov. 24 and Dec. 2 based on one occupant’s health issues.
The occupants then asked the court for an indefinite delay of the proceedings under CPLR Section 2201. They argued that the virtual trial scheduled by the court violated their due process rights because: (a) one occupant had a smart phone but no computer or home Internet access; (b) one occupant claimed language access problems based on difficulties understanding the court interpreter during a prior virtual conference; and (c) social distancing requirements and occupants’ health conditions prevented meaningful trial preparation.
The court ruled against occupants but did permit a delay until January 2021 to proceed with trial. Given the ongoing pandemic, courts have concluded that it’s preferable to conduct virtual trials than to delay proceedings indefinitely. This case was already three years old and was scheduled to begin trial before the COVID shutdown in March 2020. The occupants weren’t long-term rent-stabilized tenants. In addition, although they had agreed in court to pay monthly use and occupancy, occupants had paid only three times in 2020. The court agreed to give occupants a short delay, until January 2021, to prepare for trial provided they paid use and occupancy again starting in December.
- Wyona Apts. LLC v. Ramirez: Index No. LYT90147/17, 2020 NY Slip Op 20309 (Civ. Ct. Kings; 11/22/20)