Landlord v. Tenant: January 2014
Building Violations: Displaced Tenants Sue Landlord and HPD for Relocation Costs
In November 2012, HPD inspected landlord's building and issued three Class "I" violations, which directed tenants to vacate their apartments. These orders followed prior HPD violations that were placed on these apartments. The vacate orders were based on conditions that included structural instability, sagging floors, and cracking plaster walls. Tenants moved out, and in October 2013 sued landlord and HPD, claiming that the violations hadn't been corrected. Tenants sought relocation expenses and other penalties. Landlord asked the court to dismiss the case outright.
The court ruled against landlord and directed it to answer tenants' petition. NYC Admin. Code 27-2115(f) calls for the court to direct a landlord to correct violations after the time to do so has expired. Landlord claimed that it was HPD's responsibility to provide relocation services to tenants. But, by law, the housing court could order landlord to pay relocation expenses both to tenants and to HPD. Tenants could proceed with their claims.
- Gonzalez v. Kwik Realty LLC: Index No. 1912/13, NYLJ No. 1202629074041 (Civ. Ct. Kings; 11/8/13)
DOB Violations: Violation Dismissed Where New Landlord Correcting Illegal Conversion
DOB issued a violation notice to landlord for altering a residence for occupancy by more than the legally approved number of families. DOB's inspector stated that he saw two Class "A" apartments in the building basement. Landlord admitted that the four-story building was authorized for occupancy as an eight-unit Class "A" multiple dwelling, but that the current condition was pre-existing when the building was bought. The ALJ ruled for landlord and dismissed the violation.
DOB appealed and lost. DOB claimed that eight apartments were permitted, but that none were permitted in the basement. ECB found that, although the two basement apartments were illegal, landlord didn't "permit the maintenance" of the illegal conversion. The condition was pre-existing and landlord took action, including commencement of eviction proceedings against the basement tenants, at least two months before the violation was issued.
- Jefferson St. Realty 21 Corp.: ECB App. No 1300681 (9/26/13)
Landlord’s Negligence: Tenant Fell from Paint Bucket Used as Step Stool
Tenant sued landlord for damages after she was injured in her apartment. Tenant fell after a paint bucket she was using as a step stool tilted over. Tenant claimed that this was caused by an uneven condition of her apartment floor. Landlord claimed that it wasn't responsible. The court granted landlord's request to dismiss the case without a trial. Tenant appealed and lost. Tenant's act of using the paint bucket as a step stool wasn't foreseeable by landlord and broke any chain of causation by the uneven floor.
- Torres v. 1420 Realty, LLC: 111 A.D.3d 434, 2013 NY Slip Op 07408 (App. Div. 1 Dept.; 11/12/13)
Major Capital Improvements: Mailboxes Installed in Same Location Don't Qualify as MCI
The DRA denied landlord's application for MCI rent hikes based on the installations of mailboxes and a second-floor roof and skylight. Landlord appealed and lost. To qualify as an MCI, new mailboxes must be structurally relocated to a more secure area behind locked doors. Since landlord's mailboxes were simply replaced in the same location as the old ones, the work didn't qualify. The second-floor roof didn't qualify because landlord didn't replace the building's entire roofing. And the skylight didn't qualify as an MCI by itself. Nor was it installed in connection with an entire new roofing system.
- 710 Amsterdam Avenue: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. YL430044RO (10/31/13)
Rent Reduction Ordered: HPD Order Setting Rents Didn't Override DHCR Rent Reduction Order
Landlord sued to evict nine tenants for nonpayment in consolidated proceedings. In each case, tenants claimed that the amount of rent sought was incorrect. In 1993, the DRA had issued a rent reduction order based on landlord's failure to maintain a door lock in the vestibule and other building-wide services. In 1994, HPD set rents for the building in connection with landlord's PHFL 8A loan without reference to the DHCR's order. In 1996, the DHCR denied landlord's PAR of the rent reduction order and made no mention of the HUD rents. Landlord continued to collect rent increases from tenants over the years. Tenants now claimed that they had been overcharged. Landlord argued that the 1994 HPD order overrode the DHCR's rent reduction order and that the DHCR's order had no effect.
The court ruled against landlord. The two agencies' orders were separate and concerned different issues. The DHCR's rent reduction order affected collectible rent rather than the amount of the legal regulated rent. A trial was needed to determine whether, in each instance, there had been an actual overcharge.
- Atsiki Realty LLC v. Munoz: Index No. L&T74565/12, NYLJ 1202628473181 (Civ. Ct. NY; 11/12/13)
Rent Stabilization Coverage: Landlord Didn't Name Both Tenants on ICF
Landlord applied in 2011 for high-rent/high-income deregulation of tenants' apartment. The DRA dismissed landlord's application because it didn't send copies of the Income Certification Form (ICF) to both tenants named on the lease. Landlord appealed, claiming that this was a de minimis—that is, minor—defect. The second tenant had acknowledged receipt of a copy of the ICF. The DHCR ruled against landlord. Rent Stabilization Law Section 26-504.3 and Rent Stabilization Code Section 2531.2 require a landlord to serve the ICF on tenant(s) before May 1 of the year the application is being filed. Rent Stabilization Code Section 2520.6(d) defines "tenant" as any person named on a lease as a lessee. The ICF form also contains this requirement. So, even though the unnamed tenant had received the ICF, the form was defective and therefore not properly served.
- Courtney House, LLC: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. AU410036RO (10/4/13)