Landlord v. Tenant: May 2014
DOB Violations: Tenant's Rental to Tourists Violated Building Code
DOB issued violation notices to landlord for operating an apartment building for transient use, as well as related violations of sprinkler, egress, and fire alarm regulations based on the building's use for transient occupancy. At a hearing before the ALJ, a tenant testified that he had rented portions of his four-bedroom apartment to boarders through Airbnb, but claimed that he occupied the apartment with his roommate at the same time. The ALJ dismissed the violations after a hearing.
DOB appealed and won. ECB found that occupancy of the apartment by four tourists for less than 30 consecutive days while the permanent occupants were present in the apartment wasn't consistent with using the apartment for permanent residence purposes. It was undisputed that on the date of the violations, the apartment was occupied by tenant, his roommate of 20 months, as well as two tourists who rented for two and five nights respectively. Total fines imposed against the landlord were $8,000.
- 448-452 West 57 Associates LLC: ECB App. No. 1400043 (3/27/14)
DOB Violations: Must Landlord Remove Gas Meters in Hallways?
DOB issued a violation notice to landlord for failing to maintain a building in a safe and code-compliant condition. DOB's inspector noted that there were gas meters and gas piping installed in the public hallways of the building. Landlord claimed that the meters and piping were installed when the building was built in 1897. DOB argued that work on three gas meters in apartments was done in 2000 and 2003. The ALJ ruled against landlord and fined it $1,000. Landlord appealed, claiming that the meter work done in 2000 and 2003 didn't require that all meters be removed from the public hallways, as required by the 1968 Building Code.
ECB ruled for landlord in part. Landlord hadn't claimed that the meter work was a material alteration that brought the building or meters under the 1968 Building Code. Replacement of existing meters is exempt from the requirement that meters not be located in public hallways. But ECB sent the case back to the ALJ for further fact-finding on whether the meters were installed in the public hallways before 1938.
- 417 E 6 LLC: ECB App. No. 1400093 (3/27/14)
Landlord's Negligence: New York's Top Court Dismisses Tenant's Mold Exposure Claim
Tenant sued former landlord for personal injuries based on her exposure to mold and other toxins in her first-floor apartment. In 2002 and 2003, the building basement below tenant's apartment was damaged by flooding. In 2003, a steam pipe burst in the apartment and water from the basement leaked out. Soon after that, tenant noticed mold in her bathroom and experienced body rash, shortness of breath, fatigue, disorientation, and headaches. Prior landlord told her to clean the bathroom with bleach and install a dehumidifier. She did so, and her symptoms disappeared.
Later that year, the building was sold and new landlord began renovation work in the basement. Tenant again experienced symptoms that didn't respond to medication. She moved out and stopped paying rent. Landlord sued her for nonpayment.
The housing court ruled for tenant and gave her a complete abatement. Tenant then sued landlord. The court granted landlord's request to dismiss the case without a trial. Tenant appealed, and the case was reopened.
The appeals court ruled that tenant had grounds for the case. Tenant's experts had shown there were several studies linking toxic mold with symptoms like tenant's. Two of the judges disagreed, stating that there was insufficient proof that the studies were generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.
Landlord then was granted permission to appeal by New York's highest court, which dismissed tenant's case. Among other things, the Court of Appeals ruled that tenant failed to show specific causation required to support a claim that her injuries were caused by indoor exposure to dampness and mold. Tenant's expert didn't identify the specific disease-causing agent she claimed she was exposed to and didn't explain why he ruled out other diseases that were common causes of many of tenant's medical conditions.
- Cornell v. 360 West 51st Street Corp.: 2014 NY Slip Op 02096, 2014 WL 1237483 (NY Ct App.; 3/27/14)
Tenant Nuisances: Landlord's Notice Sufficiently Described Nuisance Condition
Landlord sued to evict rent-stabilized tenant, claiming that tenant had committed a nuisance and breached a substantial obligation of his tenancy. Tenant asked the court to dismiss the case, claiming that landlord's notice to cure was defective. The court ruled for tenant. Landlord appealed and won. Under the Emergency Tenant Protection Regulations, nuisance is specific grounds for terminating a tenancy and a notice to cure is required. The notice to cure must state the wrongful act or omission of the tenant and the facts necessary to establish its existence. Landlord's notice regarding the foul odors continuously coming from tenant's apartment satisfied this requirement.
- WRG Acquisition XIII, LLC v. Dalton: 2014 NY Slip Op 50479(U), 2014 WL 1272175 (App. T. 2 Dept.; 3/17/14)