Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division reversing the judgment of Supreme Court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, individual tenants of rented apartments owned by Defendants, on their complaint seeking a declaration that their apartments were subject to rent stabilization, holding that apartments in buildings receiving tax benefits pursuant to N.Y. Real Prop. Tax law (RPTL) 421-g are not subject to luxury deregulation. Plaintiffs' apartments were located in building receiving tax benefits subject to RPTL 421-g. Defendants argued that Plaintiffs' apartments were exempt from rent regulation under the luxury deregulation provisions added to the Rent Stabilization Law (RSL), Administrative Code of City of New York 26-504.1, as part of the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1993. The Appellate Division agreed and granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment to the extent of declaring that Plaintiffs' apartments were properly deregulated and were not subject to rent stabilization. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiffs' apartments were not subject to the luxury deregulation provisions of the RSL. View "Kuzmich v. 50 Murray St. Acquisition LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court dismissing this declaratory judgment action brought by commercial tenants who unambiguously agreed to waive the right to commence a declaratory judgment action as to the terms of their leases, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the waiver clause was enforceable, requiring dismissal of the complaint. Plaintiffs executed two commercial leases with the predecessor-in-interest of Defendant. Each lease incorporated a rider provided that the tenant waived its right to bring a declaratory judgment action with respect to any provision of the lease. After Defendant sent notices to Plaintiffs alleging various defaults Plaintiffs commenced this action seeking a declaratory judgment that they were not in default. Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action. The Appellate Division affirmed, determining that the declaratory judgment waiver was enforceable and barred Plaintiffs' action. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the declaratory judgment waiver was enforceable, and therefore, the action was properly dismissed. View "159 MP Corp. v Redbridge Bedford, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Altman subleased from Rider, the apartment's tenant since 1993. Rider had a rent-stabilized lease at $1,829.49 per month. In 2004, the landlord commenced a nonpayment proceeding against both men. Altman and the landlord entered into a settlement, agreeing that Rider would surrender all rights to the apartment and the landlord would deliver a new lease to Altman. A "Deregulation Rider," stating that the apartment was not rent-stabilized "because the legal rent was or became $2000 or more on vacancy" after the statutory vacancy increase was added to the last regulated rent. The landlord removed the apartment from registration based on "high rent vacancy." Defendant purchased the premises and, in 2007, entered into a fair market renewal lease with Altman at $2,600 per month. Altman agreed to refrain from challenging the nonregulated status of the apartment. Beginning in 2008, the owner commenced a series of nonpayment proceedings against Altman. Altman did not challenge the apartment's deregulated status. In 2014, Altman sought a declaration that the premises are subject to rent stabilization. On remand, the Supreme Court held that, although the owner was entitled to a 20% rent increase for Altman's initial lease, that increase did not deregulate the apartment. The New York Court of Appeals reversed. The 20% vacancy increase should be included when calculating the regulated rent to determine whether an apartment has reached the $2,000 deregulation threshold in the Rent Stabilization Law, section 26-511 [c]. View "Altman v 285 W. Fourth LLC" on Justia Law

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Aponte moved into his mother's one-bedroom New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)-owned apartment and cared for her until she died in 2012. Two requests for Aponte to be granted permanent permission to live with his mother were denied. After she died, Aponte requested to be allowed to lease her apartment as a "remaining family member." NYCHA denied his request, finding that Aponte lacked permanent permission to reside in the apartment; management properly denied such permission because Aponte's presence would have violated occupancy rules for overcrowding. A person lacking permanent permission to reside in an apartment is not eligible for RFM status. The Court of Appeals upheld the denial. Under its rules, NYCHA could not have granted Aponte permanent permission to reside in his mother's apartment, and thus could not have granted his request for RFM status. NYCHA's rules contemplate that a tenant may require a live-in home-care attendant, either for a transient illness or the last stages of life, and expressly allow for such an attendant as a temporary resident, even if that permission will result in "overcrowding," regardless of whether the attendant is related to the tenant. NYCHA's policy is not arbitrary and capricious for not allowing Aponte to bypass the 250,000-household waiting line as a reward for enduring an "overcrowded" living situation while caring for his mother. View "Aponte v Olatoye" on Justia Law

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The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) terminated the Section 8 benefits of Petitioners. Petitioners commenced separate N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceedings against NYCHA seeking to annul NYCHA’s determinations as arbitrary and capricious and to reinstate their benefits. NYCHA move to dismiss the proceedings as time barred, arguing that Petitioners did not commence these proceedings within four months of their receipt of their respective “T-3 letters.” Supreme Court denied NYCHA’s motions and granted Petitioners’ petitions, concluding that the statute of limitations did not begin to run because NYCHA failed to show that it mailed all three notices - a warning letter, T-1 letter and T-3 letter - required under a federal consent judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) pursuant to the consent judgment, the statute begins to run upon the tenant’s receipt of the T-3 letter, regardless of whether NYCHA has proven that it mailed other notices required by the consent judgment to be sent before the T-3 letter; and (2) the Appellate Division found in each case that NYCHA established proper mailing of the T-3 letters, and Petitioners did not commence these proceedings within four months of their receipt of the T-3 letters. View "Banos v. Rhea" on Justia Law

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Julie Conason and Geoffrey Bryant (together, “Tenants”) were the rent-stabilized tenants of an apartment in a residential building owned by Megan Holding, LLC (“Megan”). Megan was Tenants’ landlord. Almost five and a half years after she occupied the apartment under a vacancy lease, Conason asserted an overcharge claim against Megan. Civil Court dismissed the overcharge claim without prejudice, reasoning that Tenants failed to prove the amount of the overcharge. Tenants subsequently commenced this action against Megan seeking a money judgment for rent overcharge. Supreme Court granted summary judgment for Tenants and directed an assessment of damages. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the N.Y. C.P.L.R. 213-a’s four-year statute of limitations did not bar the claim because there was significant evidence of fraud on the record. The Court of Appeals affirmed as modified, holding that, because of the unrefuted proof of fraud in the record, section 213-a merely limited Tenants’ recovery to those overcharges occurring during the four-year period immediately preceding Conason’s rent challenge. View "Conason v. Megan Holding, LLC" on Justia Law

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Following Tenant filed a successful rent overcharge complaint, Landlord commenced a holdover proceeding against Respondent seeking to evict Tenant and regain possession of the premises. In support of its claims, Landlord alleged that Tenant breached the lease. Tenant asserted a defense of retaliatory eviction and counterclaimed for attorneys’ fees and damages under N.Y. Real Prop. Law 234, which imposes a covenant in favor of a tenant’s right to attorneys’ fees. Civil Court dismissed the proceeding, finding that Tenant had not breached the lease and that the proceeding was commenced in retaliation for Tenant’s successful rent overcharge claim. The court denied fees under section 234. The Appellate Division modified on the law by granting Tenant’s claim for attorneys’ fees pursuant to section 234 and otherwise affirmed. The Appellate Division subsequently granted Landlord’s leave to appeal, certifying the question of whether section 234 applies to a lease that authorizes the landlord to cancel the lease upon a tenant’s default, repossess the premises and then collect attorneys’ fees incurred in retaking possession. The Court of Appeals answered that section 234 applied to the lease in this case and that Tenant was entitled to attorneys’ fees as the prevailing party in this summary holdover proceeding. View "Graham Court Owner's Corp. v. Taylor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant
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Plaintiff, a property owner, and Defendant, a tenant, entered into a one-year commercial rental lease agreement. Prior to the end of the one-year term, the parties extended the lease for a nine-year term. Several months after executing the lease extestion, Defendant vacated the premises and ceased paying rent. Plaintiff commenced this action for rent arrears and an amount equal to the future remaining rent owed on the lease. Supreme Court entered judgment for Plaintiff in the amount of $1,488,604, consisting of the rent remaining due under the lease, reduced by the amount of rent Plaintiff was able to collect by reletting the premises. Defendants appealed, arguing that Plaintiff was barred from collecting unpaid future rents pursuant to an acceleration clause in the leasehold agreement. The Court of Appeals affirmed as modified, holding that the court below erred by limiting the damages hearing to whether Plaintiff relet the premises without allowing Defendants the opportunity to present evidence that the undiscounted accelerated rent amount was disproportionate to Plaintiff’s actual losses, notwithstanding that Plaintiff had possession and no obligation to mitigate. View "172 Van Duzer Realty Corp. v Globe Alumni Student Assistance Ass’n, Inc." on Justia Law

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In these three putative class actions, Plaintiffs, current or former tenants of separate apartment buildings, sought damages for rent overcharges. All plaintiffs initially sought treble damages but then waived that demand. At issue was whether Plaintiffs’ claims could properly be brought as class actions. Defendants argued, among other things, that these actions were to “recover a penalty” because, even without trebling, the remedy provided by the Rent Stabilization Law (RSL) 26-516 is a penalty. In each case, the Appellate Division certified a question to the Court of Appeals. The Court answered (1) N.Y. C.P.L.R. 901(b), which prohibits any claim for penalties to be brought as a class action, permits otherwise qualified plaintiffs to utilize the class action mechanism to recover compensatory overcharges even though the RSL 26-516 does not specifically authorize class action recovery and imposes treble damages upon a finding of willful violation; and (2) maintaining these actions as class actions does not contravene the letter or the spirit of the C.P.L.R. or the RSL. View "Borden v. 400 E. 55th St. Assoc., L.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff resided in an apartment from approximately 1997 until 2003. A corporation owned the building during Plaintiff’s occupancy until shortly before Plaintiff vacated the premises. In 2004, Plaintiff sued the corporation, the building’s current landlord, and other parties, alleging that she developed health problems due to mold and other harmful substances in the apartment. The corporation and landlord sought to dismiss the complaint to the extent that Plaintiff alleged mold-induced personal injuries, arguing that Plaintiff was unable to prove either general or specific causation. Supreme Court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s causes of action except those for property damage and breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. The Appellate Division reversed and reinstated the complaint, concluding that the standard of scientific reliability set forth in Frye v. United States was satisfied in this case. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiff did not demonstrate on the record a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to indoor mold and the kinds of injuries she alleged.View "Cornell v. 360 W. 51st St. Realty, LLC" on Justia Law