HMGDJ Headed To The Court Of Appeals On Behalf Of Tenants Who Have Been Overcharged

June 15, 2018

The New York State Court of Appeals yesterday granted leave to appeal in a case that could affect thousands of rent-stabilized tenants who have been unlawfully deregulated and overcharged. Daniel Collazo v. Netherland Prop. Assets LLC. HMGDJ Attorney Jesse Gribben filed the motion on behalf of approximately thirty tenants who allege rent overcharges in one building. Their overcharge complaint had been filed in Supreme Court but Judge David Cohen dismissed the complaint on the grounds that DHCR has "primary jurisdiction" over such complaints. This came as a surprise since the Supreme Court has been determining overcharge claims for years and indisputably has "concurrent" jurisdiction to do so. The Appellate Division, First Department, however, affirmed, holding for the landlord, and now the Court of Appeals will make a final determination. The case is important for tenants and for the principle of a litigant's right to choose her "forum" (the place where she wants her case to be heard and decided). Overcharge complaints at DHCR sometimes take years to be decided and the tenants do not have the opportunity for "discovery" of important documents substantiating rent increases or the ability to cross-examine the landlord or its contractor. In addition, if the DHCR makes the wrong decision it is much harder to get it overturned. Given the importance of the case, the Court also granted both the Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC the opportunity to file amicus briefs.