Last week our firm week won a huge victory in a long, bitter and hard fought housing court case entitled Samra v. Messeca. This was what is known as an “owner use” proceeding-an eviction case brought against a rent stabilized tenant because the landlord claims that they want to have an immediate family member-in this case one of the landlord’s daughters- occupy the unit. In order to prevail in such a case, the landlord only needs to establish that he or she has a good faith, honest intention to have the family member live in the unit. Landlords frequently use owner occupancy as a ruse to evict rent stabilized tenants This case was a textbook example of bad faith. There had been a long history of animosity between the tenant and the landlords. After recovering another apartment under the guise of owner occupancy, the family member for whom the apartment was sought did not move in; instead the landlord destabilized it and quadrupled the rent. Moreover, there were other apartments available which the landlord could have moved his daughter into, and blatant harassment of the tenant. In order to maintain an owner use case, the building must be owned by individuals; in this case, although the deed was transferred to an individual, the building was still managed and operated through a corporation. Tellingly, the landlord had attempted to coerce the tenant into accepting de facto and illegal deregulation of her apartment years before this case began, by suggesting that if she failed to agree, the landlord would evict her in an owner occupancy case. The court, in a 19 page decision, dismissed the case, citing these many factors and held that the landlord did not have a good faith desire to have his daughter occupy the apartment; in effect the court found that the landlord was lying and that the case was a sham. The tenant in this case was represented by Janet Ray Kalson and Sam Himmelstein.
Sam Himmelstein and Janet Kalson