Repeated failures to pay rent which result in non-payment proceedings could result in eviction on the basis of “chronic non-payment.” While there is no specific number of non-payments that could result in eviction, Tenants have been evicted where there have been nine non-payments in three years. Not all non-payments count, however. In a recent Bronx County Housing Court case, Mins Court Housing v. Wright, the landlord alleged that there were 12 prior non-payment proceedings in the last 22-years. The Court, however, dismissed the case finding that nine of the proceedings occurred more than six years ago and therefore were barred by the six-year statute of limitations for contract claims. In addition, in two of the more recent proceedings, the tenant had warranty of habitability or overcharge defenses. Non-payment proceedings where a tenant has valid defenses such as a bona fide habitability claim or dispute over the amount of rent owed rent do not count in a chronic non-payment case. A mere inability to pay due to lack of money may excuse an isolated instance of non-payment but is not however a valid defense to chronic non-payment.
A chronic non-payment may be brought as substantial violation of the lease claim or as a “nuisance” claim. The Mins case was brought as a lease violation. If a case is brought as “nuisance” claim the statute of limitations defense would not be available.