We represent a Tenant Association who organized a rent strike in an effort to compel the landlord to correct pervasive housing code violations. Upon investigation, the tenants discovered that their building had been altered since the last Certificate of Occupancy (“C of O”), from 1970, had been issued. More specifically, the 1970 C of O listed 53 apartments while the building currently has 60 apartments. When a landlord, absent requisite approval, as is the case here, alters a building they must have their building comply with the Building Code currently in effect. While in 1970 two independent means of egress from every apartment was not required, now it is. Here, the majority of apartments lack a mandated secondary means of egress which is a violation of applicable fire safety law and code. The NYC Dept. of Buildings has required the continual presence of fire guards as a condition of continued occupancy.
After a three day trial, in November, 2016, Judge Schneider determined that the subject building lacked a valid Certificate of Occupancy (“C of O”) and therefore pursuant to Multiple Dwelling Law Section 302 dismissed, with prejudice, nineteen consolidated non-payment proceedings and barred the landlord from collecting rent until a valid C of O is secured. The landlord appealed and the case was affirmed by the Appellate Term, Frist Dept. who determined that the “landlord is barred from collecting rent for the entire building.”
On May 7, 2019, the Appellate Division, 1st Dept., affirmed holding that because the building was altered since the issuance of the 1970 C of O and because its current configuration differs substantially from the 1970 C of O, Multiple Dwelling Law 302 bars the landlord from collecting rent.