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.
New York Housing Court Judge Sabrina B. Kraus recently dismissed a landlords non-payment proceeding on the grounds that the landlord had repeatedly refused rent which the tenant tried to pay. The defense is known as "tender and refusal." Windermere vs. Mulla, NYLJ, 8/7/13. The tenant had been subject to repeated court proceedings by the landlord which had been either settled or discontinued. In one case the landlord failed to file any opposition papers and in the non-payment proceeding the landlord failed to refute the tenants claim that it had refused rent. Landlords often try to wear down tenants with repeated meritless proceedings.
Many coop tenants whose apartments were damaged by Hurricane Sandy are wondering if they have any rights to financial compensation, in the form of an abatement of maintenance, resulting from their apartments being rendered partially or totally uninhabitable. This post does not address issues regarding property damage or relocation costs if the apartment is completely unlivable. The amount of a particular abatement will depend upon the extent of the damage to the apartment and how long the conditions exist. The cooperator must notify the coop board or agent of the damage, preferably in writing, and demand immediate repairs and provide access if requested. Conditions such as mold should be remediated according to Department of Health guidelines by a qualified expert.