On the one hand, he made sure to deposit the rental payments dutifully made by long-time tenants of one of his many residential properties in New York City. In fact, he continued cashing those checks even months after the renters -- a family of seven -- had vacated the premises.
A warranty of habitability is assuredly a good thing for any New York City tenant with a lease. In nutshell terms, it is a protective legal tool safeguarding renters against landlord's failure to maintain an apartment in a habitable condition.
Whether your landlord is suing you for eviction, or you are suing your landlord for repairs, being in court takes its toll. Resources get depleted. Tenants have to take off from work, pay an attorney to represent them, and live with the stress of an unknown outcome.
Rent stabilized tenants in a Upper West Side building won a great victory today when the DHCR again revoked a $39.16 per room MCI rent increases for new windows after inspecting the windows and finding that they are defective. The owner installed the new windows in 2004 but when they were originally found to be defective in certain apartments the DHCR permanently exempted those apartments from the increase in 2006. The owner appealed arguing that the exemption should be temporary and that it should be given another chance to repair the windows, although tenants argued it had already had multiple chances. The owner lost its Article 78 appeal before Judge Marilyn Shafer. The owner then appealed to the Appellate Division. In 2010 a divided court ruled in Langham Mansions v. DHCR that the agency should have suspended rather than permanently denied the increase, despite evidence in the record that the owner had repeatedly tried to repair the windows and failed. The matter was sent back to the DHCR and the owner then had four additional years to try to repair the windows. The owner failed to do so and when the DHCR reinspected in 2014 they were found to be defective, as the tenants had claimed they were in 2006. The windows were found to be both difficult to open and had air seepage due to gaps between the bottom sash and frame.
Most residential leases prohibit subleasing. However, a statute, Real Property Law section 226-b, titted "Right to Sublet", gives the appearance that despite the lease prohibition you can go ahead and sublet. You would not be faulted if you believed that. Alas, it is not that easy and sometimes acts as a trap to the unaware.
Landlords will often rent apartments to tenants claiming that they are not rent stabilized when in fact they are. In two recent cases, the Housing Court found for the tenants. Ron Languedoc represented the tenant in Raywood. Sam Himmelstein and Ron Languedoc represented the tenant in Shomron.
A small leak developed in the closet ceiling of apartment 15L, a coop apartment. The Coop's engineer's opinion was that it was caused by a leak from the bathroom in apartment 16L. The 16L apartment owner retained our firm and an engineer whose opinion was that the leak was not emanating from our client's bathroom but rather from pipes higher up in the building.
If my apartment was damaged do I have to pay the full rent? NO. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may be entitled to a rent "abatement" or reduction of the rent that you were required to pay. Under New York law the landlord must provide you with a habitable apartment. It does not matter if the damage to your apartment was not the fault of the landlord. This is called the "Warranty of Habitability." In order to get a reduction in your rent, unless the landlord is willing to reduce your rent voluntarily, you have two options, one requiring going to housing court. To get a rent abatement through housing court you will have to withhold all or part of your rent. The landlord will then bring a proceeding in housing court to evict you for not paying your rent. When your serve your "Answer" to the court proceeding, you will list as a defense that there are repairs that have to be done. You will also list as a "counterclaim" that you are entitled to an abatement of your rent. You will have to prove to the court that there is damage to your apartment and that the landlord had notice of the damage. It is always better to have an attorney if you go to housing court. But even without an attorney you could get an abatement of your rent.
Like spores brought to life by a new leak, mold cases are back after 4 dormant years, due to the March 2012 Appellate Court decision of Cornell v. 360 West 51st Street Realty LLC.
Last week the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to New York's rent stabilization laws, Harmon v. Kimmel, brought by an Upper West Side landlord. In the case landlord James Harmon argued that the rent laws amounted to a "taking" of property in violation of the U.S. Constitution because he is unable to evict without cause the tenants in his brownstone. Although the law has long been settled in this area, there was some concern given the willingness of the current Supreme Court to reconsider and reverse long-term precedents. New York City and New York State submitted briefs defending the rent laws based upon longstanding precedent. The real estate community blanketed the court with "amicus" briefs which apparently did not sway the justices. The real estate community also organized a media blitz resulting in many news articles about the alleged "unfairness" of the rent laws. Tenants must remain ever vigilant and organized to preserve the rent laws which the real estate industry will continue to attack on legal, political and media fronts as long as there are bigger profits to be made.