By Eileen O’Toole, Esq.
Courts continue to respond to landlord motions to vacate ERAP stays in eviction proceedings and ejectment actions, with most courts finding, at minimum, that they have the authority to vacate the automatic statutory stays where warranted. In a number of recent decisions, courts have granted landlord requests to vacate the ERAP stays.
In Tong v. Benito [LVT #32204], a Richmond County Supreme Court vacated the ERAP stay where the lease of an unregulated tenant of a two-family house had expired and landlord didn’t want to extend the tenancy by accepting ERAP funds. In West 49th St. LLC v. O’Neill [LVT #32201], a New York County Housing Court vacated the ERAP stay where a licensee claiming succession rights to a rent-stabilized apartment had yet to establish a succession claim. In 5th & 106th St. Assoc. LP v. Hunt [LVT #32197], another New York County Housing Court decision, the court vacated the automatic stay in a holdover proceeding against a project-based Section 8 tenant who had failed to file an annual income recertification. The tenant lived on a fixed income and wouldn’t be eligible for ERAP assistance because her income exceeded the earnings level for ERAP eligibility. And, in Awaly LLC v. Pena [LVT #32199], a Bronx Housing Court vacated the ERAP stay where the applicant seeking assistance was an unlawful subtenant who didn’t pay rent to the landlord and paid tenant less than the full monthly rent amount.
Two recent housing discrimination cases address some current issues.
In CNY Fair Hous., Inc. v. Swiss Vill. LLC [LVT #32203], an upstate federal court refused to dismiss the discrimination claim of a prospective tenant. The landlord had refused a housing application by the tenant, who had limited English language proficiency (LEP). While the landlord argued that there was no basis for a discrimination claim on this ground under either the Fair Housing Act or the NY State Human Rights Law, the court found that there was precedent for finding that such LEP policy was a pretext for discrimination based on national origin or race.
In another housing discrimination case, Olivierre v. Parkchester Preservation Company [LVT #32194], a prospective tenant successfully sued the landlord of a 12,000-unit housing complex for source-of-income discrimination, where the tenant earned less than $62,000 per year but where the CityFHEPS program would cover the tenant’s full rent.
A court recently addressed the question of whether a buffer tenant was required for high-rent vacancy deregulation of a rent-stabilized apartment. In Perugini v. 162-164 82nd Street LLC [LVT #32193], where a tenant sued landlord for unlawful apartment deregulation and rent overcharge, the court ruled that the tenant’s interpretation of the 2015 Rent Law, which the tenant claimed required that, “because the legal rent was not $2700 at the time the previous tenant vacated the apartment, then the apartment must still be regulated,” was “incorrect.” In other words, the New York County Supreme Court determined that the 2015 Rent Law didn’t require a buffer tenant for deregulation. This appears to be one of few court decisions to date with such a ruling.