Court Denied Fees to Tenant in Pass-On Case
LVT Number: 8425
Facts: Landlord sued to evict tenant's roommate after tenant died in 1988, claiming that roommate was a licensee. Roommate was, in fact, tenant's gay life partner. The trial court ruled for landlord, and roommate appealed. By the time his appeal was decided in 1990, the rent stabilization law had been amended and roommate qualified as a surviving family member entitled to pass-on rights. Roommate later sued landlord for attorney's fees. Court: Tenant loses. Tenant's lease entitled landlord to seek attorney's fees. So, under Real Property Law section 234, tenant has a reciprocal right to attorney's fees if successful in a summary proceeding. But the purpose of the law is to discourage unnecessary litigation. Tenant was entitled to seek attorney's fees under the law. But, under the circumstances of the case, it would be unfair to grant them. Between the time landlord first sued to evict tenant and when the case was finally decided, the law had changed. When landlord began the action, it was acting in good faith and in accordance with the law.
Wells v. East 10th Street Associates: NYLJ, p. 23, col. 2 (12/22/93) (Sup. Ct. NY; Sherman, J)