HPD Must Pay Relocation Costs for Tenants
LVT Number: #21182
Bronx landlord operated a building as a group home for recovering addicts, providing a drug- and alcohol-free environment with an 11 p.m. curfew. Twelve tenants moved into the building during 2007. Tenants all believed that the facility was a legal residence, but HPD issued six class B violations to landlord for illegal conversion to a multiple dwelling and ordered that the building be restored to lawful occupancy. Soon thereafter, in January 2008, HPD issued a vacate order, stating that the building condition was too dangerous to occupy. Tenants then asked HPD for relocation assistance under City Administrative Code Section 26-301(1). HPD refused. Because tenants’ occupancy was illegal, HPD reasoned that the relocation assistance rule didn’t apply. Tenants filed an Article 78 petition, claiming that HPD’s decision was arbitrary and unreasonable.
The court and appeals court ruled for tenants. Tenants paid monthly rent to live in a privately owned building and were being displaced as a result of HPD’s vacate order. The code language didn’t limit the definition of tenants entitled to assistance to those who lived in legally configured residences. The intent of the law was to help tenants who lose their housing through no fault of their own. HPD’s refusal to help these tenants was contrary to the plain meaning of the law.
Smith v. Donovan: NYLJ, 4/20/09, p. 24, col. 6 (App. Div. 1 Dept.; Gonzalez, PJ, Mazzarelli, Friedman, Catterson, Renwick, JJ)