Landlord Needn't Restore Tenants to Occupancy After Fire Destroys Buildings
LVT Number: #31369
Tenants of two adjoining buildings owned by landlord filed 16 individual service reduction complaints and two building-wide service reduction complaints with the DHCR. The complaints resulted from a DOB Vacate Order after a fire in the buildings in April 2010. DHCR inspection showed that the buildings were demolished in May 2010 under a DOB work permit. The DHCR then terminated tenants' complaints in August 2010 because the buildings no longer existed and thus were no longer subject to the rent stabilization or rent control laws.
Tenants appealed the individual orders denying their complaints, and the DHCR consolidated the cases for decision. They claimed that landlord should have obtained prior DHCR approval before demolishing the buildings.
The DHCR ruled against tenants 11 years later. Under normal circumstances, a landlord who seeks to demolish a building containing rent-controlled or rent-stabilized tenants must apply to the DHCR for permission before doing so. But that presumes that the buildings remained in existence. Courts have ruled that a building may be so damaged by fire, without being burned to the ground, that a landlord has no real choice but to demolish it. In such cases, a landlord isn't obligated to offer apartments in any new building to former tenants. In addition, DOB had issued an Immediate Emergency Declaration in April 2010, stating that "all interior joists and structural members have been completely destroyed due to fire leaving exterior walls in danger of collapsing." For that reason, DOB directed demolition of the remaining structures.
Various Tenants: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket Nos. YI430015RT et al. (3/12/21) [3-pg. doc.]