Rent-Stabilized Tenant Properly Refused to Sign Ambiguous Renewal Lease
LVT Number: #31612
Landlord sued to evict rent-stabilized tenant for refusing to sign a renewal lease. Tenant asked the court to dismiss the case without trial. Both sides argued that a 2008 DHCR rent reduction order supported their positions. In 2019, the court ruled for landlord.
Tenant appealed and won. The question before the appeals court was whether the offered renewal lease permissibly raised the rent charged from a reduced rent, which had been charged to tenant since 2008 and in several renewal leases, to the legal regulated rent. The appeals court stated that "this tenant's rent will remain at the reduced level for the term of the lease, and will be subject to annual lease increases as allowed by rent stabilization." The lease rider didn't affirmatively permit landlord in subsequent renewal leases to raise the rent to the previously established legal regulated rent. Instead, it specifically allowed for "annual lease increases as allowed by rent stabilization." This required that any rental increases be based on the reduced rent for the duration of the tenancy. To the extent that this language may be considered ambiguous, and since landlord didn't present any proof to support its interpretation, any ambiguity must be construed against landlord, since it drafted the lease rider. Tenant properly refused to sign the renewal lease, and the lower court should have dismissed the case.
Fac Preserv. HDFC v. Moreno: Index No. 2020-88, 2021 NY Slip Op 50784(U)(App. T. 2 Dept.; 8/6/21; Aliotta, PJ, Elliot, Toussaint, JJ)