Tenant Coerced into Settling Case
LVT Number: 10231
Landlord sued to evict tenant for nonpayment of rent. Tenant had complained of a rent overcharge. The DHCR ruled for tenant and ordered landlord to refund $10,000. Landlord's brother, who was a police officer, then visited tenant with several other officers. After several meetings, tenant agreed in writing to accept $4,000, the equivalent of three months' rent. Tenant resumed paying rent but later stopped. Tenant claimed he was entitled to offset the other $6,000. Tarrytown Village court ruled for tenant, and landlord appealed. The appeals court ruled against landlord. While the General Obligations Law permits the modification of an obligation such as the DHCR order by a written agreement, there was no clear, valid, or logical reason for tenant to sign the agreement he did unless he was, or felt he was, pressured into doing so. Landlord's brother and two other out-of-uniform police advised tenant not to speak to his attorney and to accept a reduced refund so that he could live ''in peace'' with landlord. This was coercion.
Buonanno v. Morillo: NYLJ, p. 29, col. 1 (11/29/95) (App. Div. 2 Dept.; DiPaola, PJ, Collins, Luciano, JJ)