Tenant Didn't Abandon Apartment After Fire
LVT Number: 18551
Facts: Rent-controlled tenants, husband and wife, moved into an apartment with their two daughters in 1967. In April 2004, there was a fire in the building. The husband died in the fire and the wife went into a nursing home. One daughter relocated to a shelter and advised landlord that she intended to return to the apartment. Tenant filed a reduction in services complaint with the DHCR, which reduced her rent to $1 per month. Tenant daughter also sent landlord's managing agent a $1 payment in October 2004 and a second payment of $9 in November 2004 for other months. The managing agent wrote back to tenant that he wasn't authorized to accept rent payments for landlord. He didn't tell tenant where to contact landlord. Landlord had in fact moved to Florida many years earlier and didn't manage the building directly. In March 2005, HPD advised tenant that the apartment was ready to be reoccupied. HPD gave tenant the phone number of landlord's attorney. Tenant called the attorney and told him she wanted to move back into the apartment. He offered her $25,000 to give up the apartment. Tenant refused. Tenant later learned that landlord had rerented the apartment. Tenant then sued landlord, seeking to be restored to possession. Court: Tenant wins. Tenant didn't abandon the apartment after the fire. She advised landlord's managing agent of her intent to return and paid the reduced rent. The managing agent also continued to accept rent from other building tenants both before and after the fire. So his claim that he couldn't accept rent from tenant wasn't believable. The lease to new tenant was signed one week after tenant called landlord's attorney in March 2005. New tenant was given a one-year lease. But tenant had lived in the apartment with her family for 38 years at a low rent. Landlord was ordered to restore her to possession, and eviction of new tenant was ordered. The court delayed execution of eviction warrant to Dec. 15, 2005, to give new tenant time to move.
Gardner v. Smith: NYLJ, 12/21/05, p. 22, col. 3 (Civ. Ct. Kings; Sikowitz, J)