Tenants Must Pay Rent Before C of O Issued
LVT Number: 16193
(Decision submitted by Jay B. Itkowitz of the Manhattan law firm of Itkowitz & Harwood, attorneys for the landlord.) Facts:Landlord sued to evict tenants of luxury apartment for nonpayment of rent in the amount of over $500,000. The amount owed included Con Edison and HVAC charges. Tenants disputed the date their obligation to pay rent started under the lease, disputed the effective date of a rent increase under the lease, and claimed that landlord couldn't collect rent for a one-and-a-half-year period during which the apartment had no C of O. Tenants also sought a rent abatement for breach of the warranty of habitability and reimbursement for the cost of a mechanical privacy screen they installed on one floor of the apartment. Landlord admitted problems in completing renovations of the apartment but denied that there were any rent-impairing violations or conditions warranting a rent abatement. A lengthy trial was held, and tenants moved out while the case was pending. Court:Landlord wins, with some rent abatement awarded to tenants. Although the lease began in September 1996, landlord didn't complete agreed-upon renovations to the apartment and tenants didn't move in fully until March 1997. This was when their obligation to pay rent began. Under the terms of the lease, the effective date of the rent increase clearly was Sept. 1, 2001. Landlord also was entitled to HVAC and Con Edison charges as additional rent under the terms of the lease. In this case, the lack of a C of O didn't bar collection of rent. The renovation work didn't affect the integrity of the building's structure or threaten tenant's health or safety. And part of the delay was due to tenant's request that part of a bathroom wall be removed for cosmetic purposes. A temporary C of O was issued in June 1998. There also were no rent-impairing violations that barred rent collection. The court did award tenants 5 percent rent abatements for certain periods based on building elevator problems, vermin problems, and leaks.
Semans Family LP v. Kennedy: L&T Index No. 82423/99 (Civ. Ct. NY 8/21/02; Cavallo, J) [24-pg. doc.]