Miracle on Dunbury Place: The Story of the Only Tenant in Suffolk County Evicted After Being Approved for ERAP Payments
During the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, the courts have been handing out stays on evictions like it is candy at a Shriner’s parade. The courts do not seem to care if the tenant has not paid a dime or if the landlord is being severely hurt by the stay. When the landlord is a high profile person, it’s all the worse. Courts simply assume that such people can afford to take the hit of having a deadbeat tenant. Such was the situation of a high profile person being victimized by a fraudster tenant who never paid rent, giving endless promises of “tomorrow”.
When this particular landlord approached Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. for help evicting the tenant who gave the landlord a rubber check and called it “rent,” expectations were tempered. Nevertheless, a holdover petition was filed and the attorneys at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. worked tirelessly to draft and file a motion on the basis that the tenant was never a tenant at all. The motion highlighted several months of correspondence between the tenant and the landlord inclusive of undeniable gaslighting, promises which were never kept, and representations which were demonstrably false. At the hearing, despite several contrary options available to the Court, the Court ordered judgment and a warrant of eviction against the would-be tenant an unprecedented victory for the landlord. However, that was what laid in the ability for Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. to convince the court not to grant a stay on the eviction, even though the tenant had applied for ERAP relief. Across the State of New York, tens of thousands of landlords have been trying to evict tenants with expired leases and for nonpayment of rent. These attempts have almost uniformly failed, but not so in this case. ERAP is actually a Federal Program designed to prevent eviction and in that design it paints with an extremely broad brush. Nowhere has the brush been broader than in New York, where landlords are called upon to simply accept the losses it entails. Under ERAP, a tenant is entitled to a stay of all eviction proceedings as soon as the tenant applies for the program, even if there is no merit to the application at all. Such was the situation Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. faced in this case on Dunbury Place, a quiet residential street, lined with respectable one family homes.
However, because the tenant had never paid any money to the landlord at all (checks being dishonored), Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. was able to convince the Court that the entire basis of the relationship was built on fraud. Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. argued, where there is such fraud going to the very heart of things, the person to be evicted was not a tenant at all and therefore not entitled to an ERAP stay. The firm was on high alert as it realized that the tenant who had legal services attorneys could pay a month’s rent at any time and spoil our plans. The firm and its client checked weekly with the court and the clerk’s office to follow the progression of the eviction and to kindly push the date forward or at least to the top of the pile. We contacted ERAP to check if funds were coming as we knew that would end our hopes of an eviction.
The court agreed with Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. and ordered an immediate eviction. Not only was the client put in full possession of the premises, but without any scandal attached to their name in the process. The tenant left shortly after the Sheriff posted the eviction notice. The apartment was in complete disrepair. The toilet had been broken. The premises was left in “disgusting” condition. But the non-paying tenant that had been mean and nasty to its kind landlord, who had tried making the landlord’s lives miserable, was finally gone. Our clients called it the “Miracle on Dunbury Place”. For weeks I had called it the splitting of the Red Sea as that was the chances of everything coming together for allowing this creative lawyering and hard work to make this happen.