In New York, if certain conditions are present, the owner of a rent stabilized apartment may choose not to renew a tenant’s lease and to seek possession of the apartment if the owner intends to occupy the apartment personally or if the apartment will be occupied by a member of the owner’s family. While a powerful tool in a landlord’s arsenal, every step, from planning to trial, must be executed flawlessly to be successful.
Recently, we were called upon to represent a family that needed to take back an apartment for personal use. The family’s other residence was rendered uninhabitable by Super Storm Sandy. Moreover, the aging parents required the first floor apartment as they could no longer climb stairs to the apartments above. The family already occupied one of the two first floor apartments in the building and needed to expand to the other first floor apartment, combining them into one floor through apartment for personal use.
We met with the family to develop a comprehensive plan of action. This included an architect drawing up plans for the combination of the apartments, gathering all of the required information and documentation to demonstrate the condition of the destroyed alternate residence and demonstrating the parents’ medical conditions.
At the appropriate time before expiration of the tenants’ lease we served a notice informing the tenants that their lease would not be renewed. Upon expiration, we commenced an eviction proceeding and immediately obtained an order directing the tenants to pay use and occupancy to our clients during the pendency of the proceeding.
The matter first proceeded to discovery. We helped the family with the discovery process, which included compiling documents concerning property ownership, property rental history, proof of residence, and documentation evidencing bona fide plans to combine the apartments.
After discovery, we moved the matter to trial. At trial the family presented a unified front. Several family members testified about the property destroyed in Super Storm Sandy and the parents’ medical conditions. The family members testified about the family’s need for a larger living space, which included the younger generation caring for the older one and space for family gatherings. We introduced documentary evidence of the destroyed home, and documentary evidence concerning the parents’ medical conditions. We also introduced evidence from the architect’s plans for the combination of the apartments, which demonstrated that the project was both feasible and bona fide.
By the second day of trial the tenants, who were represented by counsel, capitulated and consented to judgment of possession of the apartment in favor of our clients.
Christopher Halligan and Vladimir Mironenko of Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C., represented the landlord.