Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. saved one Upper East Side resident’s rent controlled apartment after the landlord commenced a non-primary residence case against him. The tenant, whose emotional ties to the apartment were great—having moved there with his grandmother almost twenty years ago and ultimately winning succession rights to the apartment—turned to our firm after his first attorney seemed to lose faith in the difficult case.
In the midst of a strained relationship, the tenant, an aspiring author, lived apart from his wife, who resided in Brooklyn with the couple’s young son. Although this living arrangement suited the couple, the tenant missed his son. That is why the tenant traveled to Brooklyn to stay with his son when the tenant’s wife was called away on frequent business trips, often lasting up to a week at a time.
The landlord refused to believe this living arrangement and, seeing a golden opportunity to win back the last rent controlled apartment on its floor, commenced a case against the tenant. The landlord maintained that the tenant abandoned the apartment, contrary to rent control regulations. The landlord chose not to engage in any meaningful settlement discussions and pushed for a trial.
We inherited the case during discovery from the tenant’s prior attorney, after depositions were already completed. As a result, we were forced to develop a strategy and case theory that fit both the facts established up to that point, as well as the facts established during our additional investigation and fact gathering. After reviewing depositions and documents it became apparent that the tenant spent considerable time away from the apartment watching his son in Brooklyn while his wife was away on business. The Brooklyn residence was also significantly larger and newer than his apartment and the tenant’s receipts and financial statements demonstrated that he spent significant time in Brooklyn. It appeared that the landlord had the tenant with his back against the wall. Nevertheless, the tenant maintained that he considered the Upper East Side apartment his primary residence and that he always returned there.
We began to comb through all of the couple’s documents looking for signs that they maintained separate residences. We also suggested that the couple immediately contact neighbors, doormen, shopkeepers, restaurant staff and others (in both Brooklyn and the Upper East Side) who may be able to corroborate the truth about the couple’s living situation and the tenant’s whereabouts. We reorganized the previously identified documents and supplemented them with additional information that our investigation revealed to demonstrate to the landlord that we were ready to present a persuasive defense at trial. As discovery continued we presented more documents to the landlord’s attorneys. As trial preparation continued, we developed strategies for presenting favorable facts and ascertained explanations behind less than favorable facts to ensure that we were fully prepared. The tenant and his wife, inspired by our aggressive trial preparation, identified and contacted numerous witnesses that were both familiar with their living situation and were willing to testify at trial on their behalf.
Leaving no stone unturned, the hard work and preparation ultimately paid off. As we solidified our strategy leading up to the trial it appeared that the tide was turning. The landlord made a last ditch pre-trial effort to settle the case, but could not match our counteroffer. The landlord discontinued the case on the eve of trial.
Vladimir Mironenko and Christopher Halligan of Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. represented the rent controlled tenant.