A client came to Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. looking to evict a troublesome tenant whose lease had expired in a building that had been gut renovated.
Under the law, such buildings are free from rent regulation if certain criteria are met—that the building is in dilapidated condition and that the landlord replaced at least 75% of the building systems, including, at the very least, all walls, floors, and ceilings.
However, proving those criteria entails providing a good number of mind numbing dry facts to a court that can want to ignore them. Devising an innovative technique of embedding photographic evidence directly into the written argument, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. highlighted the dispute in a way that enabled the pictures to say many thousands of words.
These pictures, presented directly inside the argument discussing them, first showed the dilapidated condition of the building, including rusted out steel I-beams, and rotted floor joists, connected to nothing in particular. The pictures went on to depict that the building had been stripped down to bare brick shell with nothing but scaffolding inside. With that picture initially catching the court’s attention, it took very few words to convince the court that there was new wiring, new plumbing, new floors, walls, ceilings and roof because the court had already seen the building when it had none of those systems in place.
Not content with the implication that bare walls meant everything inside the new walls was brand new, the pictures went on to depict the new building systems, including the plumbing, wiring, heating systems, and hot water systems.
The pictures even showed the basement slab had been removed, leaving nothing but a layer of gravel before a new thicker slab was poured over it. With these images so firmly implanted in the court’s mind, little explanation was required. Finally, the pictures concluded by showing shiny white brand new apartments, with gleaming new appliances. All in all, the court was given some 300 pages of vibrant data making the rehabilitation obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Usually, courts will bend over backwards to deny a motion for summary judgment, straining to find some kind of issue of fact. But with these pictures in place, there was only one fact: that the building was created completely anew, with nothing from the original architecture other than empty windowless brick walls.
This left the tenant with nothing to argue except his invalid interpretation of the whether the building permits actually permitted all the work that had obviously been done. This argument was also met with affidavits gathered from experts who explained that the permits were indeed in line with the work that had been done and the building was indeed a brand new building inside an old brick shell.
As a result, the court was willing to take the extremely rare step of granting summary judgment to the landlord, with the tenant having no argument to present but quibbling about various documents. This, the court completely dismissed as irrelevant, in light of the obvious visible truth of the landlord’s position as the court saw within the first few pages it was presented.
Thus, effectively a brand new building, it was exempt from rent regulation and the court granted the tenant only a few days to move out, itself a remarkable rebuke to the tenant from courts that typically allow even tenants with no defenses, months to find another place to live.
Dov Treiman wrote the papers and Christopher Halligan successfully argued the motion.