Real Estate & Property Law

Tenant Who Didn't Pay Rent Since 2003 Can't Be Evicted Because of Code Violations, NY Top Court Says

New York law bars a landlord from evicting a tenant who hasn’t paid rent since 2003, according to the state’s top court.

The landlord, Chazon LLC, missed deadlines to bring its Brooklyn loft building up to code and did not receive an extension, according to the opinion (PDF) by the New York Court of Appeals. As a result, the building owner was barred under state law from collecting rent or evicting tenant Margaret Maugenest, the New York Times reports.

The ruling cites a 1982 loft law that allowed owners of former commercial buildings to rent to residential tenants if the landlords made safety upgrades and obtained a residential certificate of occupancy. The law “leave[s] these parties in their present stalemate until compliance has been achieved,” the court said.

Maugenest, an artist, was charged less than $600 a month in rent. She told the New York Times in a separate article that the fight was about safety rather than money. She made many improvements in her unit herself, putting in plumbing, wiring, windows and hardwood floors. “We just want the owner to do the right thing,” she said.

Chazon sued to evict Maugenest in 2008. The company’s lawyer, David Berger, told the Times the company has been slow in meeting the law’s requirements because all improvements required tenant approval, and they have nitpicked over aesthetics.

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