Real Estate & Property Law

Video surveillance is increasingly used in legal disputes over rent-controlled apartments

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Video surveillance

Sentencing is scheduled later this month for a New York City police officer and his brother who pleaded guilty to perjury for their statements in a legal battle with their landlord.

The landlord had contended that the officer’s brother, Victor Cruz, didn’t actually live in the $151-a-month, rent-controlled apartment and had forfeited his lease rights, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. The officer, Miguel Cruz, had testified his brother lived at the apartment and he often visited him there.

After Miguel Cruz testified about the visits in his deposition, the landlord’s lawyer pulled out photos taken by a surveillance camera hidden in the hallway. During a period of more than a year, Cruz or his brother sometimes visited the apartment, but they were never together.

The case highlights the increasing importance of surveillance video in battles over rights to rent-controlled apartments. Landlords benefit when tenants leave because they may be able to increase rents to market rates or to sell the apartment.

Lawyer Bradley Silverbush represented the landlord in the Cruz litigation. He told the Wall Street Journal that, at any one time, at least a dozen surveillance cameras are collecting evidence for his clients. Other lawyers told the newspaper that camera evidence is becoming an important tool in the legal battles.

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