A twenty-five year tenant of an Upper West Side townhouse, together with her husband, is keeping her apartment after a three-year litigation war defending a personal use holdover proceeding brought by her landlord. The crux of the landlords’ claim was that they needed the apartment so that their daughter had somewhere to stay on her occasional visits to the City. Our clients were the only remaining tenants in the townhouse after others died, were either bought out, or forced out by the landlord over the years. The townhouse consisted of five one-bedroom apartments and a duplex apartment where the landlords supposedly lived, but in reality did not. Our clients spent much of the year as the only people living in the building and as such was very well aware of who was coming to and from the building through the years.
The tallest hurdle to overcome was how to prove that the landlords never intended to personally use our clients’ apartment. Our challenge was to show that the landlord’s claim that they needed the apartment was a smokescreen for the truth, that they wanted to empty the building in order to sell it at a higher profit. We used online investigatory resources to create a historical timeline of the landlords’ acquisitions and divestitures over a twenty-year period. We looked into their daughter’s personal life and showed that a new mother who already split her life over two states could not reasonably need this apartment for occasional visits to the City. We learned that the landlords operated a vineyard in California and set out to show that the landlords primarily resided in California and not New York City. We subpoenaed every single airline company serving their vineyard on a mission to find out how many trips between California and New York the landlords have taken over the years and over what intervals.
Through photographs and testimony, we proved the landlords’ supposed plans to occupy the entire building were completely bogus. We showed that not only did they not need our clients’ apartment, but they were not using the empty apartments in the building. Finally, by showing the landlord recently installed new electrical breakers, intercoms, and mailboxes for six independent units, we convinced the court that the intended use of the building remained that of separate residences, not a single family mansion.
Dov Treiman, Christopher Halligan, Bill Geller and Carolyn Z. Rualo were the principal members of the Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. landlord-tenant team handling the case.