Long Predicate Notices Make for Short Landlord and Tenant Litigations


May 27, 2018 

This is a story about a non-primary residence case where we represented the landlord. The tenant had long ago moved out, and was only using the apartment for her brownstone landscaping business[1]. The apartment had been reduced to an office and a warehouse.
The notice of non-renewal we prepared and served was 19 pages long. It included: data from the tenant’s business website; anticipated testimony of the managing agent about his observations; pictures; the results of a private investigator’s report (demonstrating that tenants owned a home, had registered cars, and voted in another state); the post-mark on the monthly rent statement that always came from the other state; and, of course, the camera data (we never do one of these cases without a camera). The camera showed that the tenant was only at the apartment 35% of the time, and, when she was, it was only to haul supplies in and out. My notice included the excel spreadsheet where we analyzed the camera data and still from the footage. There is a picture of tenant standing outside of her apartment door, fumbling for keys, surrounded by contractor bags and a leaf blower.
Once the tenant received the notice, she very quickly realized that she needed to hand in the keys. Her problem was that the landscaping business made sense in New York City when her overhead was the rent for a Rent Stabilized apartment, as opposed to a real commercial rent. I actually felt bad for her. My landlord-client, however, was not shedding any tears. And it really was not cool that she was storing chemicals in the apartment. In any event, tenant was nice about it and we did a quick settlement and avoided litigation.

Preparing a detailed, thorough, and comprehensive predicate notice can make all the difference in the success of a landlord and tenant case. This tenant was a business woman. My notice let her know that the game was over, that it was not worth hiring a cheap tenant lawyer and trying to hold on for another six months, through the summer landscaping season. Yes, my landlord-client paid me a lot for the preparation of the notice of non-renewal. But he got the apartment back without litigation. My last three non-primes have gone that way. This is, of course, not only shameless self-promotion, but its legal advertising, which I hope works.

It is worth ending the story by saying that this landlord-client was not a developer-sort. She was going to do some renovations to the apartment, but the unit was going to remain a Rent Stabilized unit for its next occupant.
Respectfully submitted,

[1] Some details changed to protect the innocent.