By Corina Streekmann
Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman LLP
The Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997 (RRRA) modified the class of individuals eligible for succession and eliminated nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles from among those relatives which qualify as “family members” for succession claims to rent regulated tenancies.
In a recent case, the owner brought a holdover proceeding against the niece of the tenant of record who died in 2010. The niece’s main defense was that because she notified the owner in 1992 that her uncle was moving, she was entitled to succession pursuant to the Rent Stabilization Code (RSC) as it existed in 1992 (which allowed nieces to claim succession).
The owner moved for summary judgment to evict the niece based upon two arguments. The first argument was that case law holds that the provisions of the RSC that were in effect at the time a proceeding is commenced, are the law which governs the proceeding. The owner brought the proceeding in 2012, well after the RRRA eliminated nieces as a protected class.
The second argument was that although the niece claimed that her uncle permanently vacated the subject apartment in 1992, that claim it was belied by her uncle’s conduct. The uncle continued to execute lease renewals for 18 years for the subject apartment until his death, paid rent from an account that bore the uncle’s name and, when the owner inquired in writing about the uncle’s primary residence, the uncle and niece remained silent.
The court ruled in favor of the owner, holding that it is required to apply the law in effect at the time the litigation was commenced, not when the alleged circumstances that gave rise to the lawsuit took place.
The court also held that the niece and her uncle engaged in a pattern of deception for over eighteen years to conceal the fact the uncle had vacated the subject apartment. The court awarded the owner a judgment of possession. The decision is being appealed by the niece.