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In re Alibel Corporation

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

December 21, 1954

In re Alibel Corporation

Page 141

APPEAL from an order of the Supreme Court at Special Term (GREENBERG, J.), entered October 6, 1954, in New York County, insofar as it denied a motion by petitioners to modify respondents' notice of examination before trial.

COUNSEL

Leon London for appellants.

Howard Rosenberg of counsel (Robert J. Eliasberg, Murray Miller, Howard A. Rosenberg and Reuben J. Aronson, attorneys), for respondents.

BREITEL, J.

This is a proceeding to fix the reasonable rent of office space under subdivision 1 of section 4 of the Business Rent Law (L. 1945, ch. 314, as last amd. by L. 1954, ch. 447). Landlord appeals from an order denying modification of a notice by tenant to examine the landlord before trial with respect to post-petition increases in rental income.

Landlord's petition alleged increases in taxes and payroll expenses accruing subsequent to the filing of the petition. In connection with the examination before trial, tenants contend that, because of landlord's reliance upon post-petition increases in expenses, they, the tenants, are entitled to inquire into and offset equally prospective increases in rental income.

It is not too clear in the statute, nor has it been uniformly apparent in the decisions, whether the fixing of the reasonable rent under the emergency laws contemplates any examination of prospective income and expenses, and, if so, the extent to which such prospective changes should be considered.

The statute provides initially that the landlord is entitled to a reasonable rent 'based on the fair rental value of the tenant's business space as of the date the application * * * is made and the landlord shall be entitled to receive rent so fixed dating from the time of such application' (§ 4, subd. 1). This gives us the basis or standard imposed by the statute. What follows in subdivision 1 of section 4 relates to the procedure to be followed in applying that standard.

There is no provision in the statute which says, in so many words, that the fixing of the fair rental value, and thereafter the reasonable rent, should be based upon the income and expenses for the preceding year. There is, however, express and unambiguous provision that the landlord is obligated to serve upon the tenant a verified bill of particulars which will set forth the

Page 142

data as to income and expenses for the preceding year (§ 4, subd. 1).This has been on occasion, however, construed to mean that the duty to particularize does not limit the determination of fair rental value to the state of facts as it existed in the year preceding the application. On the other hand, the view, on fewer occasions, has been expressed that the application date is an impenetrable barrier so far as the future is concerned and that the fair rental value is to be fixed looking solely to the actual and fully realized economic operations for the preceding year as if it were a base year. (Matter of 212 Fifth Ave. Corp. [Affiliated Clothiers], N.Y. L. J., April 4, 1951, p. 1212, col. 8.) In fact, the preceding year has frequently been referred to as the 'base year', although the statute never uses the latter term or its equivalent. But the statute does state, that, in addition to setting forth the income and expense data for the preceding year, the landlord may add 'such other facts as the landlord claims affect the net income of the entire building or other rental area, or the reasonableness of the rent to be charged' (§ 4, subd. 1).

An examination of the critical decisions indicates that the courts have decided as follows: Where, in the year prior to the filing of the petition, there has occurred a change in circumstances affecting continuing or recurring expenses and the change is fixed, the courts will give effect to the change, although it is also prospective in impact and not fully reflected on an annual basis in the particulars of the expenses for the preceding year supplied by the landlord. Thus, in Matter of Stabler (Knox Studios) (275 App.Div. 799), where the liability of the landlord for increased wages and real estate taxes became fixed in amount and determined as to obligation during the year preceding the application, this court permitted the full inclusion of the increases in these items in the computation of reasonable rent, even though the impact of a portion of these expenses was not to be felt until during the succeeding year. (Accord: Matter of 140 Bleecker St. Corp. [Potlow], 284 App.Div. 257; Matter of 23 West St. Corp. [Gibbs & Cox], 278 App.Div. 795, revd. on other grounds, 303 N.Y. 404.) Similarly, post-petition changes in income--where those changes have occurred and become fixed and ...


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