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MATTER LAFAYETTE MORRISON HOUSING v. JAMES PATTERSON (07/19/68)
CIVIL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, BRONX COUNTY
1968.NY.42687 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 292 N.Y.S.2d 785; 57 Misc. 2d 579
July 19, 1968
IN THE MATTER OF LAFAYETTE MORRISON HOUSING, INC., PETITIONER,v.JAMES PATTERSON, RESPONDENT. IN THE MATTER OF LAFAYETTE MORRISON HOUSING, INC., PETITIONER, V. WILLIAM OVERBY, RESPONDENT
Irving Novick for petitioner.
Ernest Codelia, Jr., for respondents.
Sidney H. Asch, J.
The disintegration of feudalism corroded the shackles which chained the serf to the manor, freeing him to bargain for land space. Today, the emergence of public and quasi-public housing must compel a reconsideration of traditional principles of landlord and tenant.
Two nonpayment summary proceedings are brought by Lafayette Morrison Housing Project against two named tenants. The tenants live at the project, which is a middle income, limited-profit housing development, consisting of 900 apartments. Lafayette Morrison Housing Incorporated is a company organized and existing under the Limited-Profit Housing Companies Law of the State of New York. (Private Housing Finance Law, art. II.) Commonly, it is known as a Mitchell-Lama Project.
The disputes involved in this proceeding concern the amount of rent which these tenants are required to pay under their leases. By an order issued by the Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal on November 10, 1966, it was provided that the rent for each of the project apartments was to be increased by an amount of $3.60 per room, in two stages: first $1.80 a month, effective December 1, 1966; and an additional $1.80 a month, effective December 1, 1967.
The order of the Rent Commission reads as follows: "Pursuant to the provisions of Article 2 of the Private Housing Law, I, (Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal) do hereby authorize the applicants herein, Lafayette Morrison Housing Corp., to increase the average monthly rental per room at Lafayette Apartments to $32.01, on December 1st, 1966, and to $33.81, on December 1st, 1967."
Each of the tenants involved in these proceedings rented his apartment after December 1, 1966, the effective date of the first increase, but before December 1, 1967, the second effective date. At the time that the tenants in question signed their lease, the first increase of $1.80, effective December 1, 1966, was already reflected in the monthly rent. The tenants do not quarrel with this rent increment. It is the second $1.80, effective December 1, 1967, that is being challenged by the tenants.
They argue that since the order of November 10, 1966, authorizing the increases, was in existence at the time that they signed their leases, their rents became fixed at the amounts set out in their respective leases, fixed for the duration of their respective leaseholds, except for such subsequent increases as might be authorized by later orders of the Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal. The tenants also urge, with some persuasive force, that the increases of December 1, 1966 and December 1, 1967, were actually vested by the order of November 10, , before they had become tenants, that since the leases did not specifically refer to these increases, such increases were reflected in the rent which was set forth in the lease, or waived.
It is undisputed that the increase order of November 10, 1966, was properly and legally obtained under section 31 of the Private Housing Finance Law. It came about after lengthy public hearings held on several different days. Both the landlord and a number of tenants, represented by the Lafayette Residents Association, appeared and made their views known. The order of the Commissioner was affirmed by the Supreme Court, and the Lafayette Residents Association served notice of appeal from this decision. Finally, on October 13, 1967, the association of the tenants through their attorney discontinued and withdrew the appeal.
The tenants occupy apartments in the project under a lease which provides, in part, as follows: "the Tenant agrees to pay in equal monthly installments in advance on the first day of each month during said term, plus any and all surcharges made in accordance with the Tenant's family income, pursuant to the Limited-Profit Housing Companies Law and the Rules and Regulations of the Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal of the State of New York, plus any and all rent increases granted by order of the Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal pursuant to said Law, all of which the Tenant agrees to pay as additional rent, all payable at the office of the Housing Company or such other place as the Housing Company may designate, without any offset or deduction whatsoever, except that the Tenant shall pay the first monthly installment on the execution hereof (unless this Lease be a renewal).
"It is understood and agreed that if the rent for the demised premises is increased by reason of an order of the Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal made pursuant to the Limited-Profit Housing Companies Law of the State of New York, for which increase the Tenant immediately becomes liable as outlined above, then, in that event, and only in that event, the Tenant herein shall have the option to cancel this Lease and vacate the demised premises within 60 days after notice of the above-referred-to rent increase has been given to the Tenant, provided that the tenant gives at least 30 days notice by registered mail to the Housing Company of his intention to exercise the option contained herein." (Italics ours.)
"Sixteenth. This agreement is subject to the powers, rights, and privileges, and the restrictions and limitations thereon, of the Housing Company as a Limited-Profit Housing Company under the supervision and control of the Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal pursuant to the Limited-Profit Housing Companies Law; and to the rights and powers of said Commissioner under said Law or any amendment thereto, by all of which both parties hereto agree to be governed, and to all of which both parties hereto assent."
The landlord in this proceeding is a very special creature of the statute, and is required to comply very strictly with the regulations prescribed, in fixing what amount of rent is to be paid, which tenants are permitted to occupy premises, and in determining most of the other conditions of the tenancy.
All the rules and regulations applicable to rent determination and collection in this instance are collated in the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (9 NYCRR Part 1700, particularly Subparts 1727-3 and 1727-4) which relate to leasing rent determination and collections. The further section 1727-4.2, rent schedules, have particular application to the case at bar and these require that rents or carrying charges be determined by reference to rent schedules approved by the Commissioner. The rents which the housing company did charge were those on rent schedules on file.
These regulations cover virtually all the terms of the lease. They specify the form of the lease and how executed; the duration; the manner in which rents are to be determined; the manner in which rents are to be specified in the lease; the manner of rent collections; the permissible allowances. Virtually, every act of the housing company as to rent is prescribed without discretion by the housing company. An analogy is a utility ...