In the Matter of the Application of Edward Coffina, Petitioner,
New York State Division of Housing And Community Renewal, Respondent,
This case is not published in a printed volume and its disposition appears in a table in the reporter.
Eileen Bransten, J.
In this Article 78 proceeding, petitioner Edward Coffina ("Mr. Coffina") seeks to annul the November 1, 2006 determination of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal ("DHCR"), which upheld the rent administrator's decision that there was no rent overcharge. DHCR opposes the petition as does the owner of the apartment Champion Properties, LLC ("the Owner"), which intervened in this proceeding.
On March 1, 1994, Mr. Coffina rented apartment 1R at 77 Christopher Street in Manhattan pursuant to an eight-year lease that ended on February 28, 2002. Petition, Ex. A, at 1; Answering Affirmation ("Answer"), Ex. A, at 1. The initial lease provided that monthly rent would be $564.05 through February 28, 1996. Answer, Ex. A, at 2. For the periods between March 1, 1996 and February 28, 1998 and from February 28, 2000 to February 28, 2002, the rent was to be "adjusted in accordance with rent stabilization guideline increases for two-year renewal leases." Answer, Ex. A, at 33. The initial lease does not provide that Mr. Coffina was receiving a "preferential rent."
In 2000, on the "Apartment Registration Listing," the Owner indicated that the legal rent for the apartment was $1074.80 and that the actual rent paid was $619.22. Return, at A-2.
In December 2001, Mr. Coffina and the Owner executed a two-year renewal lease, which provided that "the legal rent on Sept. 30th preceding commencement date of this renewal lease" was $1074.80 and that the new rent to be charged was $1117.79 for the first year and 1139.29 for the second. Return, at A; Petition, at 7. The lease further set forth that a "lower rent" was to be charged in the amount of $656.37. Id.
Approximately two years later, the Owner provided Mr. Coffina with a lease (dated January 12, 2004) stating that the "legal rent on Sept.30th preceding commencement date of this renewal lease was $1139.29" and offering new rent of $1190.55 for the first year and $1224.73 for the second year. Significantly, the lease did not allow for any "lower rent to be charged." Return, at A-2.
Mr. Coffina executed the renewal lease.
On March 12, 2004, however, he filed an overcharge complaint with DHCR. Mr. Coffina asserted that the "owner is terminating a preferential rent that was not a preferential rent." Record, at A. He urged that "the owner has been entering my rent as a preferential rent and listing a higher rent as the legal rent on the annual apartment registrations. There is nothing to support the owner's representations." Id.
In opposition, the Owner urged that it was entitled to revert to a higher legal rent if it was " previously established' that there was a legal rent higher than the preferential rent being paid." Return, at A-2. Based on the 2000 apartment registration, the executed 2002-2004 renewal lease and the executed 2004-2006 lease, the Owner argued that it established entitlement to collect the legal rent established by the history. Id.
On November 4, 2005, a DHCR rent administrator found:
"The record shows that the owner has timely filed the apartment registrations from the year 2000 through 2004 listing both the legal regulated rent and the preferential rent each year. Further, the tenant signed the renewal lease for the period 3/01/02-2/28/04 on December 19, 2001 which listed both the legal and preferential rents to which the tenant raised no objection. The tenant filed the ...