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Rivera v. Department of Housing Preservation and Development of City of New York

New York Court of Appeals

April 4, 2017

David Rivera, Appellant,
v.
Department of Housing Preservation and Development of the City of New York, Respondent, et al., Defendants. In the Matter of Leonardo Enriquez, Respondent,
v.
Department of Housing Preservation and Development of the City of New York, Appellant.

         No. 24

         No. 25

         Case No. 24:

          Jason Chang, for appellant.

          Jeremy W. Shweder, for respondent.

         Case No. 25:

          Jeremy W. Shweder, for appellant.

          Ian R. Manas, for respondent.

          OPINION

          GARCIA, Judge

         These cases concern liens placed upon property by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for reimbursement of relocation expenses pursuant to Administrative Code § 26-305. The issue is whether a court may summarily discharge such a lien for facial invalidity under Lien Law § 19(6) based on its finding that the notice of lien seeks an unreasonable amount of expenses. We hold that any dispute about the reasonableness of claimed expenses in an otherwise facially valid notice of lien must be resolved through a foreclosure trial; summary discharge at this stage is not appropriate.

         I.

         The Administrative Code of the City of New York requires HPD to provide relocation services to residents of a privately owned building displaced by "the enforcement of any law, regulation, order or requirement pertaining to the maintenance or operation of such building or the health, safety and welfare of its occupants" (Administrative Code of City of NY § 26-301 [1] [a] [v]). The Code empowers HPD to determine which relocation services are "necessary, useful or appropriate, " and, pursuant to this authority, HPD has determined that it will provide temporary shelter for displaced tenants (Administrative Code of City of NY § 26-301 [1], 28 RCNY § 18-01).

         Under Administrative Code § 26-305, building owners responsible for the violation that caused a vacate order must reimburse HPD's relocation expenses, including but not limited to "departmental costs, bonuses, moving expenses, or other reasonable allowances given to induce tenants to relocate voluntarily." This statute was enacted in response to what was perceived as "a calloused attitude" by landlords "towards providing services to the tenants" and in order to prevent landlords from using code violations to evict tenants that they could not otherwise legally evict (Department of Relocation Memorandum in Support of Local Law No. 15, at 1 [Oct. 19, 1967]). Accordingly, the statute sought to "place the cost of relocating unfortunate tenants on the shoulders of owners who have neglected their buildings or who are using the City's administrative functions to accomplish their own greedy financial purposes" and to provide the agency with the opportunity to recoup its relocation expenditures (id. at 3). The landlord's obligation for such expenses lasts as long as the tenant is in temporary housing - that is, until the tenant is placed in permanent housing or is permitted, after any violations have been remedied, to return to the vacated apartment.

         The Administrative Code provides that relocation expenses incurred by HPD constitute a lien on the property in question governed by the provisions of the Lien Law that are applicable to mechanic's liens (Administrative Code of City of NY § 26-305 [4]). Under Lien Law § 9 and Administrative Code § 26-305 (4) (a), a notice of lien must contain certain information, including the name and address of the lienor and any attorney representing the lienor, the name of the owner of the real property, the name of the lienor's employer, the labor performed or materials furnished and the agreed price or value, the amount unpaid to the lienor, the time when the first and last items of work were performed, and a description of the property subject to the lien. Administrative Code § 26-305 (4) (a) also requires that HPD's notices include a statement that the expenses were incurred for relocation services. A lien must be filed within ...


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