Rosenberg & Estis, P.C. is proud to announce that it has secured a major victory in the “Altman” case, Altman v. 285 West Fourth LLC, before the Court of Appeals of the State of New York.
The landmark decision, issued on April 26, 2018, prevents the restabilization of tens of thousands of New York City apartments that had been deregulated between 1997 and 2011. The Court of Appeals unanimously declared the apartment in question to be exempt from rent stabilization, and as a result of the victory, vacated a $165,000 overcharge award.
Rosenberg & Estis Member Jeffrey Turkel argued the case before the Court of Appeals on behalf of 285 West Fourth LLC, based on briefs he wrote with Rosenberg & Estis Member Blaine Z. Schwadel. Mark Amsterdam and Mark Lewinter, senior partners at Amsterdam & Lewinter LLP, also represented 285 West Fourth LLC in the case.
The lower court decision had completely upended the city’s residential market by retroactively changing the way in which the luxury decontrol threshold is reached. Today’s unanimous ruling prevents the unjustified restabilization of thousands of apartments that were appropriately deregulated according to law. It also prevents thousands of deregulated tenants from receiving a windfall in the form of a rent-stabilized apartment with a below-market rent.
The issue underlying the case was whether, under New York City’s Rent Stabilization Law, statutory vacancy increases, as well as increases based on the installation of new equipment and improvements in vacant apartments, could be used to reach the $2,000 rent threshold necessary for vacancy deregulation. Rosenberg & Estis argued that, based on a clause added to the law by the New York State Legislature in 1997, an apartment will become deregulated as long as the rent of the former tenant, plus allowable post-vacancy increases, brings the rent to $2,000, or more.
The Court of Appeals ruled that to effectuate luxury deregulation of an apartment that became vacant between 1997 and 2011, the legal regulated rent, including post-vacancy increases, had to be above the statutory deregulation threshold at the time the incoming tenant moved in. Citing the language of the statute, and the legislative history of the enactment – which the Court said “could not be clearer” – the Court held that “it is reasonable to read the plain language of the [statute] to refer to the legal regulated rent (including the available statutory increases) applicable to the apartment after the tenant’s vacancy.”