NEW YORK, Nov. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Squatters who wrongly seek to remain in hotels can be evicted following an important procedural decision by the New York State Court of Appeals, New York's highest court.
The case concerned a recipient of City emergency housing benefits, Phillip Pitt, who was placed by the City in a hotel room leased and paid for by the City. After the City terminated its lease and sought to relocate Pitt and other similar persons to more suitable housing at the City's expense, everyone in the hotel left and relocated, except for Pitt who refused to leave. After the landlord moved to evict him, Pitt claimed he was a rent-stabilized tenant who could not be evicted, even though he had no lease, no obligation to pay rent, and never paid rent to the landlord. The Housing Court agreed with Pitt, but was unanimously reversed by the Appellate Term which granted the landlord's petition to evict Pitt. After the Appellate Term decision, but prior to Pitt's appeal to the Appellate Division, First Department, Pitt voluntarily vacated the room, rendering Pitt's appeal moot.
Despite Pitt's vacatur of the room, the Appellate Division erroneously determined the appeal was not moot and reversed the Appellate Term, finding that Pitt could remain in the hotel as a "permanent tenant" protected by the Rent Stabilization Code, merely because he had been in possession for more than six months of a room leased to and paid by the City.
In reversing, the Court of Appeals determined that by the time Pitt's appeal reached the Appellate Division, it was moot by reason of Pitt's voluntary vacatur of the premises and should not have been decided, thereby removing the Appellate Division's dangerous unprecedented ruling.
The landlord was represented by Ronald J. Rosenberg and Lesley A. Reardon, of Rosenberg Calica & Birney LLP in Garden City who appealed the case to the Court of Appeals. Rosenberg stated, "It is important to understand this wasn't about our client seeking to throw a squatter out into the street in the middle of the winter. Rather, the individual was occupying a room in my client's hotel that was leased and paid for by the City. Unlike all the other recipients who occupied other rooms the City leased, Pitt wrongfully refused to relocate to another room in another building the City leased for them which the City deemed more suitable, after the City terminated its lease with my client.
"This week's action by the Court of Appeals correctly reversed the Appellate Division and vacated the erroneous and dangerous precedent it made concerning a moot appeal, which should be viewed by everyone as a victory for the rule of law and the integrity of the legal relationship between landlord and tenant," concluded Rosenberg.
SOURCE Rosenberg Calica & Birney LLP