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When a regulated tenant is suspected of "living elsewhere"--no longer utilizing the apartment unit as a "primary residence"--a landlord is permitted to terminate the tenancy and seek recovery of the unit by way of an eviction proceeding known as a "nonprimary residence" holdover case. Before such a dispute can be started, a landlord is first required to serve a notice upon the tenant advising of the lease's nonrenewal (in the case of NYC stabilized tenants) and a notice of the tenancy's termination (in both rent-controlled and rent-stabilized settings).

Of course, as anyone who has been party to this kind of case will attest, the process is easier said than done and is ridden with technicalities.

By way of example, any notice served upon the tenant must set forth, in particular detail, the basis of the landlord's belief that the apartment is no longer being utilized as the tenant's principal or primary home. This recitation can include the location of that alternate residence (if known)--information typically garnered from public filings, such as a motor vehicle registration, driver's license, voter's registration, or other document on record with a public agency. Also relevant are the number of days per year the tenant did (or did not) actually utilize the regulated unit, and, whether or not the apartment has been subleased.

When a notice is found to lack the required factual specificity, a judge will likely characterize the document as defective and dismiss the case. That was the outcome of the dispute in Mak v. Yun Pan Lee, wherein the New York County Civil Court found the predicate to be legally insufficient. On appeal, the Appellate Term, First Department, agreed that the generalized content of the landlord's notice--which simply alleged that the tenant was "living at another [unspecified] location"--was non-compliant with the governing law.

While brevity may be the soul of wit, "more" is often better than "less" within the context of this particular kind of proceeding.

For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision in Mak v. Yun Pan Lee, please click on the following link: