New York State laws authorize the eviction of tenants engaged in "illegal" activity within their commercial or residential space. In fact, one statute, Real Property Law section 231(1), provides that whenever a tenant--or other occupant--is engaged in "any illegal trade, manufacturer or other business," then the lease agreement between the parties is "void, and the landlord...may enter upon the premises...."
Since the laws seek to proscribe "commercial" activity, mere "possession" or "recreational use" of illegal drugs (such as marijuana) is usually insufficient to result in a forfeiture of one's home or business. By way of example, in 554 West 148th Street Associates, LLC v. Thomas, a single charge of possessing four ounces of marijuana did not result in a regulated tenant's eviction when there was no proof that:
drugs were sold from the apartment and/or the building "at any time anywhere;" and/orAs the Appellate Term, First Department, concluded in the Thomas case, the prime concern is whether the commercial or residential space was used "as a focal point for drug activity or that any such illegal use occurred 'customarily or habitually' upon the premises."
the space was "a place where drugs were prepared or manufactured."
By contrast, the tenant in 3890 Broadway Realty, LLC v. Polanco, was not as fortunate. In this recent case, police officers seized from the tenant's apartment over 100 tin-foil packets--containing a total of about half a pound of marijuana--together with "a digital scale and numerous empty zip-lock bags." Based on the items removed from the premises, the arresting officer was of the opinion that the marijuana had been "packaged for sale." Ultimately, the Appellate Term, First Department, concluded as follows:
These demonstrated facts warranted the conclusion that tenant's apartment was being used for illegal purposes, and support the trial court's rejection of tenant's claim that the drugs were solely for personal use....Ouch!
For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision in 554 W. 148th St. Associates LLC v. Thomas, please click on the following link:
For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision in 3890 Broadway Realty, LLC v. Polanco, please click on the following link: