Ninety to one-hundred and fifty days prior to the expiration of a New York City tenant's rent-stabilized lease, a landlord seeking to recover that unit for "owner's use" may serve a notice of non-renewal (or "Golub" notice).*
Currently, the law permits the recovery of an unlimited number of regulated apartments as long as the owner can demonstrate a good-faith desire to utilize the recovered units as the owner's (and/or an immediate family member's) primary residence.
Many of these cases never get to the merits and will often turn on the sufficiency of predicate notices, with those found to be factually deficient triggering a dismissal.
In Peng v. Van Zandt , the Golub notice alleged that the landlord "decided to assume occupancy" of the apartment, "to live in as her primary residence in the City of New York."**
Peng further asserted that her furniture was stored in the building's basement and that she planned "to move into the apartment as soon as possible."***
Since that language utilized left much to be desired, the New York County Civil Court dismissed the case. On appeal, the Appellate Term, First Department, reversed. The AT was of the opinion that the document "sufficiently complied with the [factual] specificity requirements of the Rent Stabilization Code ... and governing precedent[.]"
While this notice may not have provided an ideal recitation of the underlying facts, the appellate court reiterated a standard that many advocates need remember:
A predicate notice in a holdover proceeding need not lay bare a landlord's trial proof, and will be upheld in the face of a "jurisdictional" challenge where, as here, the notice is "as a whole sufficient adequately to advise ... tenant and to permit it to frame a defense" ....
Of course, one can also readily find quite a few reported appellate cases which have not been as liberal with landlords' notices. Numerous cases have been dismissed for using notices which merely "tracked the statute" or were perceived to be "factually deficient," even though they may have contained comparable (or considerably more) information than was recited in the Peng case.
What is direly needed is definitive guidance from our appellate courts as to what is an acceptable standard when it comes to notices used within the context of summary proceedings.
Since the practice of law shouldn't be about odds, guesswork or even gamesmanship, the confusion with regard to what is the minimally permissible content must be addressed.
I'm sure we can all agree that justice is never furthered if parties are unable to "frame a defense," but why is all this uncertainty surrounding the "framing of a case" palatable?
For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision, please use the following link: Peng v. Van Zandt
*For our other blog posts on this topic, please use this link: Owner's Use
**Pretty broad statement, no? Did the landlord have "primary residences" in other cities?
***Like in 2020?