Landlords ask court to throw out Sandy class action

One tenant didn't pay her own rent, and another didn't properly identify landlord

TRD New York /
Mar.March 27, 2013 03:30 PM

A group of landlords that include Ogden Cap Properties and the estate of Sol Goldman has moved to dismiss a wide-ranging class action from three Manhattan tenants, who sued to collect rent refunds for the time their buildings were uninhabitable following Hurricane Sandy.

Three Manhattan residents filed the proposed class action in January, alleging they and other tenants across New York State should be reimbursed for the period of time when their homes had no electricity, heat, hot water or elevator service after the storm made landfall in late October.

The heart of their argument is that, under New York Real Property Law, landlords and management companies must keep their properties habitable.

But the landlords have called the action “no more than a manufactured attempt by plaintiffs’ counsel to capitalize on what was an undeniably tragic natural disaster,” they said in court papers.

They have asked a New York State Supreme Court judge to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the proposed class of plaintiffs and defendants — all tenants and all landlords in the state, respectively — is improper, and that some of the residents are not qualified, or lack standing, to bring the suit.

“Our motion is primarily geared to demonstrate that they cannot meet the prerequisites to meet class certification,” said Mara Levin, an attorney at Herrick Feinstein who is representing the landlords.

For example, one of the plaintiffs, Lauren Schoenfeld, had the rent at her 145 East 16th Street apartment paid by her roommate’s parents in October and by her own parents in November, according to the motion.

“A tenant who did not pay rent, or had his or her rent paid by a third party, is not entitled to recovery,” the motion said, citing state law.

Another, Briana Adler, allegedly failed to name her landlord as a defendant; Ogden, which owns and operates her Murray Hill building, is a management company, not a “lessor” or “landlord,” the motion said.

The landlords also attempted to pick apart the tenants’ claims that their buildings were equally impacted.

For example, another tenant, Perri Steiner, lives at 17 Stuyvesant Street, which did not have electricity in the storm’s aftermath but did have hot water, the motion says. Since the building, owned by Tres Realty LLC, is a walk-up apartment, it would not have lacked elevator service. Also, Steiner allegedly evacuated to her sister’s Upper West Side home following the storm and only returned once services had been restored, according to an affidavit from the building’s managing agent. The motion seeks to move this individual claim to recover some of her rent expenses to a lower court.

At Adler’s apartment at The Windsor Court On East 31st Street, the elevator was functional, thanks to an emergency generator, the motion says.

Barbara Hart of Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys for Ogden Cap and an entity affiliated with the Goldman estate also did not immediately return messages. A spokesperson for Tres Realty declined comment.

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