Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – February 22nd Update

Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – February 22nd Update

Real Cases in Real Estate is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.

Followers of Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse possession, foreclosure and eviction, divorce and marital property rights, tenants' rights, and more. Real Cases in Real Estate uncovers the unpredictable, amusing, and sometimes outrageous disputes between next-door neighbors, contractors and homeowners, condo boards and residents, real estate brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.

Each fully cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and laymen alike.

Whether you follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.


Updates for the Week of February 22nd, 2011

A New York City landlord's refusal to consent to subletting was unreasonable because his conclusions about the tenant's intention to return to the apartment were not verified with the tenant.

Rent stabilized apartments in New York City are very valuable and tenants don't like to give them up. The Rent Guidelines Board has a webpage on the ins-and-outs of subletting rent stabilized apartments. (See It advises tenants that they are entitled to ask their landlords for permission to sublet and that landlords may not withhold their consent unreasonably.

A New York court considered Patricia Murray's request to sublet her rent stabilized apartment and found that her landlord withheld consent based on an investigation he conducted unilaterally. The landlord did not verify his information with Ms. Murray. The court found that because he did not ask the tenant for additional information after his investigation showed she did not intend to return to the apartment, he acted unreasonably in withholding consent. Because unreasonable withholding of consent to a sublet is prohibited, the landlord was in violation of the rent guidelines and the law.

In this case, Ms. Murray had lived in the rent-stabilized apartment for 40 years and asked for permission to sublet in order to recuperate from cancer in Florida. Murray provided her landlord the details of the proposed sublet as required by law. The landlord learned that Murray bought a residence in Florida, and that her answering machine there referred to her "new home." Based on this information, the landlord concluded Murray did not intend to return to her New York apartment and denied her request to sublet it.

The court concluded that the landlord withheld consent unreasonably because his conclusion that Murray did not plan to return to New York was speculative and without an objective basis. What the landlord needed to do, according to this decision, was confer with Murray before making a decision about the sublet.  Because he did not, Murray could sublet her place.  As the court put it, "a landlord's unreasonable withholding of consent is a full defense to an illegal-sublet holdover." subscribers can view the enhanced version of 140 E. 46th Street LLC v. Murray, 27 Misc.3d 487, 895 N.Y.S.2d 813 (N.Y. Civ. Ct., February 22, 2010)

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