Tenants Awarded Fees in Dispute With Landlord
New York Law Journal
Manhattan Civil Court Housing Part Judge Arlene Hahn (See Profile) recently awarded more than $49,000 in legal fees to tenants who prevailed in a rent dispute with their landlord. The award included “fees on fees” and attorney fees on appellate motions the tenants lost.
The Nov. 15 fee award comes on top of an earlier $53,000 award for the tenants.
The landlord, Megan Holding, LLC, filed a non-payment proceeding against tenants Julie Conason and Geoff Bryant in 2009. The tenants brought counterclaims for breach of warrant of habitability and rent overcharge. The landlord’s suit was dismissed for lack of evidence, and the tenants prevailed on their counterclaims after the landlord’s attorney withdrew and the landlord failed to appear at trial with replacement counsel.
The tenants were awarded $24,000 in damages and $53,000 in fees, and the landlord appealed. During the appeal, it made multiple motions for extensions of time, which the tenants opposed but which were granted. In the end, however, the Appellate Term, First Department, ruled against the landlord because appeal does not lie from a default judgment.
The tenants then moved for fees on the appeal. Hahn ruled that, even though the tenants did not prevail on every motion, they should be awarded fees.
“In light of the ultimate outcome of the appeals, and a careful review of the history of the appellate process, this Court finds that all of respondents’ attorneys’ work in defending petitioners’ appeals, including its cross-motions, though not 100 percent favorable to respondent, were all related to major issues in this case and served to advance the case to its ultimate outcome,” Hahn wrote in Megan Holding v. Conason, 64737/09.
Furthermore, Hahn wrote, the landlord’s appeals were “frivolous from their inception.”
The tenants are represented by James Fishman and Susan Crumiller of Fishman & Mallon.
The landlord is represented by Umar Sheikh of Sheikh Partners.