Court of Appeals February Session: Arguments of Interest for February 9, 2017

The Court of Appeals’ February Session continues on Thursday, February 9th with three cases on the docket (the Court of Appeals’ case summaries can be found here). The Court will address the following issues: (1) whether a criminal defendant “displays” a firearm for purposes of a first degree robbery conviction when the defendant says he has a gun, threatens to shoot the store clerk, and keeps his hand out of sight under his clothes near his waistband; (2) whether courts may discharge a New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development lien on a landlord’s property for recovery of relocation expenses paid to the landlord’s tenants forced to vacate the property due to a hazardous condition or code violations upon a finding, without an evidentiary hearing, that the expenses were unreasonable and thus the lien was facially invalid; and (3) whether sentences for burglary and murder should be imposed consecutively, instead of concurrently, where the crimes were committed in separate acts during a single transaction.

No. 24 Rivera v Department of Housing Preservation and Development

No. 25 Matter of Enriquez v Department of Housing Preservation and Development 

These two cases represent a split in the Appellate Division concerning whether a court may find a New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”) lien on a landlord’s property to be facially invalid because the expenses it seeks to recover are unreasonable without holding an evidentiary hearing. The New York City Administrative Code authorizes the HPD to impose a lien on a landlord’s property when the tenants are forced to vacate their apartments due to a hazardous condition or other code violations. The lien is intended to allow the HPD to recover the costs of providing relocation assistance benefits to the displaced tenants, including “temporary shelter benefits” and “moving expenses or other reasonable allowances.”

In Rivera, the Fire Department required tenants to vacate a building owned by David Rivera, and the HPD thereafter asserted a lien against his property for approximately $76,000 in relocation benefits, including the cost of 4 1/2 years of hotel expenses. Supreme Court dismissed Rivera’s challenge to the lien as facially invalid because the cost and length of the hotel stay was unreasonable, and the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed. The Court held that absent a basis for vacating the lien under Lien Law 19(6), the lien was not invalid on its face and a determination of the reasonableness of the relocation benefits claimed by the HPD required an evidentiary hearing, that is, a foreclosure trial.

In Enriquez, the Department of Buildings required one tenant of Leonardo Enriquez to vacate his apartment building, and the HPD asserted a $16,000 lien for one year of hotel expenses and administration costs. Enriquez also challenged the lien as facially invalid due to the length of the hotel stay, but Supreme Court rejected his challenge, holding that any dispute concerning the reasonableness of the expenses claimed under the lien had to await a foreclosure trial. The Appellate Division, First Department, however, reversed and summarily declared the lien facially invalid. The Court held that the HPD’s payment of relocation benefits for one year of a hotel stay was unreasonable, and that the one year length of the hotel stay could not qualify as “temporary shelter benefits” under the Administrative Code.

The Court of Appeals will, therefore, resolve the split of authority in the Appellate Division and determine whether an evidentiary hearing must be held before a court may determine the reasonableness of the expenses claimed under a HPD lien.

The Appellate Division, Second Department’s decision in Rivera can be found here.

The Appellate Division, First Department’s decision in Enriquez can be found here.

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