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You Don't Need to Chase Your Previous Landlord to Get a Rent Abatement - Get the Abatement from the Building's New Owner!

September 30, 2018: This Q&A post originally appeared on the Tenant Learning Platform blog, where Michelle Maratto Itkowitz is an instructor and guest blogger.

Tenant’s Question:

I’m a tenant of a Rent Stabilized apartment in Brooklyn. The building was just sold and now I have a new landlord. The previous landlord of this building, however, was very bad.

I wish that I had sued my old landlord while he was still around. I want to find my previous landlord and go after that company for breach of warranty of habitability (i.e. no stove, gas turned off, bed bugs, broken flooring in apartment, no door chain etc.) and for a rent overcharge.

How do I sue my previous landlord?

TLP Instructor Michelle’s Answer:

You do not have to sue your previous landlord! Pursue those claims against your current landlord. It does not matter that the bad acts were committed by the previous landlord. Those claims – warranty of habitability and rent overcharge – they “travel with the land”. In other words, when the new owner bought the building, it bought the old owner’s liabilities.

If the old owner owed you a rent abatement for a breach of the warranty of habitability, then the new owner now owes you the same abatement. Dunbar Owner LLC v. Jones, 54 Misc.3d 134(A) (App. T. 1 Dept.; 1/25/17). If the old owner overcharged you, then it’s the new owner’s responsibility to pay you back the overcharge. Rent Stabilization Code § 2526.1 and Rent Stabilization Law § 26-516.

The law evolved this way so that tenants don’t need to chase previous landlords. Anyway, most buildings are owned by single-asset limited liability companies – the LLC is set up for the sole purpose of owning the building. Once the closing happens, the LLC (the previous landlord) has no assets for you to collect from anyway. That’s why you need to bring your claims against the current owner of the building.

Thank you for this question. Finally, I am obligated to say that this answer is for general informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney and client relationship between you and I or between you and the Tenant Learning Platform.

[End of Guest Blog Post]

The Tenant Learning Platform delivers on-demand, online classes for NYC tenants on specific legal topics, to help tenants prevent and solve problems concerning their apartments, without a lawyer. TLP's first two class offerings are: How To Do Airbnb Legally In Your NYC Apartment and The Laws About Painting Your NYC ApartmentMichelle Itkowitz is delighted to be an instructor on TLP and a guest blogger. 

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