Altman v 285 West Fourth, LLC Appellate Decision

In the Altman v 285 West Fourth, LLC Decision (click here to read), the Appellate Division found that a stipulation from 2005 which set forth a rent, agreed upon by the parties, but one that "exceeded the maximum allowable rent legal limit" under the Rent Stabilization Code, was improper as it allowed for the tenant to waive his RSL protections without "satisfaction of the conditions for deregulation." The vacancy increase after an apartment is vacated, plus any Individual Apartment Improvements bringing the rent above $2,500, should still be proper. In this instance, the Court determined the starting rent was not correct, so the apartment could not be deregulated.

While the Decision is disturbing, the bigger issue is the review of the rent records well beyond 4 years from the filing of the complaint (the original Stipulation was from 2005 followed by a 2007 Agreement) wherein the tenant agreed not to challenge the status of the apartment or rent in any court or forum.

The cautionary measure to be taken is to make sure rents are increased in keeping with the law (rent guidelines board order increases, vacancy increases, longevity increases, individual apartment improvements) and that landlords hold on to all records, regardless of how old they are.