Posted by Anna on February 11, 2000 at 13:05:00:
In Reply to: Legal fees. Landlords chances to collect their legal fess from tenant posted by marta on February 10, 2000 at 18:04:31:
: Rent stabilized tenant in NYC. Had lease, right now lease has expired. Landlord recently offered renewal but did not follow guideliness (offered renwal two months after the expiration of the lease). The original lease has clause stating that the successful party in a legal action may recover reasonable legal fees. The tenant's complaint involved needed repairs, the landlord prevailed in court due to a technicality, but the tenant's complaint was a legitimate one. What are the chances of tenant being ordered to pay landlord legal fees after the landlord prevailed in court?
These are fuzzy issues. Usually, legal fees are only awarded after a trial on the merits. They must be ordered by a judge. They can be requested in a Motion after the decision. They cannot be 'awarded' if a case is settled by stipulation (but the parties can put a legal fees clause in the stip (tenants: don't ever agree to that!) and it will be enforceable). If the case is 'won' on a technicality, usually there is no prevailing party and no award for legal fees unless the 'technicality' will prevent the plaintiff from sueing again for the exact same reasons (e.g.: if the landlord served a Non-Renewal notice incorrectly in an Owner-Occupancy case). You can get a better feel for the courts' mood by searching on 'legal fee' in Housing Court Decisions http://tenant.net/Court/Hcourt
If you do go to the Pro Se Atty at Housing Court or a Tenant Clinic, bring your court papers and leases: some legal fees clauses actually prevent the landlord from getting them! You could also call Met Council M-F 1-5pm (tel on TN Home somewhere). From your post it sounds like this was an HP Action and since there are so few of those citywide it would not be wise to disclose more info in a public forum.
Note: we've all heard/read horror stories concerning every aspect of Housing Court. Here's a couple concerning fees/costs/disbursements: A tenant won a hearing to vacate an order that the landlord had gotten illegally: the judge ordered the tenant to pay the landlord's legal fee for that hearing. A tenant won a rent abatement: the judge said 'no costs or disbursements because you didn't ask for them in your answer' (the answer was on the pre-printed answer form created by the court that the clerks fill out). A tenant lost but had two leases: the judge awarded legal fees from the older lease, the newer one did not have a legal fee clause. All of these tenants were unrepresented...
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