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Rent Control & Lawyer Fees

Posted by Mickey on June 22, 2001 at 11:47:52:

I have been advised that if you live in a rent controlled apartment you can not recoup any lawyer fees even when the landlord takes you to court on numerous occasions and you prevail in all cases. The following is my story and I'm hoping that someone can help me find a way to get at least some, if not all of my lawyer expenses. I have recently filed an harassment complaint but I don't know where to go or who to talk to, please help.

I have been a resident of my apt. building since my birth (1946). I lived in Apt 6R and them in the 1960's moved to an apt on a lower floor. In 1979 the landlord, took me to housing court claiming that I was not entitled to this apt as a rent control tenant. The decision of the court was that I was the legal tenant and that I occupied the apt. as my primary residence. The proceeding was dismissed. In Dec. 1997, the landlord served me with a notice of termination alleging that I no longer utilized the apt as my primary residence alleging that I spent less that 183 days in this apt. A trial was held in Civil Court Dec. 1998. The landlord had no witnesses (I had several from the building). After he put me on the stand for a long time he conceded (and its mentioned in the trascript) "to the extend the respondent is trying to show she spends the mjority of her time from Mon-Fri in the NY apt we're not going to be in a position to refute that. So based upon what we've heard and what we've seen, I think we can stipulate to that fact". Then why was he taking me to court?? The Judge granted in my favor. In June, 2000 after he made the above statement he took me to the Appellate Term, First Dept. The Appellate Court upheld the Civil Courts decision. In Dec. 2000 he then took it to the Supreme Court and again the decision was made in April, 2001 in my favor. These on going cases have taken a toll on me not only physically but financialy. We have used all of our savings, taken money from our 401K (with penalties) and still owe the lawyers thousands of dollars, we do not have a lot of money we worked very hard all of our lives to try and save a little money for retirement and now we are almost bankrupt. I don't know how this law can be considered fair when the majority of people in rent controlled apts are elderly and are on fixed incomes and could never afford a lawyer therefore would be easily evicted from their apartments (I guess that is the idea). I thought the law in this country stated you are innocent until proven guilty, well in this case we are guilty even after we are proven innocent on numerous occasions. Please help. Thanks.

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