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Tenants and Jury Trials - should you demand one?

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Tenants and Jury Trials - should you demand one?

Postby TenantNet » Sun Apr 15, 2018 9:53 pm

Tenants may have the right to have jury trials even if their leases say no. However, is it wise to do so? Many tenant attorneys strongly recommend against it.

https://www.nytimes.com/1975/06/07/arch ... roper.html
Jury‐Trial Ban in Leases Held Improper
JUNE 7, 1975

A Housing Court judge has ruled that provisions in residential leases that waive tenants' rights to a jury trial are unconstitutional. In a decision in which he consolidated four eviction cases involving Manhattan residents, Judge Leonard N. Cohen, a former deputy borough president of Manhattan, said the courts “were never intended to serve as rubber stamps for landlords” but were primarily concerned with seeing that justice was done.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling similar to Judge Cohen's, which was handed down Thursday and can be appealed.

The Federal decision, however, applied only to Federal housing. The New York State courts have consistently upheld the waiver provisions.

Richard Levenson of the law firm of Berger, Kramer & Levenscn said here yesterday that Judge Cohen's decision was “a remarkable advance in the law for the protection of peoples' rights.”

Choice Held Lacking

Invoking what is known as the principle of unconscionability, Judge Cohen wrote in his 14‐page decision, “It is clear that waiver of a substantial right must be without compulsion of any kind and flow from and be knowing, understanding, intelligent, intentional and the choice of a free will.”

Noting that the city has “a critical housing shortage” and “negligible” vacancy rates, he stated that a “free choice cannot be said to prevail.”

There are many forms of standard leases used by landlords here, including one that is approved by the Real Estate Board of New York. Virtually all of them contain provisions stating that the tenant waives

This right to a jury trial. Tenant groups have sought with little success to alter the leases to include warrants of habitability, which guarantee that the premises will be eturned over in a safe, clean and habitable condition, and interdependence of covenants, which would permit rent‐reduction claims in cases in which tenants felt that essential services were not provided.

The cases involved in Judge Cohen's decision were eviction proceedings brought by landlords against individual tenants, in which the tenants asked for jury trials and the landlords contended that theft right to them had been previously waived.
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