ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - The New York Court of Appeals ruled last week that the owner of a Brooklyn loft building cannot evict a tenant, even though she has not paid rent for nearly 10 years.

The state's high court said in a June 7 opinion that Chazon LLC has not complied with the state's Loft Law.

Until the law was enacted by the state Legislature in 1982, the residential occupancy of lofts was illegal: The tenants had no right to be there, and the landlords had no right to collect rent.

However, such occupancies grew common in New York City. Lawmakers, in response, enacted the measure as a means of bringing both tenants and landlords within the law.

In particular, the Loft Law establishes a series of deadlines by which the owners of interim multiple dwellings are required to alter them to conform to safety and fire protection standards, doing everything necessary to obtain a residential certificate of occupancy.

Until the certificate is obtained, the rents in interim multiple dwellings are regulated and the tenants are protected against eviction, while the landlords, as long as they are in compliance with the law, are relieved from the prohibition against collecting rent or seeking eviction for non-payment.

The defendant in the case, Margaret Maugenest, occupies an apartment in Chazon's loft building, but has not paid rent since 2003.

Chazon sued to have Maugenest ejected, or evicted. A state supreme court granted summary judgment awarding the owner possession of the apartment, and the appellate division affirmed.

Maugenest appealed to the state Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower courts' decisions.

The Court, in its seven-page ruling, said Chazon is not entitled either to collect rent or to evict the tenant.

"The landlord has neither met the Loft Law deadlines nor obtained an extension of time from the Loft Board," Judge Robert Smith explained.

"In the absence of compliance, the law's command is quite clear: 'No rent shall be recovered by the owner of such premises... and no action or special proceeding shall be maintained therefor, or for possession of said premises for nonpayment of such rent.'"

Basically, state law leaves both parties in their "present stalemate" until compliance has been achieved, the Court said, dismissing the complaint.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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