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Judge Diane E. Lutwak

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Landlord alleged tenant breached a substantial obligation of her tenancy and lease by chronically paying rent late in this holdover proceeding. A prior court dismissed the petition finding none of the five non-payments landlord cited may be relied on to support the chronic rent delinquency claim, ruling the predicate notice was defective. It also set the matter down for an attorney fees hearing, held by the instant court. Tenant’s counsel requested $10,325 in legal fees—for work performed up to the hearing, and fees for the fees hearing. Landlord argued while tenant was the prevailing party she failed to present evidence of a lease entitling her to legal fees. The court rejected such contention noting RPL §234 provided a reciprocal right to attorney fees for a tenant who substantially prevailed in defending against a landlord’s breach of lease suit that included a provision allowing landlord to recover fees if successful in the action. Also, the fact tenant’s attorneys worked for a non-profit organization not charging its clients for services did not impact their ability to recover reasonable fees under §234. While the court reduced the hourly rate of an attorney, and struck certain billed items, it found the fees reasonable, awarding tenant’s attorneys $8,961.25 against landlord.

Judge Diane E. Lutwak

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Landlord alleged tenant breached a substantial obligation of her tenancy and lease by chronically paying rent late in this holdover proceeding. A prior court dismissed the petition finding none of the five non-payments landlord cited may be relied on to support the chronic rent delinquency claim, ruling the predicate notice was defective. It also set the matter down for an attorney fees hearing, held by the instant court. Tenant’s counsel requested $10,325 in legal fees—for work performed up to the hearing, and fees for the fees hearing. Landlord argued while tenant was the prevailing party she failed to present evidence of a lease entitling her to legal fees. The court rejected such contention noting RPL §234 provided a reciprocal right to attorney fees for a tenant who substantially prevailed in defending against a landlord’s breach of lease suit that included a provision allowing landlord to recover fees if successful in the action. Also, the fact tenant’s attorneys worked for a non-profit organization not charging its clients for services did not impact their ability to recover reasonable fees under §234. While the court reduced the hourly rate of an attorney, and struck certain billed items, it found the fees reasonable, awarding tenant’s attorneys $8,961.25 against landlord.