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Personal bankruptcy does not protect New York tenants from eviction proceedings, a state appeals court has ruled. The decision by a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, found that a lower court was correct to reverse its previous holding that bankruptcy shields a debtor from eviction. “Although a debtor’s debt for rental arrears may be personally discharged in bankruptcy, the underlying debt is not extinguished,” the court wrote in Dulac v. Dabrowski, 2969. “Hence, the discharge in bankruptcy is not the equivalent of payment and does not, under federal bankruptcy law, prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant by reason of nonpayment.” (The decision appeared March 1 on page 29.) The unanimous ruling moves a Manhattan landlord a step closer to ending a 16-year fight with one of her tenants at 24 Minetta Lane.The landlord, Pari Dulac, first tried to evict Robert Dabrowski in 1988. Mr. Dabrowski has lived on the second floor of the building for 27 years. Ms. Dulac lives upstairs. Mr. Dabrowski was able to stave off an eviction years ago when Ms. Dulac said she wanted the apartment for herself. He convinced the Division of Housing and Community Renewal that his rent-stabilized apartment, which cost $400 a month, was a rent-controlled apartment that should cost only $30.70 a month. Mr. Dabrowski had stopped paying rent when, in 1998, DHCR determined that it had made a mistake in calculating the rent. It awarded Ms. Dulac $42,000 in back rent. Mr. Dabrowski declared bankruptcy, and Southern District Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Gerber determined that his $42,000 debt had been discharged under Bankruptcy Code �727(b). However, the judge said, the discharged debt would not prevent Ms. Dulac from seeking an eviction, as long as she did not seek any money. Judge Gerber’s holding explicitly challenged Stahl Broadway Co. v. Haskins, 180 Misc. 2d 705, a 1999 ruling from the Appellate Term, First Department, that found that eviction proceedings could not be brought against bankrupt tenants because the past rent, having been discharged, was no longer in arrears. Last year, however, the Appellate Term ruled that Stahl should no longer be followed. Ruling in Dulac v. Dabrowski (NYLJ Feb. 26, 2003, p. 22), the court said as long as Ms. Dulac declined to seek a money judgment, she could begin an eviction proceeding against Mr. Dabrowski. Last week, the Appellate Division agreed, noting that federal courts had rejected Stahl’s reasoning. “The landlord may pursue any remedy to which it is entitled under state law for breach of the tenant’s obligation to pay rent, except a remedy against the debtor personally to collect the money due,” the court wrote. Justices Angela M. Mazzarelli, Richard T. Andrias, David B. Saxe and Alfred D. Lerner concurred on the ruling. Ms. Dulac was represented by Meryl L. Wenig. Mr. Dabrowski was represented by Robert Grimble.

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