A Bronx man could not be assumed to have abandoned his apartment based on statements made by an employee of the Veterans Administration to his landlord, a housing court judge has ruled.
The man, Reginald Coleman, has been the tenant of record for a rent-stabilized apartment in the eastern Bronx since 2010. He receives a Section 8 rent subsidy. In May, Coleman went to Virginia to stay with family because his grandmother was in poor health. Around the same time, Section 8 stopped making his rent payments.
When Coleman returned to the apartment in June, he found that it had been rented to someone else, with his furniture still in it. He filed an illegal lockout proceeding against the landlord, Onsite Property Management Inc.
Onsite argued that although Coleman never said he was leaving or surrendered his keys, he had in fact abandoned the apartment. It pointed out that even before Coleman went to Virginia, his electric service had been suspended for non-payment. Coleman, however, maintained that he was still living there, though frequently staying elsewhere, and that he was trying to get the Veterans Administration to pay the electric bill.
The building’s managing agent, Anthony DeRosa, also testified that a representative of the VA told him that Coleman was not returning to his apartment.
Housing Court Judge Jose Rodriguez, however, ruled in Coleman v. Onsite Property Management, 805127/14, that the landlord’s “reliance upon unverified statements allegedly made by is insufficient to establish petitioner’s abandonment or surrender.”
He ordered that possession of the apartment be restored to Coleman, and that the new tenant be evicted.
Coleman is represented by Megan O’Byrne and Yisroel Schulman of New York Legal Assistance Group.
Onsite is represented by Kathleen Bradshaw.