In a decision stronger on emotion than analysis, the Court of Appeals in Rivera v. HPD1 recently eliminated a building owner’s rapid path to determining the validity of liens placed against its building for housing preservation & development’s expenses in relocating the building’s tenants when the building became the subject of a city agency-issued peremptory vacate order. Assuming that the landlord is always at fault in such situations, the court allowed but a single avenue to contest the liens’ validity.

Under existing law, where a building suffers an injury sufficient to require city-ordered vacating of one or more apartments and the city believes the landlord to be at fault for the building’s injury, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) can pass along the relocation expenses to the landowner via liens peremptorily filed against the building. Those liens become the equivalent of mechanics’ liens, enforced through foreclosure proceedings authorized by the state’s Lien Law through RPAPL Article 13 foreclosure proceedings.