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Scott E. Mollen

Landlord-Tenant—Illegal Lockout Proceeding Dismissed Based On Doctrine of Lache—Statute of Limitations

A petitioner commenced an illegal lockout proceeding (proceeding) against a landlord, seeking possession of the subject apartment (apartment) and to relocate the current occupant to another apartment. The petitioner had “successfully appealed the Civil Court’s post-trial decision which led to his eviction.” The landlord argued that the petitioner’s proceeding was barred by, inter alia, the statute of limitations (SOL) and the doctrine of laches.

Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) §853, permits “an unlawfully evicted individual to recover treble damages from the wrong doer. RPAPL §853 is subject to the one year [SOL] applicable to causes of actions for damages resulting from an intentional tort.” However, a cause of action seeking restoration pursuant to RPAPL §713(1), which provides “a cause of action to an individual seeking to be restored after being forcibly or unlawfully dispossessed,” “does not begin to run until ‘such time that it is reasonably certain that the tenant has been unequivocally removed with at least the implicit denial of any right to return.’” Based on the subject facts, the court held that the petitioner’s claim was not barred by the SOL.

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