The Appellate Term recently reversed a lower court’s directed verdict which previously granted a nephew succession rights to a rent controlled apartment previously leased by the nephew’s aunt.
In Fort Washington Holdings LLC v. Abbott, the nephew, Maurice Abbott, had lived with his aunt in a rent controlled apartment since 1967 until his aunt passed away in 2008. The landlord sought to remove Abbott from the apartment claiming that Abbott was a non-traditional family member of the aunt who was not entitled to succession rights to the apartment. At trial, a jury ruled that Abbott was not entitled to the apartment. In a stunning reversal of the jury’s verdict, the presiding judge ruled that the evidence presented overwhelmingly favored Abbott and that, based on his relationship with his aunt since 1967, entitled him to continue to maintain the apartment.
The landlord appealed the judge’s ruling and the Appellate Term sided with the landlord. The Appellate Term ruled that there was insufficient evidence presented to establish that the nephew and the aunt were financially interdependent on each other. The Court ruled that “a claimed successor must establish both the emotional and financial underpinnings of his or her relationship with the tenant to qualify for eviction protection as a nontraditional family member.”
According to Peter Moulinos, this ruling is significant in that the Appellate Term reverse the judge’s ruling, which reversed the jury’s finding, on the basis that the nephew did not present sufficient evidence to show that he had a financially intertwined relationship with his aunt that would prevent his eviction.