New York. An appellate court agrees a tenant cannot collect her attorneys’ fees against her landlord under a reciprocal rights theory because the attorneys’ fees provision she claimed the fees under was not contained in her original lease agreement. The landlord and tenant entered into a written residential lease agreement governed by the Rent Stabilization Code.
When the lease expired, the landlord and tenant entered into a lease renewal agreement and the tenant remained in possession. The renewal lease contained a different attorneys’ fees provision than the original lease and the new provision set forth a “broad obligation to reimburse the landlord for attorneys’ fees” upon any litigation between the parties.
The landlord subsequently sued the tenant for possession based on a holdover eviction action and lost. The tenant filed a motion for attorneys’ fees claiming she was entitled to her attorneys’ fees under the reciprocal rights provision of state law and the lease renewal agreement. But the trial court denied her claim for attorneys’ fees and she appealed the decision.
The appellate court affirms the trial court’s decision to deny the tenant attorneys’ fees and rules the attorneys’ fees provision in the original lease “did not trigger the reciprocal right to attorneys’ fees under state law.” As the appellate court points out, in cases where the landlord and tenant enter into a renewal lease agreement containing a provision which may trigger the tenant’s reciprocal right to attorneys’ fees, the right to fees will not apply in situations governed by the RSC.
The RSC “requires that any renewal lease be on the same terms and conditions as the expiring lease.” Therefore the “broad obligation to reimburse landlord for attorneys’ fees” in the renewal lease cannot be enforced because it was not forth in the original lease and is therefore contrary to the RSC.
Since the tenant’s reciprocal right to attorneys’ fees was not triggered by the new provisions of the renewal lease, she is not entitled to her attorneys’ fees in this case.
[Editor’s Note: Be sure to use AOA’s Rental Agreement and/or Lease which limits attorney’s fees should a tenant prevail in court.]
Lesson: As this case illustrates, leases governed by the Rent Stabilization Code must be renewed under the same terms and conditions as set forth in the original lease or they will not be enforced. The landlord was lucky here because it was the landlord’s lease and the tenant was almost able to use it to collect attorneys’ fees after prevailing in a holdover action. Make sure the renewal leases contain the same terms and conditions to be enforceable.
[Editor’s Note: Landlord Law & Multi-Housing Report includes expert analysis of the latest legal developments in the rental housing sector as well as news about the multi-housing market, landlord-tenant relations and successful management strategies. Rental housing laws vary from state to state and some may not be applicable to California; however, most cases contain valuable lessons for housing providers.]
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