Form of Civil Complaint by Tenant against Landlord - All statements in the form of complaint below are allegations only, and are not statements of fact. This is important for the reader to realize. Truth is something which is elusive and difficult to determine, especially for a judge, jury and the parties themselves at times.
Index No. 03-xxxx
SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF NEW YORK
CARL E. PERSON,
TYPICAL LANDLORD CORP., LANDLORD OWNER NO. 1, and LANDLORD OWNER NO. 2,
Plaintiff, Carl E. Person, an attorney acting pro se, as and for his complaint, respectfully alleges: Parties
1. Plaintiff, Carl E. Person ("plaintiff") is a tenant in a rent-stabilized multiple-dwelling at 9999 W. 999th St., New York, New York 10999 (the "Building"), specifically as to combined apartment designated 1-H and 1-J (the "Apartment").
2. Defendant, Typical Landlord Corp. ("Typical"), is a business corporation organized on May 18, 1954 under the laws of New York.
3. Typical is the owner of the Building, and plaintiff's Landlord as to the Apartment, and has offices at 9999 W. 999th Street, New York, New York 10999 and at 999 Hardball Court, Hardball, New Jersey 07999.
4. Defendant, Landlord No. 1 ("Landlord#1") is an officer and principal shareholder of Typical, resides in the Building, and together with his brother (defendant Landlord#2) manages the Building and has conceived, supervised and carried out, in conspiracy with the other defendants, the illegal activities described herein.1
5. Defendant, Landlord No. 2 ("Landlord#2") is an officer and principal shareholder of Typical, and together with Landlord#1 manages the Building and has conceived, supervised and carried out, in conspiracy with the other defendants, the illegal activities described herein.1
Co-Conspirators Acting in Concert
5A. Each of the defendants has acted in concert with various co-conspirators in carrying out the activities alleged in this complaint, including the following persons:
A. Landlord No. 3, father of the individual defendants and upon information and belief a principal shareholder of Typical;
B. Landlord No. 3, wife of Landlord#3, mother of the individual defendants and upon information and belief a principal shareholder of Typical; the Building was owned by Henrietta (Smith) and her Smith family before she married Landlord#3.
C. Landlord No. 4, a brother of the individual defendants and active in management of the business affairs of the Building;
D. Mary M. Martin, Office Manager for Typical, with offices in Hardball, New Jersey, who signed defendants' April 15, 2003 letter demanding that plaintiff and his wife remove their dog from the Apartment and Building;
E. Black & Deckertt, P.C., 999 E. 999th St., New York NY, a law firm aiding and abetting defendants in their alleged activities, and acting as their attorney in commencing extortionate litigation against plaintiff and other tenants of the Building;
F. Attorney Black and Deckertt, each a partner of Black & Deckertt, who have been aiding and abetting defendants in their alleged activities, and acting as defendants' attorneys in commencing allegedly extortionate litigation against plaintiff and other tenants of the Building;
G. Other attorneys retained by defendants prior to Black & Deckertt, P.C.; and
H. Other persons not presently known to plaintiff but who will be identified through discovery.
6. Plaintiff has lived in the Building continuously since approximately 1978, and has been a tenant on a lease for an apartment in the Building since 1979, approximately.
7. The Building is a rent-stabilized Building and plaintiff's Apartment is rent stabilized.
8. Every two years since 1979, approximately, defendants have offered a lease to plaintiff and his wife, Lu Ann, for renewed rental of the plaintiff's Apartment.
9. The written offer to renew the lease and the lease itself amount to advertising material relating to the proposed Apartment rental.
10. Each time the defendants have offered plaintiff material terms of the lease including the amount of monthly rent for the period and an implied offer and representation that defendants would not make any efforts to coerce plaintiff into paying any illegal increase in rent for the rental period, or renewed rental periods.
11. Defendants have had a practice during the past 20 years or so of coercing tenants, including plaintiff, into paying illegal increases in rent, or driving some tenants (other than plaintiff so far) from the tenant's apartment through a continuous scheme of illegally increasing apartment rentals in violation of the New York Rent Stabilization Law.
1. Plaintiff reserves the right to amend this complaint to include (i) a cause of action for malicious prosecution; (ii) a cause of action under the federal, state and New York City civil rights statutes for age discrimination by defendants against plaintiff and his wife concerning plaintiff's residence in the Building; (iii) a cause of action for violation of the federal, New Jersey and New York RICO statutes; and (vi) claims for monetary damages on behalf of other past and present tenants in the Building.
[END OF FOOTNOTE]_________________________
12. The names of specific tenants (in addition to plaintiff) who have been subjected to these unlawful practices by defendants include but are not limited to (i) XXX; (ii) XXX; (iii) XXX; (iv) XXX; (v) XXX; (vi) XXX; (vii) XXX; (viii) XXX and roommate XXX; (ix) XXX; (x) XXX and roommate XXX; and (xi) XXX.
Immediate Activities Directed against Plaintiff
13. For all of plaintiff's tenancy in the Building (and Lu Ann's tenancy in the Building since 1973), the plaintiff has had a dog ("Gogus", replaced by "Biff") other than for a period after death of Gogus and the death of Biff.
14. Plaintiff's wife (a co-tenant on plaintiff's lease with the Typical) had a dog when she moved into the Building in 1973, and at all times when she, and then plaintiff and Lu Ann signed renewal leases with the Landlord.
15. Each lease had a provision saying no pets were allowed, but in no instance (from 1973 to 2003) did any of the defendants ever tell plaintiff or Lu Ann that they could not keep a dog in their Apartment.
16. Landlord#2 (German Shepherd) as well as two or more of Typical's superintendents for the Building (including the immediately prior superintendent, xxx - 2 Chow dogs) have had dogs living in the the Building. At all times from 1973 to the present, there have been one or more dogs living in the building (not including plaintiff's dog), and at all times there have been various cats living in the Building, in spite of the "no pet" provision in the lease of each tenant (upon information and belief).
17. Defendants for at least the past 25 years have been looking for any pretext to increase rents, legally or illegally, and have created controversies and have commenced meritless litigation with tenants for the specific purpose of either obtaining illegal rental increases from them or to drive the tenant from the Building to enable the defendants to increase the rent to the next tenant, often in an amount far beyond any increase permitted under the Rent Stabilization Law. Defendants' "enforcement" of the no-pet lease provision is one example of such pretext for coercing higher, illegal monthly rentals from defendants' tenants.
18. Plaintiff and Lu Ann purchased "Biff", a sheltie (Shetland Sheep dog or "miniature collie") during 1989 and kept him in the Building from 1989 until Biff died during September, 2001.
19. For about 1-1/2 years, plaintiff and Lu Ann searched for a similar-looking Sheltie and finally, on March 23, 2003, found a near-identical Sheltie (in the same pet store where plaintiff had purchased Biff in 1989).
20. Plaintiff took the newly-purchased Sheltie (which we named "Howie") back to the Building and made his presence widely known to the defendants, their employees, and to tenants and dog-walking neighbors on the block.
21. During June, 2003, defendants commenced an eviction proceeding against plaintiff and Lu Ann alleging that the presence of the dog Howie violated the lease (in spite of the various other pets in the building, and in spite of the lack of any warning, and in spite of the fact that plaintiff and his wife have had a pet in the Building as stated above since for more than 30 years).
22. The eviction proceeding was not commenced to enforce the "no pet" provision of Typical's lease with plaintiff but for the purpose of coercing plaintiff into agreeing to a 32% ($450) increase in the monthly rent, from the current monthly rent (as stated in the 2003 lease of $1,428.13 to the unlawful amount of $1,978.13), an annual rent increase of $5,400.
23. As part of the coercive, unlawful offer by defendants to withdraw their eviction proceeding against plaintiff and his wife, defendants proposed that they would make an unspecified amount of alleged "capital improvements" to the plaintiff's Apartment in the Building, none of which are needed, or wanted by plaintiff. In the past, defendants have used windows removed from another building owned by them to justify higher rent for all tenants in the Building based on inflated alleged costs for the window and installation by a company wholly-owned by the defendants.
24. Plaintiff rejected the extortionate, coercive offer, and the eviction proceeding continues, at trial, with defendants renewing their coercive proposal during the trial to settle their meritless eviction proceeding.
25. Setting aside the issue of the "no pet" lease provision, the defendants have no right to maintain their eviction proceeding against plaintiff because the eviction proceeding was commenced more than 3 months after Typical knew or should have known about plaintiff's new dog in the Building.
26. Plaintiff is being threatened with loss of his residence and the loss of a significant part of his professional time (needed to service his clients and outstanding cases) and related injury to his professional practice as an individual practitioner by the illegal activities of defendants.
27. Plaintiff is entitled to an injunction prohibiting defendants from any further activities directed against plaintiff, his wife Lu Ann, their dog Howie, and against any of the other tenants in the Building in attempting to use threats, intimidation, eviction proceedings and other litigation to increase monthly rentals, extract other payments from tenants, or to drive tenants out of the Building for the purpose of illegally increasing the rent to the next victim tenant.
28. Plaintiff alleges that the other tenants are a class of victims of defendants' practices, and that plaintiff represents such tenants for the purpose of obtaining an injunction to stop such practices. Plaintiff does not allege that he is representing the tenants (as a class or otherwise) for the purpose of obtaining any damages for them.
29. Plaintiff has been damaged as follows:
A. By the out-of-pocket legal fees, disbursements and other costs of defending the eviction action brought by defendants;
B. By prior payment of $4,000 in legal fees demanded by the defendants (and paid by plaintiff to Typical) as part of an earlier eviction proceeding commenced by defendants against plaintiff and Lu Ann.
C. By the loss of professional time required to deal with defendants' meritless, coercive eviction action.
D. By the loss of time in dealing with other tenants in the Building who have related problems with the defendants where defendants are attempting to increase their rent illegally, or drive them out of the Building, to enable the defendants to increase the rent illegally to the new tenants.
E. By the constant fear of losing plaintiff's home and residence which exists merely by the existence of an eviction proceeding, even though it is meritless, because of the vagaries of litigation and the ever-present possibility that some litigation mishap could occur which might result in a default, for example, in spite of the merits of the plaintiff's defense and the lack of merit of Typical's eviction proceeding.
F. The related emotional stress, trauma, worry, attention, distress and suffering which plaintiff is experiencing as well as the pain and distress which plaintiff is suffering from the emotional stress, trauma, worry, attention, distress and suffering of plaintiff's wife Lu Ann, who is also a respondent in the eviction proceeding.
30. By reason of the above, plaintiff has been damaged to the extent of $250,000 or more, which amount will be proven with certainty at the time of trial.
31. The activities of each of the defendants have been aimed at all of their customers (i.e., tenants in the Building), involves a fraud evincing a high degree of moral turpitude (involving for the most part the attempted and in some cases actual eviction of elderly persons from their place of residence, without justification), and demonstrates such wanton dishonesty by defendants as to imply a criminal indifference to defendants' civil obligations, especially defendants' obligations under the New York laws governing landlords and tenants, and the New York Rent Stabilization statute.
32. The activities of defendants are illegal, shocking and outrageous, depraved, and preying on elderly persons who in many instances are not able to defend themselves or know what defendants are doing to them, in which amounts to a business practice by defendants of exploiting the need and desire of most apartment-renters to remain in peaceful possession of their rented homes and surrounding community even to the extent of paying large amounts of unlawful monetary tribute to an over-reaching landlord and its owners who use and abuse the court system to obtain illegally-high rents from the tenants in the Building.
33. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each of the allegations in paragraphs 1-32 above and further alleges that the activities of defendants amount to abuse of process.
34. On July 14, 2003, defendants filed proof of substituted service of process on plaintiff and Lu Ann, which commenced the eviction proceeding against plaintiff and his wife.
35. This filing included a Notice of Petition (and Petition) dated June 27, 2003, which defendants served on plaintiff and his wife by mail (envelope postmarked 7/10/03).
36. The Notice of Petition is equivalent to a summons, and constitutes "process" for purposes of this claim for abuse of process.
37. At the time that defendants filed their proof of service on July 14, 2003, more than 3 months had expired from the date at which Typical and the other defendants knew about the existence of plaintiff's new dog in the Building and for such reason the eviction proceeding was meritless from its commencement on July 14, 2003.
38. The purpose of the Notice of Petition and underlying eviction proceeding was not to obtain any relief to which Typical was entitled (for there was none at such time).
39. Instead, the Notice of Petition and underlying lawsuit were served and commenced for the purpose of making a coercive offer to increase plaintiff's rent by 32% or $450 per month in violation of the Rent Stabilization Law in exchange for withdrawal by defendants of their meritless eviction proceeding.
40. Defendants had an improper purpose in serving the Notice of Petition upon plaintiff and plaintiff's wife, and in filing the proof of service on July 14, 2003, which was the defendants' completion of the (substituted) service of the Notice of Petition upon plaintiff.
41. Plaintiff repeats and realleges his claim for injunctive relief, and actual and punitive damages as set forth in paragraphs 29-32 above.
42. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each of the allegations in <185><185> 1-41 above and further alleges that the activities of defendants constitute "deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of ... business, trade or commerce or in the furnishing of any service in" New York in violation of <185> 349 of the New York General Business Law.
43. Defendants' bi-annual solicitation of plaintiff for lease renewal using the proposed lease together with a covering letter is the use of advertising and sales material under said <185>) 349.
44. Failure of the defendants to advise plaintiff or his wife of defendants' ongoing plan to attempt to raise monthly rents in excess of the amount permitted by law constitutes an unlawful deceptive and fraudulent practice under said section.
45. Also, defendants' actual efforts to obtain unlawful rent increases from plaintiff and other tenants amounts to a series of repeated violations of said <185> 349.
46. By reason of defendants' activities, plaintiff has been deprived of the benefits under his lease with Typical, and has been subjected to costly litigation and uncertainty concerning his residence, for which defendants have no justification other than their illegal effort to increase plaintiff's rent by 32%.
47. Plaintiff repeats and realleges his claim for injunctive relief, and actual and punitive damages as set forth in paragraphs 29-32 above.
48. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each of the allegations in <185><185> 1-47 above and further alleges that the activities of defendants constitute "false advertising in the conduct of any business, trade or commerce or in the furnishing of any service in" New York in violation of <185><185> 350 and 350-a of the New York General Business Law.
49. Plaintiff repeats and realleges his claim for injunctive relief, and actual and punitive damages as set forth in paragraphs 29-32 above.
50. In addition, defendants are liable to plaintiff for a refund with interest of all rent paid by plaintiff to Typical during the preceding 6 years, amounting to about $95,000 plus interest.
51. Also, in a separate action, any tenants in the Building at any time during the past 6 years or more are entitled to recover the amount of the rents paid by them to Typical based upon any finding in this action of liability of the defendants for refunding the rents paid by plaintiff.
52. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each of the allegations in <185><185> 1-51 above and further alleges that the activities of defendants constitute commonlaw extortion in forcing plaintiff to defend a meritless eviction proceeding commenced by defendant to obtain plaintiff's consent to an illegal monthly rent increase of 32%.
53. Defendants are quasi public officials in their ownership and management of the Building under the New York Rent Stabilization statute, including their activities in compliance with the regulatory requirements, certification of such compliance, and use of the courts to obtain enforcement of the statute and regulations.
54. By their activities as quasi public officials or otherwise, defendants have engaged in commonlaw extortion by commencing the meritless eviction proceeding against plaintiff, and requiring plaintiff to devote his property and time to defending against the action.
55. 155.40 of the New York Penal Law, entitled "Grand larceny in the second degree", provides as follows:
A person is guilty of grand larceny in the second degree when he steals property and when:
1. The value of the property exceeds fifty thousand dollars; or
2. The property, regardless of its nature and value, is obtained by extortion committed by instilling in the victim a fear that the actor or another person will (a) cause physical injury to some person in the future, or (b) cause damage to property, or (c) use or abuse his position as a public servant by engaging in conduct within or related to his official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely.
Grand larceny in the second degree is a class C felony.
56. Plaintiff's rent-stabilized Apartment and residence at the statutory-maximum rental per month is a property interest of the plaintiff.
57. This property interest is unique and is intertwined with more than 25 years of use and enjoyment by the plaintiff and with relationships with hundreds of persons and businesses residing or located in the immediate area which would be destroyed or materially injured if plaintiff lost the property involuntarily, by wrongful activities of the defendants.
58. Defendants' activities in attempting to deprive plaintiff of such property interest through commencement of a meritless eviction proceeding is a crime of grand larceny under <185> 155.40 of the New York Penal Law.
59. Plaintiff repeats and realleges his claim for injunctive relief, and actual and punitive damages as set forth in paragraphs 29-32 above.
60. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each of the allegations in <185><185> 1-59 above and further alleges that the activities of defendants are an actionable infliction of emotional distress upon plaintiff.
61. Defendants have been threatening plaintiff through a meritless eviction action with the loss of his Apartment and residence in the Building in which he and his wife have resided during the past 25-30 years.
62. Defendants have been doing this for the unlawful purpose of extorting an unlawful 32% increase in plaintiff's monthly rental.
63. Such activities are an intentional infliction of emotional distress through extreme and outrageous conduct which would be condemned by virtually everyone in the United States, and which is conduct which exceeds all bounds usually tolerated by decent society and are of a nature which is especially calculated to cause and did cause mental distress of a very serious kind to the plaintiff and his wife.
64. Plaintiff repeats and realleges his claim for injunctive relief, and actual and punitive damages as set forth in paragraphs 29-32 above.
65. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each of the allegations in <185><185> 1-64 above and further alleges that the activities of defendants amount to a material breach of contract between plaintiff and Typical, and a breach of the implied covenant of peaceful possession of plaintiff's Apartment.
66. Plaintiff repeats and realleges his claim for injunctive relief, and actual and punitive damages as set forth in paragraphs 29-32 above.
67. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each of the allegations in <185><185> 1-66 above and further alleges that the activities of defendants violate the New York statutes regulating the amount of rent to be paid by tenants of the Building, with resulting liability of defendants to plaintiff under the doctrine of negligence per se.
68. Plaintiff repeats and realleges his claim for injunctive relief, and actual and punitive damages as set forth in paragraphs 29-32 above.
WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands judgment against defendants as follows:
1. A judgment that each of the defendants is liable to the plaintiff under the legal theories set forth in the above alleged Count 1 through Count 7;
2. That each of the defendants is liable to the plaintiff for actual damages to plaintiff in the amount of $250,000 or more and for return of all rents paid by plaintiff to Typical during the past 6 years or more;
3. That each of the defendants is liable to the plaintiff for punitive or exemplary damages in an amount to be determined by the jury or other trier of fact;
4. That each of the defendants is liable to the plaintiff for unlawfully causing him emotional distress.
5. That each of the defendants be temporarily and permanently enjoined from performing any further unlawful activities as described in the complaint above, against plaintiff, plaintiff's wife, or any of the other tenants in the Building.
6. That each of the defendants be assessed reasonable attorney's fees;
7. That each of the defendants be assessed interest, costs and disbursements; and
8. That plaintiff have such other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper.
Dated: New York, New York
.....October 20, 2003
Carl E. Person, Plaintiff Pro Se
325 W. 45th Street - Suite 201
New York, New York 10036-3803