In a major victory for condominium boards, the state’s appellate court has ruled unanimously that a Manhattan condo unit-owner who refused to pay his common charges since 2007 can be evicted from his apartment, The New York Law Journal reports.
Steven Wozencraft, who bought an apartment in 2006 at the 10-story luxury Heywood Condominium in Chelsea, stopped paying his common charges a year later, claiming he was being denied amenities, including doorman service and package deliveries. Wozencraft now owes more than $600,000 in monthly common charges plus interest, attorney fees and late fees, the building's lawyers say.
In affirming multiple lower court rulings, the Appellate Division, First Department noted that evicting a condo unit-owner is a “rare occurrence,” but added that “eviction was proper and not unconstitutional” under the state’s Condominium Act and the Heywood’s bylaws. Justice Peter Tom wrote, “Unlike co-op boards, which are well equipped with legal remedies to address the issue of chronic misconduct by tenant-shareholders, condo boards are far less empowered to deal with difficult condominium owners.” (In many condos, an eviction would require a cumbersome amendment of the bylaws.)
In 2015, a lower court authorized a receiver to collect $6,500 monthly rent from Wozencraft, even though he owned the apartment. Wozencraft did not pay the rent.
The Heywood’s attorney, Steven Sladkus, a partner at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, said the case provides a road map for other condominium boards. "The abbreviated road map is: file the common charge lien, move to foreclose, seek a receiver to collect the rent, and if they don't pay the rent, eject," Sladkus said.
Co-op and condo board business broken down into bite-sized bits - 2 stories each week. Read now on all digital devices.
A free digital resource for co-op/condo board directors. Published twice a month. Read now on all digital devices.