City Liable For Charter School’s Rent

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, 240 Jay Street in Brooklyn. Image credit: CityLaw.

City DOE refused to pay costs to renovate charter school’s rental space. The Education Law requires the City Department of Education, upon the request of a charter school, to provide the charter school with a co-location in a New York City public school for no charge, or to reimburse a charter school for its “actual rental cost” if the charter school is required to rent at a new location in New York City.

The Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, a charter middle school located in Brooklyn, New York, requested co-location which City DOE denied. The charter school appealed City DOE’s denial to the New York State Department of Education. The State Commissioner found in favor of the charter school and ordered City DOE to pay the school’s rental assistance once the charter school provided proof of its actual rental costs.

The charter school submitted a new rent bill to City DOE accompanied by a copy of its lease and correspondence with its landlord which explained that the landlord had charged the charter school a reduced rent because the charter school had agreed to make alterations to the premises. The landlord agreed to consider the alterations additional rent under the lease.

City DOE refused to reimburse the charter school for the additional costs it incurred in making alterations, and determined that it would only pay the base rent costs. The charter school sued City DOE. The charter school alleged that it was entitled to payments covering the alterations under the State Education Law and under the prior order by the State Education Commissioner. City DOE moved to dismiss the complaint.

Supreme Court Justice Judge Lucy Billings ruled in favor of the charter school on its claim, including the alteration costs, and denied City DOE’s motion to dismiss. In the absence of a definition of “actual rental costs” in the Education Law, Judge Billings construed the phrase to have its ordinary meaning. She held that this meant City DOE was required to reimburse the charter school for all costs it actually incurred in renting its facility, and not just the base rent.


Brooklyn Lab. Charter v. NYC Dept. of Ed., 67 N.Y.S.3d 397 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cty. 2017).

By: Danielle Mabe (Danielle is a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.)

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