Landlord Without Certificate of Occupancy Denied Rent

600 West 161st Street in Manhattan. Image credit: CityLaw.

Building Owner added apartments and lacked new certificate of occupancy. GVS Properties LLC owned a 10-story residential building at 600 West 161st Street in Manhattan. In 1970, GVS Properties received a certificate of occupancy that permitted 53 apartments in the building. In 2014 GVS Properties applied for a certificate of occupancy to validate alterations to the building which had increased the number of apartments to 60. Buildings refused to grant the certificate of occupancy because the apartments did not have two exits in case of a fire. Subsequently, nineteen tenants in the building refused to pay rent, asserting that the building did not have a valid certificate of occupancy.  GVS Properties sued the tenants for the rent.

Housing Court Judge Jean T. Schneider, on August 2, 2017, ruled in favor of the tenants. The certificate of occupancy from 1970 was invalid because there were more apartments than there had been in 1970.

On March 28, 2018 the Appellate Term, First Department, citing the Multiple Dwelling Law, affirmed the lower court’s decision. The Court ruled that the tenants had no obligation to pay their rent because the building had been substantially altered since 1970 and the landlord no longer had a valid certificate of occupancy.


GVS Properties LLC, Petitioner-Landlord-Appellant, v. Raybblin Vargas et al., Respondents-Tenants-Respondents., 2018 WL 1527809 (N.Y. App. Term. 2018).

By: Ayala Blumenkratz (Ayala is a New York Law School Student, Class of 2019.)

4 thoughts on “Landlord Without Certificate of Occupancy Denied Rent

  1. Is there any case law regarding single family dwellings and the landlord’s ability or lack thereof to collect rent arrears for the period of time that there was no certificate of occupancy?

  2. Is there any case law regarding a rental single family dwelling with no certificate of occupancy and the landlord not being able to collect back rent during the time that the building had no certificate of occupancy?

  3. Since the 1970’s the building has had illegal and unreported alterations that caused serious fire safety issues.

    Landlords collected rents for over a decade without a current C of O. Some time after, tenants took notice and action about living in a fire trap!

    The landlord, instead of correcting the issue sensibly took a long arduous process that needed both city and state approval to demolish rent stabilized apartments displacing children and seniors for months.

    They are reconfiguring the apartments with an extended corridor that does not seem to be designed for fire safety but instead aims to maximize the potential for “new” rents with disregard to the safety of the occupants in the building.

    The landlord could have immediately remedied this issue by building exterior fire stairs so that each apartment could have a second way out.

    If the plan is completed tenants will still have only ONE EXIT from their apartment into an open air staircase that could be engulfed in smoke. #disaster #firetrap

    In 2015, according to a report on WABC Eyewitness News, this landlord installed a laundry in the basement of this building with an illegal gas hook up that was a ticking time bomb.

    It’s a miracle that the building didn’t explode!

    see link: WABC Eyewitness News

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