In a decision with profound repercussions throughout the co-op community, the New York Court of Appeals decided last month to allow the application of the business judgment rule in situations involving so-called "objectionable tenants."
In a nutshell, the ruling provides that co-op boards can terminate the leases of troublesome or recalcitrant tenants without having to go to court to prove those people to be "nuisance tenants" under the definition of such under the law. Now, a co-op board faced with a tenant who, for example, insists upon practicing his drums at 2 a.m. every morning or cranking his stereo at all hours of the night, can vote to oust that tenant without trial, provided the board is acting in good faith and the building's proprietary lease contains language that clearly defines what constitutes objectionable behavior.
The case that decided all of this has been raging since 1998 between the board of 40 West 67th Street and one shareholder in that building, a bond trader by the name of David Pullman. Shortly after Pullman moved into the co-op, he allegedly began complaining loudly and often about his neighbors and certain members of the board, and made unauthorized alterations to his apartment. Pullman filed noise complaints against the elderly couple living upstairs from him, sent multiple, strongly-worded letters to board members and management, and filed at least four lawsuits against various neighbors and the board - some of which are still pending.
Pullman himself still takes issue with the actions of his former board. "I kept my case going this year because I feel the Court of Appeals was hiding behind the language [of the law]. Right now, it's on the record that my kitchen's renovated. My kitchen's not renovated. It's the original kitchen, but since the Court of Appeals says it's renovated, it must be renovated. Also, [according to the court and the board], I "˜illegally redecorated' my apartment. What does that mean - that I moved a pillow from the couch to the chair?"
Whatever the case, the board of directors at 40 West 67th found Pullman's actions objectionable, and in 2000, voted to terminate his lease. Pullman disregarded the board's order to vacate, and the board in turn approved an action to evict him.