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NYS Appeals Court Reverses City’s Motion to Dismiss NYCHA Rent Abatement Case

As reported by the New York Law Journal, on January 21, 2020, The Legal Aid Society and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP scored a huge victory in Diamond v. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), a class action lawsuit demanding that NYCHA issue rent abatements to residents who went without heat and hot water during the 2017 to 2018 “heat season” and, in particular, during the winter cold spell that lasted from December 27, 2017–January 16, 2018.

In a unanimous decision, the Appellate justices granted class certification and reinstated plaintiffs’ claim for breach of the warranty of habitability.

The justices disagreed with trial court’s suggestion that plaintiffs and the other hundreds of thousands of NYCHA tenants harmed by NYCHA’s flouting of its legal obligations file individual cases in civil court. The Appellate justices held that a class action is the most efficient method to adjudicate the claims of individual class members who may lack the resources to bring individual actions.

“As we have maintained, NYCHA has a legal and moral obligation to ensure that heat and hot water systems are functioning properly, and when that promise is broken, there is a price that must be paid. This decision acknowledges that NYCHA tenants have exactly the same rights as private tenants,” said Lucy Newman, Staff Attorney with the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society.