LIEB BLOG

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Showing posts with label lawsuit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lawsuit. Show all posts

Friday, August 06, 2021

New NYS Law Prohibits HOAs from Restricting Solar Installations

As of October 1, 2021, Homeowners Associations will no longer be permitted to blanketly block unit owners from installing solar panels in their full discretion. 


A new NYS law, S2997, prohibits restrictions with "unreasonable limitations" on solar installation, including:


  • Inhibiting solar from functioning at maximum efficiency; and 
  • Increasing solar installation or maintenance costs by more than 10% of total cost of initial installation of SPS.

The new law also requires HOAs to detail the basis for any solar installation rejection. 

Further, the new law includes a private right of action to sue HOAs who violate the law. 

As a result, HOAs better update their House Rules and policies immediately to avoid being sued. 

Did your Board update your policies yet? 







Monday, December 28, 2020

Employment Sexual Harassment - Case of Interest - Exceeding Petty Slights or Trivial Inconveniences

Back on October 11, 2019, the NYS Human Rights Law was modified with a new standard for actionable employment sex discrimination. The new standard was intended to align NYS more closely with the NYC Human Rights Law. 


The new standard is that conduct that exceeds "petty slights or trivial inconveniences" is actionable. 


As to what that means, the NYC law was interpreted by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Federal Court) in Mihalik v. Credit Agricole Cheuvreux North America, Inc., which is the leading case. 


Now, we have a leading case interpreting the NYS law as well by a State Court. 


On December 15, 2020, the NYS Appellate Division decided Franco v Hyatt Corp. and found the following allegations to constitute conduct that exceeds petty slights or trivial inconveniences:

  1. Supervisor made repeated sexual advances towards him, including reaching out to touch his face and holding his hand in an elevator while they were alone.
  2. Supervisor also initiated conversations that made him uncomfortable, telling him she had a "crush" on him, telling him she was single and twice inviting him to her home to repair "a hole" in her apartment. 
  3. Supervisor said she had a tattoo, adding that "You have to undress me to see it." 
  4. After victim rebuffed advances, supervisor brought him to the Human Resources manager's office to complain about his work product and that she solicited complaints about him from other coworkers.
Interestingly, this case involved a female harasser of a male subordinate. 

When we train the NYS / NYC Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Course to companies around the country, at sexualharassmenttrainingny.com, we always get push back to the concept that sexual harassment can be female on male. This case is a good reminder that everyone is protected from harassment at work. 





 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

NYS Passes Law to Increase Free Speech & Public Participation

Effective November 10, 2020, NYS strengthened its laws against lawsuits that are brought and intended to chill free speech, called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation ("SLAPP suits"). 


NYS' prior anti-SLAPP / free speech law had been limited to protecting speech concerning "controversies over a public application or permit, usually in a real estate development situation." 


Now, the anti-SLAPP law deals with "anything other than a 'purely private matter.'" Additionally, the law now requires courts to provide costs and attorney's fees if a lawsuit against public petition and participation was initiated in bad faith to chill speech. 


The new laws are Civil Rights Law 70-a, which deals with the costs and attorney's fees, and Civil Rights Law 76-a, which expands the types of speech that is protected by the anti-SLAPP law. Specifically, Civil Rights Law 76-a now permits a suit concerning "[a]ny communication in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest; or ii. [a]ny other lawful conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest, or in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition."


To read the full bill, click here








Friday, October 30, 2020

NYC Housing Discrimination Notice Law Ready for Mayor's Signature

On October 29, 2020, the NYC City Council approved a new law that requires the Department of Social Services to provide a letter to applicants about their rights to be free from source of income discrimination. 

This is yet another reminder that landlords and brokers need to understand that source of income discrimination is illegal and can subject them to large fines / judgments, loss of licensing, and terrible public relations issues. 

Landlords and brokers should review the NYC Commission on Human Right's Best Practices for Licensed Salespersons and Brokers to Avoid Source of Income Discrimination and revise their applications, leases, policy manuals, and trainings to reflect this new expected law. 


For help, contact Lieb Compliance


The new law adds new §21-141.1 to the Administrative Code as follows:

Information regarding lawful source of income discrimination. a. Definitions. For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings: CityFHEPS. The term “CityFHEPS” means the city fighting homelessness and eviction prevention supplement program established pursuant to chapter 10 of title 68 of the rules of the city of New York or any successor program. Covered entity. The term “covered entity” means the owner, lessor, lessee, sublessee, assignee, or managing agent of, or other person having the right to sell, rent or lease or approve the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation, constructed or to be constructed, or an interest therein, or any agent or employee thereof, who is subject to the prohibition on discrimination based on lawful source of discrimination pursuant to subdivision 5 of  section 8-107. Lawful source of income. The term “lawful source of income” has the meaning as set forth in section 8-102. Shopping letter. The term “shopping letter” means a letter issued by the department to assist a household in its housing search that identifies the household as potentially eligible for CityFHEPS and lists the maximum rent. b. The department shall provide written notice regarding the protections of section 8-107 related to lawful source of income at the time that a CityFHEPS applicant receives a shopping letter. Such notice shall be developed by the New York city commission on human rights pursuant to paragraph p of subdivision 5 of section 8-107 in consultation with the department.

It also amends §8-107(5) by adding new paragraph (p) as follows:

For purposes of this paragraph, the term “CityFHEPS” means the city fighting homelessness and eviction prevention supplement program established pursuant to chapter 10 of title 68 of the rules of the city of New York or any successor program. The commission shall develop and disseminate a written notice of protections of this subdivision related to lawful source of income. The notice shall be made available to the department of social services for use in accordance with section 21-141.1. The notice shall include, at a minimum, the following information:

1. Examples of different forms of lawful source of income; 

2. A description of covered entities required not to discriminate on the basis of lawful sources of income;

3. Examples of actions that may indicate discrimination based on lawful source of income in violation of title 8, such as refusing to accept lawful source of income for rent payment, publishing any type of advertisement that indicates a refusal to accept any lawful source of income, and refusing or delaying repairs because a person uses any lawful source of income for rent payment, publishing any type of advertisement that indicates a refusal to accept any lawful source of income,  and any additional actions landlords or brokers use to unlawfully discriminate against a person on the basis of their using any lawful source of income;

4. A statement that it is illegal for covered entities to refuse to accept a CityFHEPS subsidy for payment of rent or a security deposit voucher in buildings subject to the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income pursuant to section 8-107;

5. A statement that it is illegal for covered entities to request additional payments for rent, a security deposit or broker’s fee because an individual receives rental assistance;

6. A statement that it is illegal for covered entities to publish any type of advertisement that indicates a refusal to accept rental assistance;

7. A statement that it is illegal for landlords to refuse or delay making repairs to an individual’s unit because such individual pays rent with a CityFHEPS subsidy;

8. A statement that an individual has the right to be free from discriminatory, harassing or threatening behavior or comments based on such individual’s receipt of or application for CityFHEPS;

9. Directions on how to contact the commission, the department of social services’ source of income discrimination unit, the state division of human rights and the office of the state attorney general;

10. A description of potential remedies available at the commission if a covered entity is found to have engaged in discrimination based on lawful source of income; and

11. Any other information deemed appropriate by the commissioner and the commission in consultation with the department of social services.

Upon the Mayor's signature, the law will take effect 180 days thereafter. 




Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Employment Discrimination - NEW EEOC Rule Clarifies Right to Bring Lawsuit

On October 14, 2020, the EEOC issued a final rule, 29 CFR 1601 & 1626, for charges of employment discrimination. The key to this rule is to clarify that just because EEOC makes a "no cause" determination, that doesn't mean there is no discrimination and a victim can still hire an attorney and pursue a private lawsuit against their employer. While this change is minor in law, it's very important to clarify victim's rights.

Specifically, the rule now includes a notice to the victim of their right to file a lawsuit (within 90 days of receipt of the determination) and clarifies that a "no cause" determination doesn't mean that the "claims have no merit." Now, the Dismissal and Notice of Rights will read as follows:

The EEOC issues the following determination: The EEOC will not proceed further with
its investigation, and makes no determination about whether further investigation would
establish violations of the statute. This does not mean the claims have no merit. This
determination does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. The
EEOC makes no finding as to the merits of any other issues that might be construed as
having been raised by this charge.

To be clear, the point of this change is to make sure everyone understands that "even
after the EEOC has decided not to proceed further with its investigation, private proceedings or
litigation may lead to court findings of discrimination or settlements for the charging parties."

Additionally, the rule clarifies deferrals to state agencies and it provides for the digital transmission of documents by way of providing access to a system with a unique login to retrieve documents. However, don't worry if you aren't tech savvy because the EEOC will mail hard copies to the parties if the system records no access for a reasonable time.




Friday, October 09, 2020

Guess how much employers pay, on average, in litigation costs in defending discrimination cases?

According to the EEOC, they pay $174,000 and attorneys' fees on cases that go to trial are between $195,000-$279,000.


You should get your training to prevent discrimination at your workplace today - sexualharassmenttrainingny.com or call 646.216.8038






Guess how much employers pay, on average, to settle discrimination cases?

According to the EEOC, they pay $45,466 to settle cases in conciliation before lawsuit (it only goes up from there).




Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Rules Are Changing

On October 9, 2020, the EEOC submitted a proposed rule in the Federal Register to change the conciliation procedures in an employment discrimination lawsuit. 

Basically, a conciliation is a required mediation of the discrimination case undertaken after EEOC finds reasonable cause for a charge, but before a lawsuit is filed. Historically, the process has been a mystery for employers as EEOC kept the steps, charges, and process secret. This mystery has resulted in approximately 1/3 of employers refusing to participate in conciliation even though the process is confidential and can't constitute evidence against such employer (unless otherwise agreed upon in writing).

The proposed rule requires that "the Commission will provide to the respondent, if it has not already done so:

(1) A summary of the facts and non-privileged information that the Commission relied on in its reasonable cause finding, and in the event that it is anticipated that a claims process will be used subsequently to identify aggrieved individuals, the criteria that will be used to identify victims from the pool of potential class members;

(2) a summary of the Commission's legal basis for finding reasonable cause, including an explanation as to how the law was applied to the facts, as well as non-privileged information it obtained during the course of its investigation that raised doubt that employment discrimination had occurred;

(3) the basis for any relief sought, including the calculations underlying the initial conciliation proposal; and

(4) identification of a systemic, class, or pattern or practice designation. The Commission also proposes to specify that the respondent participating in conciliation will have at least 14 calendar days to respond to the initial conciliation proposal from the Commission."

These rules are terrific and will result in increased settlements because an employer now has the ability to ascertain risk and then, strategically engage in meaningful settlement discussions in the conciliation process rather than blindly throwing money at a situation to make it go away. 


We encourage you to comment on the proposed rule should you have any suggestions to enhance its effectiveness by writing your thoughts, up until November 9, 2020, and sending them by mail, with reference to RIN Number 3046-AB19, to Bernadette B. Wilson, Executive Officer, Executive Secretariat, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street NE, Washington, DC 20507.




Thursday, August 06, 2020

Title Litigation - Resolving a Boundary Line Dispute

The Appellate Division recently reminded us how the courts make a boundary line dispute determination in the case of Old Timers Rod & Gun Club, Inc. v. Wa-A-We Rod and gun Club, Inc. with the following quote:
Where such discrepancies exist in property descriptions, ‘the rules of construction require that resort be had first to natural objects, second to artificial objects, third to adjacent boundaries, fourth to courses and distances and last to quantity’
We are therefore reminded of the importance of locating monuments referenced in a deed rather than simply relying on compass bearings and distances when resolving boundary line disputes. 




Title Insurance - Read Your Policy Before You Sue Your Insurer to Take Action

I want it; I want it; I want it is not a good enough argument said the Appellate Division in Irma Straus Realty Corp. v. Old Republic National Title Insurance Company

Underlying the demand for action was a dispute between neighbors over use of a common stairwell. Plaintiff sued their insurer demanding that the title company pay attorneys' fees and costs to prosecute an ownership action against the neighbor. 

Plaintiff's suit was pursuant to section 5 (b) of its policy, which provides that the title insurer “shall have the right ... to institute and prosecute any action or proceeding or to do any other act that in its opinion may be necessary or desirable to establish the Title, as insured, or to prevent or reduce loss or damage to the Insured."

Clearly, as the court points out, Plaintiff didn't understand the difference between the terms "right," which the policy stated, and "obligation," which the policy didn't state.

That is to say, the Plaintiff lost the case. 

Clearly, words matter. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Foreclosure Tsunami Coming - Litigation Checklist

The moratorium on foreclosures expires on August 20th (EO 202.28) and a foreclosure tsunami is coming.

According to CNBC, "32% of U.S. households missed their July housing payments" based on a survey by Apartment List, which also advises that 17% of "homeowners [are] concerned about foreclosure."

To prepare for the tsunami, we are giving you our 10-Point Inspection Checklist to evaluate a foreclosure case. Whether we are representing the lender or the borrower, we utilize this list to evaluate the strength of the case, which, when coupled with an evaluation of the borrower's current mortgage terms (i.e., L/V ratio front end/back end, interest rate, principal, interest to date, penalties, attorneys' fees, months of missed payments, prior modifications/forbearances, etc.) is how we assess whether a modification, or other workout, should be considered.

10 Point Inspection Checklist:

  1. Standing of plaintiff (owner / holder of note on date of commencement or authorized agent of such owner / holder pursuant to Pooling and Servicing Agreement or other agreement)
  2. Record admissibility (swearing to business records of another entity; failure to attach business records to affidavits)
  3. RPAPL 1303 / 1304 / 1305 / 1306 compliance
  4. Acceleration / Deacceleration (statute of limitations) 
  5. Notices tendered in satisfaction of note terms
  6. Lis Pendens filing
  7. Payment history for default calculations / date (requisite missed months for default requirement in note / aligned with notices / statute of limitations)
  8. Default on Answer with time since settlement conference for late answer availability
  9. Service / personal jurisdiction issues
  10. Pleadings requirements (Certificate of Merit - CPLR 3012-B, RPAPL 1302)

In our upcoming Real Estate Investing shows, WRCN / FM 103.9 / Sundays at Noon, we will be breaking down this list into plain English and showing you how to litigate foreclosure cases whether you are the lender or the borrower.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Security Deposit Voucher Recipients PROTECTED by Source of Income Discrimination Laws

The NYS Appellate Division recently clarified that "[t]he fact that the security vouchers are a guarantee of payment, rather than a cash payment, does not render them not 'income,' as they are an item of value, worth a payment of up to one month's rent on the tenant's behalf to compensate for unpaid rent or damages to an apartment."

Landlords, brokers, and property managers be warned - you cannot deny a prospective tenant based upon the source of their money for their security deposit as well as for their rent.

Click to read the full Appellate decision, Estates NY Real Estate Servs. LLC v City of New York.

Discrimination lawsuits are everywhere, but they are easy to avoid so long as you treat everyone equally irrespective of their membership in a protected class.

If you get sued for discrimination, lawyer-up fast and watch what you say. Many defendants dig their grave when they get sued for discrimination by acting irrationally. Protect yourself and your company now with trainings at liebcompliance.com


Monday, January 20, 2020

Eye on Real Estate Q&A: Co-op Disapproval of Sale and Suing the Board

On this week's episode of Eye on Real Estate, January 18, 2020, we were asked about suing a cooperative board for refusing a sale by creating an absolute floor price, which unit owners had to obtain in order to sell units to third-party purchasers.

Initially, we discussed the business judgment rule, which generally protects boards from lawsuits as long as the board acted in good faith and in accordance with it's power. 

However, there can be a case against the board where the board created an absolute floor price in bad faith or if the board created the absolute floor price beyond its powers as set forth in the bylaws. 

As the courts explain, the test is whether the board's floor is "a provision merely postponing sale during the option period," which is permissible or, if it is, instead, "an effective prohibition against transferability itself," which is impermissible. 

So, if you are being blocked on price, consider a lawsuit after you obtain and review the bylaws. 

For a great explanation of this issue, see Oakley v. Longview Owners, Inc.