Published July, 2005

Cupidon v. Donovan, No. 400850/05. (N.Y. Sup. Ct. July 1, 2005)

In a New York Article 78 proceeding, the New York State Supreme Court for New York County held that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) must provide temporary stipends, meal allowances, storage, and emergency housing when forcing a tenant residing in an illegal unit to relocate. HPD had obtained a court order forcing the tenant to vacate his apartment because it was an illegal unit. At issue was whether the fact that the tenant lived in an illegal unit permitted HPD to deny him temporary relocation services. The tenant asserted that under the plain language of the New York City Administrative Code § 26-301(1)(a) and HPD regulations 28 RCNY § 18-01, he was entitled to services because he was evicted from a privately-owned building through no fault of his own. HPD asserted that their own regulations defined a relocatee as a person evicted from a permanent residence, and an illegal unit could never be considered a permanent residence. The court rejected HPD’s interpretation of their own regulations because the issue was a question of law and HPD’s determination ran counter to the clear wording of the statutory provision. HPD was not precluded from seeking reimbursement from the owner of the illegal unit, however.