Edwards v. Valkenburg, 2022-22067

CourtNew York Justice Court
Writing for the CourtDAVID WUKITSCH, J.
Decision Date14 March 2022
PartiesRon Edwards, Claimant, v. Joseph Van Valkenburg, Defendant.
Docket Number2022-22067,File 22010037

Ron Edwards, Claimant,
v.

Joseph Van Valkenburg, Defendant.

No. 2022-22067

File No. 22010037

Justice Court of the Town of New Scotland, Albany County

March 14, 2022


Ron Edwards, Self-Represented Claimant

[redacted]

Joseph Van Valkenburg, pro se

[redacted]

DAVID WUKITSCH, J.

This is a small claims proceeding in which the tenant Ron Edwards (hereinafter "tenant") seeks to recover his security deposit and a portion of his rent from his former landlord Joseph Van Valkenburg (hereinafter "landlord"). The case raises issues concerning the statutory obligations imposed on a landlord under N.Y General Obligations Law § 7-108 (1-a) (d) and (e) where said landlord attempts to retain all or part of a tenant's security deposit due to alleged damages caused by tenant to the leased premises.

A small claims hearing was held on March 10, 2022. Tenant and Kristi Azadian, another occupant of the leased property, testified for claimant. The landlord and Susan M. Williams testified for the defendant. The parties were afforded the opportunity to testify, to offer evidence and to cross examine the opposing party. The Court has reviewed its notes of the testimony and the documentary evidence offered at the hearing. The findings set forth below are based on the Court's assessment of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be afforded the documents and photographs received in evidence at the hearing.

The tenant moved into 725 New Scotland Road, apartment 1, New Scotland, New York on or about May 3, 2019, pursuant to a written lease with a term from May 3, 2019 through May 3, 2020 (Claimant's Exhibit 1). The rent was $1, 000.00 per month and the tenant paid a security deposit of $1, 000.00. The tenancy continued following expiration of the initial lease and the parties signed a second lease on May 3, 2021, with a term of May 3, 2021 through May 3, 2022 (Defendant's Exhibit 13). The rent stated in the second lease is $1, 000.00 per month; however, it appears that at some point the rent was raised to $1, 100.00 per month. The tenant paid his rent on time and the landlord made no complaints regarding the tenant's occupancy of the premises. Indeed, landlord and tenant were "friends" and landlord sometimes permitted tenant to perform services for him, the fair value of which was credited against the rent due landlord.

The leases in question permitted the tenant to occupy the premises with a dog. Tenant was required to pick up the dog feces on the property. The initial lease limited occupancy to the tenant, but no objection was raised to the presence of Kristi Azadian, and she was eventually added as a named tenant on the second lease. In fact, she signed the second lease in May, 2021. During the term of the tenancy, the landlord occasionally had access to the demised premises, and there is no proof that he complained of any damage until the tenancy came to an end.

In late 2021, tenant advised landlord that he would be vacating the premises by January 15, 2022. He had paid the $1, 100 in rent due for the month of January, 2022. Tenant moved out by January 15. On that date or shortly thereafter, landlord and tenant met, and landlord presented tenant with a document received in evidence as Defendant's Exhibit 1. In said document, the landlord claimed that tenant's dog had urinated on the carpet and cherry floor. According to landlord, the carpet needed to be replaced and the floor needed to be replaced where it had turned black. For these reasons, landlord indicated he was not returning the $1, 000.00 security deposit, but he was returning a portion of the rent ($567.00) for January presumably because tenant was entitled to be refunded half of the monthly rent. Interestingly, the document claims that the rent had "never been raised." Yet, at the trial the landlord never disputed the tenant's claim that the rent was raised to $1, 100.00 from $1, 000.00. His offer to return $567.00 as a half month's rent also implies that the rent had been raised from $1, 000.00 per month.

The landlord also complained that the lease limited the demised premises to "1 occupant." Yet, by the date the move-out statement...

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