Landlord Obtains Judgment of Possession After Tenant Accepts Out of Court Buyout but Fails to Surrender

Andrew Bittens, a partner at Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens, LLP successfully obtained a judgment of possession where tenant signed out of court surrender agreement and accepted first installment of buyout money.

The owner and tenant entered into a surrender agreement in May, 2013 that provided for the tenant to receive 5 months free rent along with a $25,000 payment in two parts: $12,500 upon signing of the agreement and $12,500 upon surrender of the subject premises in September, 2013. The owner made the payment upon signing of the agreement yet the tenant failed to surrender the premises on time. The parties agreed to extend the surrender date on multiple occasions while the tenant continued to live rent free. The tenant tried to reinstate the tenancy by paying back some of the money the owner had paid to him but the owner did not accept the payment. After almost two years of the tenant promising to abide by the agreement, the owner commenced a holdover proceeding based on the fact that the tenancy at sufferance had expired. At trial, the tenant claimed that he was a native French speaker and that he did not understand the agreement and that the owner was obligated to relocate him. After trial, the court issued a decision finding these defenses without merit. The tenant repeatedly spoke in English despite the presence of the French interpreter at trial and admitted he had proceeded in court during multiple appearances without a French interpreter. The agreement had been read and explained to the tenant in the presence of a witness and the tenant had then requested an amendment to the agreement which was agreed to further demonstrating his understanding of the agreement. The owner had written the tenant a positive recommendation and had otherwise complied with the agreement. As a result, the court found in favor of the owner and granted it a judgment of possession of the subject premises.