A Tale of Two Cities: The Residential Landlord’s Duty to Mitigate in New York
Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development, Vol. 25, 2011
24 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2010 Last revised: 9 Oct 2013
Date Written: October 8, 2010
The 2008 decision of the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division for the Second Department in Rios v. Carrillo brought stability to a previously uncertain area of landlord-tenant law: the duty of residential landlords to attempt to mitigate damages in the event of tenant abandonment. This article argues that in the instability that largely reigned prior to Rios, courts used the debate over what legal rule to apply in tenant abandonment cases as a tool to decide such cases based on flexible equitable standards that took into account the relative economic position of the parties and their degree of good faith. Because the New York court system accords weight to appellate precedent in part based on amount in controversy, and because Rios involved what can only be described as a luxury property, the Second Department's ruling has the perverse effect of subjecting economically insecure parties to solutions developed for far wealthier litigants. This article demonstrates the extent of this effect by reference to census data on households and housing markets, and argues that Rios was wrongly decided not only as a matter of legal analysis, but as a matter of policy.
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