A Cup Of Joe | Housing Court Refuses to Force Victim to Pay Rent Owed By Her Abuser
This week’s case is about Robert and Morgan, a married couple in crisis.
As it usually goes, everything was fine in the beginning of their marriage. But then, Morgan gave birth to a baby girl—after that things changed dramatically for the worse. Robert became controlling, abnormally jealous, disrespectful and short tempered. Robert would confiscate Morgan's car keys so that she could not go anywhere. Robert constantly accused Morgan of having an affair. As a result, he would take Morgan's phone away from her so that she could not contact anyone when he was gone. Robert had the maintenance staff at their apartment spy on Morgan and report to him if anyone came to their apartment.
The control extended to even simple hygiene; Morgan was only allowed to shower when Robert granted her permission. He would humiliate Morgan by making cruel remarks about her appearance. Finally, Robert threatened to kill Morgan (who was now pregnant again), her child and her unborn child. Morgan became so fearful that she fled the apartment. She, along with her baby girl, moved in with her mother for her safety and the safety of the child. Morgan went to court and got an order of protection.
Robert stopped paying the rent and their landlord, Riverwalk, filed a non-payment proceeding to evict Robert and Morgan. Adding insult to injury, Riverwalk asked the court to hold Morgan responsible for $3,498 of rent arrears pursuant to the joint and several liability clause of the lease.
Here is what the court did: The judge noted that what gave rise to Morgan leaving her apartment was a judicial order of protection, which prohibited the couple from living together. The order was necessary to protect Morgan and the children from harm. She left because she was afraid. Her choice allowed Robert to keep possession of the apartment— a fact that Riverwalk was aware of by early on. When the rent first went unpaid, Riverwalk did not seek an eviction; when the next month’s rent went unpaid, it still did not seek an eviction. Rather, Riverwalk waited all the way until 3 months rent was due before it filed a case in housing court.
After hearing the facts of Morgan’s plight, the Judge determined that even though Morgan was also responsible to pay the full amount of rent, and that Riverwalk was within its rights to ask for a judgment against the ousted mother, the court will not do so. The Judge wrote that a “woman who is a victim of domestic violence should not be forced to pay the rent of her abuser. To sustain the contrary proposition, as Riverwalk seeks, would be shockingly unjust and unfair which is the very definition of an unconscionable act.
The abused mother was stemmed the suffering of Morgan, an innocent victim of abuse at the hands of her husband and father of her children.
Here is the case: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2018/2018_28350.htm