New York City Housing Court Judge Sabrina B. Kraus issued a ruling January 9 in Infinity Corp. v. Danko, Index No.: L&T 66511/2010 (N.Y.C.Civ.Ct., Housing Part, N.Y. Co.), a holdover proceeding in which the landlord sought to evict a surviving same-sex partner of a rent-stabilized tenant. The case is notable because the landlord had subpoenaed the proprietor of Rentboy.com, a website advertising gay massage and escort services, about an advertisement for massage services placed by the surviving partner during the time of his relationship with the tenant.
During the proceedings, the surviving partner testified “that he also worked as a masseur. Respondent placed ads on the internet under the alias Black Adonis, through various websites including EZ Rent Systems [Rentboy.com]. Respondent testified that these ads were offering his services as a masseur, however the ads put into evidence were explicitly sexual and suggested other services were being offered.” Respondent’s counsel had objected to the admission of these advertisements and associated emails, observing that the Rent Stabilization Code’s tenant succession regulations specifically exclude reliance on evidence of sexual relationships in determining whether a surviving partner is a “family member” of the deceased tenant, and the issue whether the decedent and the surviving partner had a sexually exclusive relationship was not relevant.
There was a forty-year age difference between the survivor and the decedent, and the landlord sought to suggest that their relationship was commercial rather than familial, but the court wouldn’t go there, in light of the overwhelming evidence of long-term familial relationship. “While Petitioner places heavy emphasis on the emails sent by Respondent related to Rentboy.com,” wrote Judge Kraus, “and while the court did not find Respondent’s testimony regarding the emails to be credible, the court finds it understandable that Respondent would be reluctant to readily testify about such activity. The court finds that the emails related primarily to Respondent’s employment, and not to the nature of the relationship between Respondent and [decedent]. The Court credits Respondent’s testimony that [decedent] was aware of Respondent’s activity on said websites.”
More importantly, the court found that “the preponderance of credible evidence at trial supports a finding that Respondent and [decedent] were nontraditional family members as defined by the RSC and that they had a long term, loving relationship wherein each relied upon the other to provide what was needed. Respondent relied upon [decedent] financially and [decedent] relied upon Respondent for care and assistance with daily living. This was a relationship that went well beyond that of roommates or a caregiver, [decedent] and Respondent were each other’s family and shared their lives for a period of approximately fifteen years. Based on the foregoing, the court finds that Respondent is entitled to receive a renewal lease and the petition is dismissed.”
LeGal member Steven Rosen represents the Respondent.