Lower Manhattan Landlord Wins $54K-Plus in Back Rent, Damages From Equities Firm

DCD America has won $58,434.49, plus interest, from RAM Equities over unpaid rent at 86 Chambers Street, according in a court decision filed Monday, closing a nine-month-long case.

The decision, signed last Monday by Justice Marylin G. Diamond of the state Supreme Court, grants DCD America (which manages 86 Chambers for Chambers Street Holdings) the right to claim from RAM Equities $54,434.49 in unpaid rent, plus damages, for June, July, August and September 2008; $4,000 in attorney’s fees; and any additional interest, costs, and disbursements as determined by the court clerk. Michael Betancourt, a principal for DCD America and the manager of Chambers Street Holdings, was the plaintiff.

RAM Equities abandoned the seventh floor of 86 Chambers Street on May 28, 2008, without an agreement to terminate its lease early, according to the decision. DCD changed the locks after a week—but the decision maintains that this act alone does not equate to annulling the lease.

“The problem with the defendant’s argument is that the lease contains a provision which expressly states that no act done by the landlord shall be deemed an acceptance of surrender and that all agreements to accept a surrender must be in writing,” Justice Diamond wrote. “Since there was no such written agreement, the plaintiff’s conduct cannot be deemed to constitute an acceptance of defendant’s surrender by operation of law.”

Before RAM Equities split the space, it had already made a series of missteps. First, RAM Equities informed DCD America five months late that it wished to renew its lease for the seventh floor of 86 Chambers for another five years—on June 20, 2007, rather than the deadline of Jan. 31, 2007, according to the decision. But, cleverly, RAM Equities tried to use this as a defense that they never renewed their lease at all—though their lease would have expired on Jan. 31, 2008.

Then, the tenant paid for the first three months of rent (February, March and April 2008) under the new lease for the old amount—$8,000 per month—when in fact the renewed lease asked for $9,000 per month. RAM Equities then paid the neglected $3,000 as well as $9,000 for the month of May—but ditched 86 Chambers on May 28. According to DCD America’s original complaint filed on Oct. 14, the landlord was not able to lease the seventh floor again until Aug. 1.

DCD America originally demanded $64,710.49 in damages, plus interest. RAM Equities, which appears to lack a Web site and does not seem to be in business any longer, could not be reached for comment Monday.

bkavoussi@observer.com

Lower Manhattan Landlord Wins $54K-Plus in Back Rent, Damages From Equities Firm