Matter of Johnson v. NYC Housing Authority
NEW YORK COUNTY
Justice Peter Moulton
Tenant Johnson moved to vacate a hearing officer's (HO) decision denying her petition to vacate a default for failing to appear at a chronic rent delinquency hearing. Johnson argued she failed to appear as she was taking final exams at college. The HO acknowledged Johnson's explanation of excusable default, but concluded she failed to establish an excusable default as she did not submit documentary evidence that she was taking her final exams. The court found the HO's decision not to reopen Johnson's default arbitrary and irrational. It noted the HO found a lack of excusable default for Johnson's failure to submit documentary proof, or to call to request an adjournment. Yet, it noted there was no requirement that documentation be provided to show a reasonable excuse for the default, and Johnson's statements alone may suffice. The court also found the HO arbitrarily faulted Johnson for a prior default, that she vacated herself. Further, it found the HO's conclusion Johnson failed to raise a meritorious defense was arbitrary and irrational, noting she improperly focused on Johnson's failure to pay rent for a time period that was not the subject of the original or amended charges. The default was vacated, and the matter remanded.