Thor Getting Hammered? Rent and the Pandemic in New York

baseballmoney-300x133A recent news story in New York relates to New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard and his lease for a New York City apartment.  It appears that the pitcher, nicknamed “Thor”, signed a lease for a penthouse in the Tribeca area of downtown New York City for ten months, starting in March of this year.  His rent was $22,500 a month and the  $17,000 broker’s commission was to be paid by the tenant.  The lease was signed in February, before the coronavirus pandemic shut New York City down a month later.  In addition, the hurler then discovered in early March that he would need the dreaded “Tommy John” surgery to replace a ligament in his elbow, and would miss the entire baseball season, which, at that point, was scheduled to begin in late March.

We therefore have a situation where the tenant’s circumstances changed a great deal after he signed the lease.  The pandemic shut down much of New York City.  Then, because of injury, he probably no longer needed an apartment in New York City, because he will most likely rehabilitate his injury at the Mets training facilities in Florida, and will not need to live in New York City during the upcoming season (which, due to the pandemic, has not even started, and may not happen at all).  On top of it all, Major League Baseball has recently proposed a plan to re-start the season with players being forced to accept major cuts in salary, which would limit Snydergaard’s ability to pay the agreed-upon rent.

There are several legal issues raised in this situation.  One issue concerns using the media to attempt to obtain publicity for one’s legal conflicts, as the parties have done in the Syndergaard case.  Our firm disagrees with litigating through the media, as we believe it is best for the parties to attempt to work out disputes privately, through counsel, rather than by using media outlets to espouse their positions.  If negotiations are unsuccessful, then the Court system remains the best avenue for resolving such disputes.

Regarding the actual dispute, there are several issues to look at.  When there is a landlord-tenant situation regarding a fully executed lease, we would first review the lease to determine the specific rights and responsibilities of the parties.  Without doing same, it would be extremely difficult to ascertain whether “Thor” would be fully responsible for the rent payments, as he has stated he has no intention of moving into the apartment, and informed the landlord that he is free to rent it to another party (if he can).

This leads to another legal aspect of this case.  Article 7 of the New York Real Property and Procedures Law was recently amended to impose a duty on a landlord to mitigate damages.  This means that if a tenant vacates premises in violation of their lease, the landlord must attempt to re-rent the premises.  Once a new tenant is obtained, their new lease will terminate the former tenant’s lease and mitigate the damages owed by the original tenant.  Of course, it is also possible that the attorneys for Syndergaard and the attorneys for Syndergaard’s landlord will attempt to settle the matter, most likely with Syndergaard paying a smaller portion of the rent due, and the landlord accepting same as damages.

Our firm is available to both landlords and tenants to assist in resolving disputes which may or may not have been caused by the current health crisis.  In addition, we look forward to the resumption of Major League Baseball and another Yankees World Series victory.

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