Coin-operated laundry in Brooklyn apartment building at center of dispute

September 13, 2013 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A series of non-working washers and dryers in an Ocean Avenue apartment complex caused a landlord to attempt to terminate a lease contract and demand monies from the washer and dryer leasing company. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest found instead that it was the landlord who was in fault.

Oceans 2, LLC, manages a residential building at 2011 Ocean Ave. in Brooklyn. In 2010, Oceans 2 leased washers and dryers from Fowler Route Company with the express written understanding that Fowler was responsible for maintaining the washers and dryers and for making any and all necessary repairs after receiving notice from Oceans 2.   

Around Feb. 6, 2013, Oceans 2 sent notice to Fowler that a number of the machines had broken down. Fowler immediately repaired the machines, only to have additional machines break down shortly after the repair visit. Rather than advising Fowler that new repairs were needed, Oceans 2 sent Fowler a formal Notice to Cure. The April 2013 notice stated that Fowler “repeatedly and chronically failed to promptly repair the washing machines and dryers on the premises, leaving the residential tenants … without adequate laundry service for extended periods of time.”

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Upon receipt of the notice, Fowler arrived the next day to make requisite repairs and cure the damage. After the April repairs and asserting that there were still damaged washers and dryers, Oceans 2 requested a termination of the leasing contract with Fowler.

Oceans 2 argued that Fowler was contracted to ensure that all of the washers and dryers were “in good working order at the building each and every day,” believing that the cure requested in the April notice “did not simply consist of repairing one machine or making one visit to the building and resting on one’s laurels.”

Demarest appeared shocked at this reading of the requirements of the Notice of Cure, finding Oceans 2’s argument “unavailing.” Reading the strict four corners of the Notice of Cure as well as the original lease agreement between the two parties, Demarest found “[n]othing in the Agreement  [that] supports [Oceans 2’s] contention that [Fowler] was required to maintain the equipment each day without prior notice of a breakdown.”

While the machines may have been in “chronic disrepair,” Oceans 2 was required to give notice of the repairs needed, an action Oceans 2 failed to do when it sent its April Notice to Cure in lieu of a notice of needed repairs.

Oceans 2 “failed to establish the condition precedent to [Fowler’s] obligation to repair,” Demarest ruled. Having failed to adhere to its own responsibility, Demarest ruled against Oceans 2, holding that Fowler was not in breach of the lease agreement. Oceans 2 was also required to pay Fowler’s attorneys fees spent in defending itself against the lawsuit.

Fowler was represented by Brian P. Morgan of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, and Dean Dreiblatt of Rose & Rose served as counsel to Oceans 2.

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