Smith, Buss & Jacobs partners Ken Jacobs and Jack Malley have won a ground-breaking case concerning a cooperative apartment transfer through a decision issued by the New York Supreme County Judge Ellen Coin.

In Estate of Helen Del Terzo, et al v. 33 Fifth Avenue Owners Corp., Index No. 154950/2012, the estate of a deceased co-op shareholder, Helen Del Terzo, submitted an application to the co-op board for the transfer of her apartment to her two sons, Michael and Robert Del Terzo. The co-op board denied the transfer application even though the family had lived in the Manhattan building for over 50 years, and Michael Del Terzo is a successful physician who could easily afford the maintenance.

In 2012, Smith, Buss & Jacobs commenced a lawsuit against the co-op on behalf of the estate and the two sons that sought to reverse the board’s denial of the application. On September 30, 2014, Justice Coin granted our clients’ motion for summary judgment, and ordered the board to approve the transfer of the apartment to the sons.

While co-op boards can normally deny apartment transfers for almost any reason, the board did not have that discretion in this case because the proprietary lease provides that the board’s consent to a transfer from a deceased shareholder’s estate to a financially responsible family member cannot be unreasonably withheld. As far as we know, Justice Coin’s decision is the first one that reversed a board’s denial of a transfer application under the subject proprietary lease provision. The other published decisions concerning that transfer provision have upheld the board’s denial of an application or denied summary judgment to a party. We feel great about obtaining this result for the Del Terzo family.