The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant tenant raised a question whether the late fees assessed by the landlord constituted usurious interest. The 1st Department heard the appeal despite the pro se defendant’s failure to perfect the appeal from the correct judgment, noting that the issue is purely legal:
… [T]he court should have considered defendant’s argument that the late fees, which along with returned check fees, constitute additional rent under the lease, amount to unenforceable usurious interest rates (see Sandra’s Jewel Box v 401 Hotel, 273 AD2d 1, 3 [1st Dept 2000] [“the late charge provision of the lease . . . while not technically interest, is unreasonable and confiscatory in nature and therefore unenforceable”] … ). Although defendant raised this argument for the first time in reply, we consider it because the issue is determinative and is purely legal … .
Plaintiff defined additional rent as “primarily late fees,” and it appears that the late fee lease provision permitting a 5% charge on amounts due actually resulted in what would amount to a 60% interest rate or higher, depending on plaintiff’s accounting practices. Moreover, even with plaintiff’s voluntary reduction of the late fee to 2%, additional rent comprises nearly half the sum demanded for the relevant 27-month period. Accordingly, we remand the matter to the motion court for a determination whether the late fees were “unreasonable and grossly disproportionate to the amount of actual unpaid rent” … . JW 70th St. LLC v Simon, 2020 NY Slip Op 00042, First Dept 1-2-20