New York Real Estate Legal Blog

Strong calls for changes to rent control legislation

New York City is known to be a relatively expensive place to live in. The need for people to be able to afford a safe and clean place to live is important yet this seems to be hard to do for some. The current landlord and tenant laws that govern rent prices are not only old, having been in place for 45 years, but they give substantial power to landlords and seem to leave tenants without a lot of options at times.

As reported by City Limits, the current law does offer some level of protection for rent stabilization but only in a small geographical area. For three counties outside New York City and for the five boroughs within the city limits, rent control is in effect for buildings erected prior to the date that the law went into effect - 1974. There have certainly been additional buildings erected since then plus there are numerous people who live outside these areas. This law is set to expire in June of this year.

Managing a tenant's security deposit

Owning and leasing commercial or residential properties in New York can be a great investment. It can also, however, bring with it certain stresses, such as having to collect rent and ensuring that your tenants do not cause any damages. You can protect yourself in both regards by collecting a security deposit as a condition of a lease. Yet as many of those that we here at Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C. can attest to, issues regarding the management of security deposits can often be the source of landlord-tenant disputes. Thus, you should know exactly what the law requires of you in this regard in order to avoid such tensions. 

According to the New York State Attorney General's Office, if your security deposits are rent-based, you are allowed to ask for more if, throughout the term of the lease, the rent payment increases. Tenants would owe whatever is needed to equal the amount of the new payment. The deposit money may be used to either cover missed rent payments or the cost of repairs that are needed doe damages to the property that the tenant causes. Whatever is remaining of the deposit must be returned to the tenant when their lease expires. If you sell the property, the security deposits of current tenants must be transferred to the new owner within five days of the transaction being finalized. 

Basics of mechanics liens

If you are a contractor in New York, you understand the risk you face when you agree to perform work for a residential customer. You might complete the work but the homeowner might choose for whatever reason not to pay you. In some cases, they might pay you some of what is owed but not the full amount. These are situations in which the presence of a mechanics lien may be very beneficial for you.

As explained by The Washington Post, a mechanics lien is a vehicle via which a contractor, general contractor or subcontractor can give themselves some protection against unpaid balances. A person might be forced to eventually pay their debt even if that time has to wait until they are trying to sell their home. The lien is filed with the county recorder's office or the clerk of the county and is legally binding.

How easy is it for me to sublet my apartment?

Subletting apartments in New York City is a time-honored tradition, but in the era of Airbnb when the city, tenant councils and landlords are cracking down on short-term subletting, what are your rights?

The first thing you need to know is that it is illegal to sublet your apartment for less than 30 days.

Terminating contracts for convenience

Developers in New York will typically jump at the opportunity to bid on government contracts. This is likely due to assumption that such agreements tend to more stable than those made with private entities. While government agencies may offer their partners a greater sense of security, that does not necessarily mean that a contract with such an organization is always ironclad. On the contrary, government agencies are afforded special privileges when it comes to managing contractual agreements

Typically a contracted partner needs to have cause to terminate an agreement with a developer. That is not the case with government agencies. They are allowed to terminate contracts "for convenience." What this means is that of a government entity believes that its contractual agreement is no longer convenient (in other words, in its best interest), it is allowed to simply walk away from it without the fear of facing any penalties for breach of contract. Per the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, common reasons that government agencies may cite when terminating a contract for convenience include: 

  • A contracted partner being unwilling to renegotiate the terms of its agreement
  • A breakdown in the relationship with a contracted partner
  • Deciding to restructure all of its contractual agreements

Ice cream parlor ownership at issue in lawsuit

The landlords of New York properties may hope that the relationships they share with their tenants will eventually evolve into friendships. Feeling such closeness may make the business matters inherent with their relationships to become mere formalities. Yet such arrangements are often not possible, especially when dealing with commercial properties. The complexities of operating a business often require tenants to ask a lot of their landlords, or may even prompt them to renegotiate their agreements to reflect changes with their companies. In such a situation, handling matters informally may inevitably lead to disputes. 

An ice cream parlor owner in Massachusetts was apparently forced to learn this lesson the hard way. The woman and her husband opened the location in the late 1970's and established a business there. That business was later sold, and has since changed hands again to new owners, who became involved in a lease dispute with the landlord in 2017. The new business owners had been presented with a new lease earlier, yet did not agree to the terms. They then sued the landlord for not allowing them to renegotiate before leasing the space to a new company. They also claim that provision of their previous lease should have allowed them to buy the building. Their lawsuit, however, was ultimately dismissed. 

Overcoming the cost barriers to home ownership in NYC

Home ownership is a very common goal here in the United States. There are roadblocks though that people can face in their journey to find the first home of their dreams. Among these are financial ones. This can be a particularly formidable barrier here in New York City, where home prices can be very high.

HOAs, mechanic's liens, subcontractors and bonds

When an HOA hires a contractor to do a job - install a pool or shingle a roof, for example - board members can maintain the quality of workmanship by withholding payment until the job is done right.

Contractors and subcontractors, however, have a method of getting payment from recalcitrant HOAs via filing a mechanic's lien against the HOA and the property. A mechanic's lien can have two chilling effects on HOAs:

Board Members Who Are Lawyers, A Delicate Balancing Act

There are many attorneys who serve on their co-op or condo board and are often asked by their fellow board members for their legal opinion on a matter. Since law school, we have been trained that we are attorneys 24 hours a day, seven days a week so we are often tempted to give the board our legal opinion. I served as president of my condominium board for four years and found myself in that situation many times. However, to avoid potential conflicts and legal liability, for legal opinions I would always turn to my condominium's attorney, Evan Gitter of Cohen, Warren, Meyer & Gitter for his advice.

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Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C.

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New York, NY 10271

Phone: 646-835-2656
Phone: 646-835-2656
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