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Zuckerberg to face lawsuit over real estate contract

Last month, we wrote about a lawsuit which had been filed against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg alleging that he was in breach of an agreement to assist a real estate developer make connections with potential buyers of his homes. That agreement, which Zuckerberg disputes, was supposedly made in connection with Zuckerberg’s effort to purchase a property near his home In Palo Alto.

While Zuckerberg has denied that he made any such promise, a judge has since found that an oral agreement did exist in connection with the developer’s transfer of the right to buy the properly, and that the agreement was detailed enough that the case is able to move forward. In his claim, the developer is asking for the right to purchase the property to be voided, meaning that the right would return back to him and allow him to take ownership. 

Can my landlord do that? P2

In our last post, we began looking at various issues that can come up between landlords and tenants, and the importance of keeping these potential conflicts in mind when signing a lease. In addition to those we’ve already mentioned, it is also important for prospective tenants to be aware of the possibility of illegal rental. With rental property in high demand in New York City, it is not unheard of for property owners to rent out space to tenants when they really aren’t supposed to.

Failure to meet housing code regulations, such as providing sufficient lighting and fire escapes, can end up putting a tenant at risk. Prospective tenants can find out whether a property meet code is by getting in contact with the building safety department. 

Can my landlord do that?

Signing a lease agreement is something many people do without thinking a whole lot about that it is they are agreeing to or what the implications of certain aspects of the agreement will be down the road. For a fair amount of people, there may not be any serious consequences to this carefree approach to leasing, but in some cases the consequences can be more serious.

A better approach is to make sure you understand each aspect of the lease agreement before signing the agreement and be open to negotiating unfavorable terms if possible. It is also important to realize when a landlord may be acting illegally, whether before or after the agreement is signed. In other cases, it is important to understand the possible implications of working with certain landlords. What kinds of issues are we talking about here? A recent article in the New York post made mention of several good ones, which we’ll look at briefly here. 

Cloud technology can make real estate transactions easier for all

Technology can work wonders in many areas of business, including real estate transactions. A good example of this is a cloud-based technology which allows real estate attorneys to meet with parties, work up an acceptable agreement and complete a transaction. Such technology also allows officer managers to manage current real estate transactions.

The New York Times recently ran an article highlighting Dotloop, a company offering such technology. Dotloop and similar technologies are revolutionizing real estate practice in various ways, particularly in making it more efficient, particularly in allowing businesses to go paperless. Not only real estate attorneys are benefiting from the technology; other professionals, including title companies, appraisers and insurance brokers are benefitting, as are buyers and sellers.

Questions to ask oneself before purchasing a vacation home

Many of us—if we had the money—would like to be the proud owner of a second home. With the economy and the housing market having made some improvement, more people are choosing to purchase second homes, often for vacation purposes. According to the National Association of Realtors, sales for second properties increased nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2013.

A number of considerations are in order for those who begin to consider the possibility of owning a second home, of course. Chief among these is how much the home costs and whether one can afford a second house payment and other associated costs, such as insurance. 

Co-op housing only available to some buyers

Those looking for an apartment in New York City know how difficult it can be. A recent article in the New York Times pointed out that while the real estate market it generally very tight, there are a number of rather affordable apartments sitting empty because the purchase agreements require tenants to meet income limits while being able to put down a sizeable down payment.

These apartments, of which there are estimated to be nearly 26,000 in New York City, are part of a city-run program offering properties for low-income people. Because of the specific requirements placed on buyers, those who are best positioned to purchase them tend to be retirees, those of low-to-moderate income who have come into an inheritance, and young people who have financial assistance from their families. 

Rent-regulation and landlord-tenant issues

According to real estate experts, prices for new condos in New York City sharply rose in the second quarter of this year from the first quarter. And while prices for apartments with at least four bedrooms increased 16 percent, prices for other apartments fell over the same period. These numbers basically show that the gap between high end housing and middle- and lower-class housing is widening.

Even so, it is true that even low-income renters are being affected by changes in the housing market. In recent posts, we’ve written a bit about the problem of gentrification in New York City and how this is impacting low-income renters, particularly those living in rent-stabilized properties. Essentially, higher demand for rental units is causing many landlords to raise rents. Those who are bound by price-stabilization sometimes resort to unethical treatment of renters in order to force them out. 

Bill seeks to address problem of vacant properties in extended foreclosure process

A bill currently being considered by New York lawmakers seeks to address the issue of so-called zombie properties. This refers to properties that are left vacant during a protracted foreclosure. The problem is by no means confined to New York City, and has become widespread since the housing market crashed due to delays in the foreclosure process. Zombie properties further decrease the value of surrounding homes, so the problem is more than cosmetic. Not only that, but zombie properties tend to attract criminal activity.

Under the bill, lenders would be required to take care of vacant properties and to let borrowers know they are allowed to remain in the home until the foreclosure is through. Some borrowers are not aware of this. In addition, the bill proposes that a registry of vacant properties be created so as to keep track of them. At present, it is estimated that there are 2,500 zombie properties in New York City, with particular concentration in zip codes 11207 and 11208. 

Rents for affordable apartments to increase in coming year, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking about the recent decision by the Rent Guidelines Board to increase rents for rent-stabilized apartments. As we noted, nearly one million apartments will be affected by the increase, which fell below the typical increase while stopping short of a complete freeze.

One of the issues at play in the debates prior to the decision was the current inability of many stabilized tenants to afford their rent. Because of the unique financial circumstances of these tenants, paying rent is a greater challenge than it is for renters in higher income brackets who are not under rent stabilization. The issue becomes more interesting when you factor in issues between rent-stabilized tenants and their landlords over attempted evictions. 

Rents for affordable apartments to increase in coming year, P.1

New York City readers are probably familiar with rent stabilization, which affects rent increases for certain apartments and identifies the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords. There are roughly 987,000 rent-stabilized apartments in the city of New York, comprising 45 percent of rental units. The purpose of rent regulation is to ensure that low-income individuals have housing available to them. Landlords of rent-stabilized properties, of course, are not able to reap the full market potential for their properties, but even prices on rent-controlled properties rise.

The body that decides just how much rents can increase on rent-stabilized properties, the New York City Rent Guideline Board, recently voted to permit rent increases by one percent for one-year lease renewals at affected apartments. While that increase is more than many tenants wanted to see—many were hoping for a complete freeze—it is small compared to the usual three or four percent. For two-year leases, the rate increase is to be 2.75 percent. Even the latter is lower than the typical rent increase for New York City apartments. 

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Gary J. Wachtel, Esq.
450 Seventh Avenue,
Suite 1905,
New York, NY 10123
Phone: 917-503-9616
Fax: 212-371-7722

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