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New York City Real Estate Law Blog

Residential real estate construction still depressed in New York City

As a recent article in the Wall Street Journal points out, residential real estate construction has been slow to pick back up after the recession, and poses the risk of affecting the rest of the city economy. One way growth is measured is to look at the new number of permits. In New York, the number was 17,995 in 2013. Compare that to the nearly 34,000 units issued permits in 2008.

The reasons, according to analysts, include numerous factors which amount to a challenging environment in which to start new projects. Certainly, the market crash of 2008 has had a large impact as well, and it isn't clear whether the market will ever return to where it was at during the boom between 2003 and 2008. In any case, some improvement is hoped for and expected. 

Tenants can use subsidies as payment for rent

When it comes to housing, state and federal law attempt to ensure that those with little or no wealth still have access to housing. Unfortunately, a major hurdle for those with little to no wealth is their inability to make monthly payments to keep their landlord happy. One of the protections in place in New York City is that landlords cannot discriminate against potential tenants on the basis of the sources of their income. This includes things like lawful government assistance.

Earlier this month, two landlords and three real estate brokerage firms came to an agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over an alleged violation of this law. Brokers at the firms had reportedly told potential tenants that the landlords would not accept government subsidies as valid payment of their rent. 

NY landlord subpoenaed over alleged abused of tenants

Landlords and tenants, we like to point out on this blog, can run into problems from time to time. The types of problems vary from failure to pay rent, failure of the landlord to make timely repairs, noise violations, lack of privacy and numerous other issues. In many cases with real issues to settle, there is some issue related to breach of contract.

Another type of issue that can arise pertains to leases of rent-regulated apartments. This is becoming more and more common in New York City as more landlords are attempting to take advantage of a market which increasingly favors them. For instance, one well-known landlord in Chinatown is currently under investigation by the Tenant Protection Unit of the Division of Housing because of complaints that the landlord is trying to force Asian-American tenants out of their apartments. 

Owner or famous NYC bar stops eviction proceedings, at least temporarily

A temporary restraining order was issued this week, putting a halt on eviction proceedings against The Subway Inn, a famous bar located in the Upper East Side which has been open for 77 years. The issue in the case is that the developer has apparently declined to offer the bar a new lease. The restraining order came after the family that currently runs the bar asked Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for help. Sources didn’t mention whether there will be an attempt to designate the building as a historic landmark or not.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, as many readers know, has the task of protecting buildings that have architectural, cultural or historical significance. To receive such recognition, the commission must grant landmark or historic district status. Once this status is granted, certain regulations apply to the building. 

Do your research before investing in real estate

Purchasing real estate, both for ordinary people and wealthy investors, is not something that should be taken lightly. Whatever the purpose for the purchase, appropriate research and legwork needs to be done to ensure the purchase or investment is a smart one, both from a financial and a legal perspective. This is especially important for investors who purchase property without planning to live in it.

As a recent article in Business Insider points out, one of the important tasks for real estate investors is to do appropriate research into not only the property itself. In the case of condos, this entails research into the developer responsible for the building. Understanding the previous projects the developer has worked on and how they have performed can yield important clues about the value of the property under consideration. 

Risks in home purchase call for assistance of experience real estate attorney

In a recent commentary for CNBC Real Estate, Todd Schoenberger paints a concerning picture of the current status of the real estate market in New York. With the market currently being very active—properties are going very quickly and demand is exceeding supply considerably in New York City itself—property valuations are continuing to grow.

When property valuations continue growing, of course, there is the danger that homes will become unaffordable to the middle class.  As Schoenberger points out, many of the buyers are Asian investors who are purchasing not only in Manhattan but in major cities on other continents as well. Because of the activity of these buyers, other governments have taken steps to curb the foreign investing activity in the interest of the middle class. 

Report: housing authority not performing well as a landlord

Those of our readers who are renters may or may not like their current landlord, but those who aren’t current in public housing at least don’t have to deal with having the city of New York as a landlord. According to a new report released last month by the Community Service Society, having the New York City Housing Authority as one’s landlord can be a real challenge.

At present, the housing authority is not rated as performing its job well. One way this can be seen is that getting major repairs done is a serious hassle for more than one-third those under the housing authority, whereas only 17 percent of low-income tenants living in private rentals reported such problems. Many of the problems, according to experts, have accumulated over the last 10 years or so as the state of public housing continues to decline. Unfortunate, the housing authority is doing little to stem the tide of dilapidation. 

Consumers: reconsider forgoing a realtor or attorney in a home purchase

In our last post, we began speaking about the recent acquisition deal reached by online realtor companies Zillow and Trulia, and how this deal has some real estate agencies concerned about the reduction in competition. We mentioned how the growing influence of these websites has created a marketplace in which homebuyers are taking more initiative in the search process, sometimes without the assistance of a realtor. Here we’ll just mention a few of the risks of purchasing a home without utilizing either a realtor or an attorney.

While it is certainly possible to purchase a home without a real estate agent, it is important to realize that there are certain risks in doing so. Real estate agents are trained not only in locating properties that work for homebuyers’ needs and desires, but also in market trends, accuracy of home values, and negotiation. Real estate agents can help a buyer avoid certain risks, such as attempting to save money by skipping a home inspection, and can help the buyer save money. For many people, having a realtor at their side just makes sense. 

Zillow and Trulia merger has some in the industry concerned

Some of our readers have probably heard of the web-based companies Zillow, Trulia and Realtor. Perhaps some readers have even benefitted from using these online companies in their home search. These companies are essentially online real estate databases whose primary source of income is from advertising. Zillow and Trulia are soon to combine forces, though, after a $3.5 billion deal was reached on Monday. The merger deal promises to bring changes to the market, with the combined companies set to control over 70 percent of the market.

Prior to the advent of these sites, those looking to purchase a home would rely on real estate agencies to show them the offerings in their area, but now many consumers have the option to do their own work on the front end, with or without the help of a realtor. The relationship between Zillow and Trulia and the rest of the real estate marketplace is mixed. While some agents partner with the companies willingly, others have pointed to flaws in their approach. 

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. 

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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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