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Nevada court case could impact ability of HOAs to recoup losses

A court case currently going on in Nevada could have an impact on housing markets across the United States. The case, which involves Bank of America Corp., deals with the issue of liens put on properties by homeowners associations to which the property owner stops paying dues. Homeowners associations, of course, use dues to fund repairs and maintain common areas of the neighborhood.

While homeowners associations do have the ability to foreclose on a delinquent homeowner, it doesn’t happen very often since lenders usually foreclose first. In addition, over half of states give first mortgage lenders priority over homeowners associations. Nevada and about 20 others give homeowners associations priority. 

Public Advocate releases list of “worst landlords”

In our last post, we highlighted a recent case against a landlord accused of attempting to force tenants out of rent-regulated units in order to make way for higher paying tenants. This, of course, is not the only way landlords can earn for themselves a reputation as a bad landlord. Last week, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James announced that she is in the process of gathering information about the financial institutions that finance property owners who make it to her so–called worst landlords list.

The list puts a particular focus on landlords responsible for repeated housing code violations. In one case, a landlord was known to have had 3,352 outstanding violations, according to the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development. Part of what is behind the problem are lenders who finance landlords based on their potential income rather than their revenues. This can lead to dilapidation and failure to abide by housing regulations. This also puts tenants at risk. 

Landlord settles case alleging wrongdoing against rent-regulated tenants

Regular readers of this blog know that landlord-tenant relations are not at an all time high right now in New York when it comes to rent-regulated units. In Brooklyn, growing gentrification is contributing to a movement in which landlords are trying to force out rent-regulated tenants by various means in order to open up units for tenants who can pay more. Among the tactics used by landlords are to make units unlivable by keeping them in a constant state of renovation. We’ve previously written about this.

One particular Brooklyn landlord who was accused of engaging in similar behavior toward his tenants has reportedly reached a settlement with the Tenant Protection Unit. In his case, tenants accused him of failing to cash their rent checks so that he could later approach them for the money when they didn’t have it available. Tenants also accused him of shutting of their heat and hot water and of taking them to housing court on frivolous charges. 

Recommendation: hire an attorney when selling your NY home

In our last post, we wrote about selling your own home, particularly the issue of how to get pricing right. As we noted, selling on one’s own does help save costs, but it can leave one open to errors in the transaction and these errors can cost money. Costly errors can end up leaving a seller with less financial benefit from the transaction, or with legal troubles.

When people think of professional assistance in selling their home, they usually think first of a real estate agent. Agents can help one in assessing the market situation, setting pricing, marketing one’s property, negotiation, and closing on a home purchase. All of this can be helpful to sellers, but it should be kept in mind that realtors have a unique angle in the way they advocate for sellers, and this angle is not the same as that of a real estate attorney. 

Selling your own home: is the price right?

Selling a home on one’s own is not something homeowners should do without doing their homework. In selling a home, there is too much at stake and too many things that can go wrong. One such issue is getting the pricing right. On the plus side, when one foregoes using a realtor one can avoid paying commissions and one can get the price one wants.  The home price, though, must be in a sort of sweet spot in order to pull in serious buyers.

Checking comparable sales and working with an appraiser are helpful ways to help set a correct price. It is important to ensure one is asking for what the home is worth, perhaps even setting the asking price a bit higher to account for negotiation. 

New York bank accused of discriminating against mortgage applicants

The ability to obtain a loan is critical for most people looking at entering into a residential real estate transaction. Unfortunately, obtaining a loan is not always an easy thing for would-be homebuyers. Federal law provides certain protections for at-risk buyers. The Fair Housing Act, in particular, prohibits discrimination in the leasing or sale of homes and a variety of housing-related matters, including mortgage lending. The Fair Housing Act provides penalties for violation of its prescriptions.

New York’s Evans Bankcorp was accused last month of illegally discriminating against African-Americans who had applied for mortgage loans by unfairly denying them without respect to their creditworthiness. The bank has specifically been accused of defining a particular trade area in which it would conduct its business. In this case, the trade area excluded neighborhoods with mostly African Americans residents. 

Penalties against harassing landlords doubled

Landlord-tenant relations, as New York readers know, are not exactly at an all-time high in New York City. One of the issues which has become more and more prevalent in recent months is the incidence of landlords trying to force out tenants by means of harassment and other shady tactics. The problem is particularly pronounced among landlords who manage affordable housing units. One common tactic is to keep a tenant’s apartment in a state of ongoing repair so that they are simply unable to live in the unit.

Treatment like this has been the subject of many landlord-tenant disputes, which have been making the headlines. Now, the New York City Council has taken additional action to address the issue. A new law would allow for double the maximum fines for landlords who harass tenants. In addition, offending landlords would be placed on a publicly displayed list through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. 

Homebuyers: don’t skip title insurance

According to the American Land Title Association, premium volume on title insurance dropped a total of 16.6 percent in the second quarter of this year. Much of the reason for this, according to the trade association, was a weak spring home-buying season, and it is unlikely that more homebuyers are simply opting out of such insurance.

Title insurance, legally speaking, is not required for homebuyers in the state of New York, though it is often purchased because of the risks it covers in connection with the title of the home being purchased. The integrity of a home title is important in ensuring that any losses to the buyer in connection with title defects are covered. What types of title errors can arise in home purchases? Let’s take a look at a few. 

Work with attorney to avoid unnecessary delays in foreclosure process

Foreclosure has been a big issue in the real estate industry for a number of years now, since the housing market tanked in 2008. Everybody, needless to say, is very much ready to move on from the debacle and into better times. Unfortunately, according to a Moody’s Investors Service report on Monday, New York residents will continue to be reminded of the foreclosure situation for at least couple more years.

According to the report, the backlog of foreclosure cases is not expected to begin thinning out until at least 2016. At present, foreclosures spend an average of 1,498 days going through the process. Compare that to the end of 2006, when the average was 271 days. The backlog of foreclosures in New York is currently the second highest in the nation, after Florida. 

Legal issues to double check before improving your home

Building or improving a home is a big undertaking, depending on the size and nature of the project, and it is important for folks to ensure the job is done properly and to have a good understanding of how to protect themselves from liability. There are a variety of angles from which to consider the issue, but we’ll focus here on several.

First of all, it is important to pay attention to establishing a solid contract. Among other things, the contract should provide language regarding the materials to be used in the project, precisely listing the type to be used. This is important so that there are no surprises at the end of the project and so that one has recourse if the contractor tires to cut corners on materials. The contract should also lay out how one goes about modifying the contract so that any changes along the way can be made formal.

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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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