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Work with an attorney when facing intractable boundary disputes

There is a saying that goes, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Some of us, at least have found this to be true. What, then, when neighbors cannot agree on where the “fence” is? That is to say, what happens when neighbors cannot agree with respect to where one property ends and another begins?

For New York hedge-fund manager Louis Bacon and Canadian fashion designer Peter Nygard, what began as a property-line dispute has reportedly drawn out into a decade-long rivalry that has escalated far beyond the initial dispute, the details of which are beyond the scope of this article. Fortunately, property-line disputes don’t have to escalate as much as they did in this case. 

Owning property in New York City could soon be even more expensive for the wealthy if a proposed mea

Owning property in New York City could soon be even more expensive for the wealthy if a proposed measure to increase real-estate taxes for non-resident owners of apartments valued at over $5 million is approved. The proposed increase would apparently bring in roughly $665 million per year.

Not surprisingly, not everybody is happy about the proposal. The real estate industry, for its part, is arguing that the increase would negatively impact the economy by pushing away investors, whose business supports around 500,000 jobs. Supporters say the measure is fair because the population it targets enjoys the city’s services but does not pay income tax and currently pay minimal property taxes, especially in subsidized buildings.

Bronx bookstore to close down due to lease dispute

A popular Barnes & Noble bookstore in the Bronx, which has been around since 1999, is reportedly going to closing down at the end of the year due to a dispute with its landlord, Prestige Properties & Development. The dispute concerns the amount of rent the store is currently paying on its lease—apparently the landlord thinks it can get more from other tenants and intends on doing so.

According to Prestige, the bookstore’s option to renew its current lease included a rent increase provision which was previously agreed on. The company did not publicly state how large the increase would have been, though. Apparently Prestige offered to work with the bookstore by allowing it to remain in the property at a reduced monthly rate until a higher-paying long-term tenant could be lined up. The company also offered to lease out a smaller space inside the plaza, but the bookstore was not interested. 

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. 

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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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