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What We Do

Itkowitz PLLC is a law firm in New York City and we are best known for our work in the area of commercial and complex-residential landlord and tenant litigation. We represent both tenants and landlords. We are litigators (not transactional attorneys). We represent our clients from the inception of a case through trial (jury and non-jury) in State and Federal Court and before various government agencies. We do appellate work. We also do a great deal of consulting regarding rent regulation.

We are the place that people and businesses come when they are ready to get serious about their landlord and tenant issues. We are proud to serve all kinds of clients - individuals, big and small businesses, family businesses, start-ups, non-profits, and government, in this exciting niche area at the center of real property law. We also frequently work closely with corporate counsel, real estate transactional counsel, and estate counsel who bring us in to consult on the rent regulatory aspects of their deals.

These are the types of matters that we work on regularly:

  • Commercial Landlord and Tenant Litigation

    Commercial landlord and tenant litigation is sophisticated commercial litigation. Much of our landlord and tenant litigation practice is commercial, involving high rents. We represent commercial landlords and commercial tenants. We are often involved in Yellowstone applications and "Good Guy Guaranty" disputes. There is a Bankruptcy Court aspect to our landlord and tenant practice, inasmuch as we routinely apply to lift the automatic stays that commercial tenants obtain. We handle the unique disputes that arise in the context of net leases and ground leases. We have developed sub-proficiencies when it comes to retail and restaurant lease disputes, free rent periods and claw backs, as well as the architectural and construction disputes that arise regarding build-outs.

    We have also taught and published a great deal in this area. Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of the breadth of our work in this area.

  • Complex-Residential Landlord and Tenant Litigation

    Residential landlord and tenant law is a much more difficult area of law than commercial landlord and tenant law. A fundamental difference between the commercial and residential paradigms is that in commercial landlord and tenant cases the concept of "freedom of contract" is given great deference by the courts. In the residential context, however, statutes and case law have developed restrictions to prevent a landlord from overreaching in its dealings with a tenant. Therefore, many of the provisions of a residential lease are, essentially, meaningless. Moreover, in the residential realm there is constant interplay with the various administrative agencies that regulate residential tenancies in the City of New York.

    We do NOT have a volume landlord and tenant practice. In other words, we do not have hundreds of cases going at once; we do not spend all day running around Housing Court writing carbon paper stipulations. We are the place that people, both landlords and tenants, come to when they have a serious landlord and tenant problem and need real analysis and results.

    We have also taught and published a great deal in this area. Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of the breadth of our work in this area.

  • Rent Stabilization and Regulatory Due Diligence for Multi-Family Properties

    If a building has tenants, those tenants are vital to the building's future -- either because the tenants are the building's source of revenue that needs to be maximized or because the tenants must be relocated for the building's future. Therefore, building owners should consider hiring Itkowitz PLLC to perform rent regulatory due diligence. You hire an engineer to make sure that the building is not going to fall down. However, a multi-family building is so much more than bricks and mortar. Indeed, we can look at a building and see it in a way that an engineer, architect, or transactional lawyer cannot - we see the tenancies at the heart of the building and any problems that come with them.

    We charge a very low FLAT rate for this service. You are provided with a lengthy and understandable report. The process is also interactive and iterative. We help you form a plan for the building's future.

    We refer to the process as "Due Diligence", but we can perform the analysis before a contract is entered into, during a due diligence period, or long after a property is purchased. We have performed this service for purchasers, sellers, owners, and lenders.

    Via the Rent Stabilization Due Diligence Process, this is just some of what we examine:

    We also frequently work closely with corporate counsel, real estate transactional counsel, and trusts and estate counsel who bring us in to consult on the rent regulatory aspects of their matters.

    Read more about Rent Stabilization Due Diligence for Multi-Family Acquisitions in our booklet on the topic. And here is a dedicated webpage on the topic if you would like to share this section. http://www.itkowitz.com/due-diligence

  • Rent Stabilization and DHCR Matters

    Rent Stabilization is one of the most misunderstood areas of real property law in New York. Itkowitz PLLC has a great deal of experience with Rent Stabilization matters, and in every engagement we undertake, we seek to educate our clients.

    We can determine whether a tenancy is Rent Stabilized (or not). We can also help landlords and tenants with the following types of Rent Stabilization issues:

    • Non-Primary Residence
    • Succession Rights
    • Owner's Use Proceedings
    • Chronic Non-Payment of Rent
    • Rent Overcharges
    • Tenant Buy-Outs
    • Substantial Rehabilitation
    • Preferential Rents
    • Illegal Sublets
    • 421-a and J-51 and Rent Stabilization

    We have also taught and published a great deal in this area. Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of the breadth of our work in this area.

  • Sublet, Assignment, and Short Term Leasing Cases (like Airbnb!)

    Itkowitz PLLC regularly deals with the ubiquitous legal issues surrounding who can stay, live, or work in a space. This increasingly litigated area includes disputes involving:

    We have also taught and published a great deal in this area. Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of the breadth of our work in this area.

  • Residential Tenant Representation

    At Itkowitz PLLC we proudly represent all kinds of residential tenants:

    • Rent Stabilized tenants
    • "Free Market" tenants
    • People renting luxury apartments
    • Subtenants
    • Roommates
    • People in co-living situations and shares of all kinds
    • Co-op shareholder proprietary lessees
    • If you are just sleeping on your cousin Xander's couch in Bushwick, we can represent you.

    We seek always to give you accurate and actionable information on your legal rights as a tenant. Including:

    • What the law is and where to find it;
    • What to do to fix a bad housing situation; and
    • How to prevent problems in the first place.

    Here are just a few of the topics we can help you with:

    With our help you can spend less time on your living situation and more time living in this greatest city in the world.

    We have also taught and published a great deal in this area. Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of the breadth of our work in this area.

  • Good Guy Guaranty Litigation

    A "Good Guy Guaranty" is a shorthand phrase to describe an agreement between the principal or owner of a corporate tenant and the landlord that holds the principal or owner, typically an individual, personally liable for the corporate tenant's obligations under a lease until the tenant vacates and surrenders the premises. Good Guy Guaranties became popular in the 1980s when commercial landlords - frustrated by shell-corporation tenants, which operated rent-free while using technical defenses to forestall eviction proceedings - wanted to discourage such behavior by using the specter of personal liability. Since that time, use of the Good Guy Guaranty has evolved and now, the agreements can range from the basic to the very complex, where tenant must comply with a host of conditions before surrendering the premises and effectively terminating guarantor's liability.

    Itkowitz PLLC litigates many Good Guy Guaranty cases. Although this topic could be considered an important sub-set of commercial landlord and tenant litigation, we gave it its own section here for a few reasons. First, guaranty litigation is logistically separate from a summary proceeding for the recovery of real property. Second, guaranties have gotten increasingly sophisticated. Third, the guaranty often becomes the most important consideration in a commercial landlord and tenant dispute.

    We have also taught and published a great deal in this area. Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of the breadth of our work in this area.

  • Co-op and Condominium Litigation

    In New York City, co-ops and condos are almost always apartments. Moreover, those apartments are often sublet. As such, there is a huge landlord-and-tenant-dispute component to co-op and condo work, which requires a practitioner to simultaneously have a deep understanding of co-op and condo law and landlord and tenant law. Itkowitz PLLC has a great deal of experience with such matters. We deal extensively with defaults in sponsor-held units and in the Rent Stabilized units of non-purchasing tenants. We also deal with shareholder maintenance defaults and the interplay between a shareholder's default to the board and that to the lender.

    We have also taught and published a great deal in this area. Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of the breadth of our work in this area.

  • Loft Law Matters

    In 1982, the NYS Legislature enacted Multiple Dwelling Law Article 7-C, "Legalization of Interim Multiple Dwellings", otherwise known as the Loft Law. The goal of the Loft Law was NOT to create a new classification of housing stock, but rather to legally convert these de facto multiple dwellings into regular multiple dwellings with valid residential certificates of occupancy. Landlords were required to move the loft buildings toward legalization according to a statutory schedule. The New York City Loft Board was created to oversee the process. In the meantime, the tenants in loft buildings covered under Article 7-C received certain protections.

    Loft Law tenants are NOT Rent Stabilized tenants. That is a mistake that people often make. Loft Law tenants have a separate set of rights, governed by Multiple Dwelling Law Article § 286, which include:

    • Continued occupancy, provided that the unit is their primary residence.
    • A rent freeze, subject to escalations.
    • The right to sell the improvements that the tenant made back to the landlord or, after the landlord's declination of its right of first refusal, to an incoming tenant.
    • The protections available to residential tenants pursuant to the real property law and the real property actions and proceedings law.

    Itkowitz PLLC handles the special disputes that arise in the context of Loft Law matters. We have also taught and published in this area.

  • De-Leasing Buildings for Major Construction Projects

    We have de-leased several buildings of either (or both) residential and commercial tenants so that development of new structures can go forward. Most recently, we vacated all 21 commercial tenants in Manhattan commercial building so renovation could commence, and we did it within six months and with minimal litigation expenses! We have a great deal of experience in this area. One of our partners was lead counsel for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in evicting tenants from Grand Central Station in the mid-1990s so that its historic renovation could begin. Other "de-leasing" projects include clearing buildings at 750 Lexington Avenue for Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, at the New York City headquarters of the Directors Guild of America, Inc., at the New York Coliseum for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and at a building on 11th Avenue in Manhattan containing approximately 150 sub-tenants for Charles Benenson & Preston R. Tisch.

    Check out "Our Stories" to get an idea of our work in this area.

  • Real Estate Litigation and Commercial Leasing

    At Itkowitz PLLC, we handle a variety of real estate litigation matters, beyond just commercial and complex-residential landlord and tenant litigation, and we do commercial leasing. Our founder, however, has chosen to brand us within the L&T-niche, because that has proved an amazingly successful strategy for building our firm in a crowded market. We are, however, at our very cores, litigators in the New York City real estate space. Below we take a moment to highlight some of the other types of matters that we work on all time. You can find extensive examples of our work on the "Our Stories" and "Teaching and Publishing" sections of the website by utilizing the tags provided.

    • Litigation Surrounding the Sale of Real Property - Specific Performance and Recovery of Down Payments

      Itkowitz PLLC often represents the former parties in real estate sales and purchases, who come to us when their deals have gone awry. Generally, the remedies available where a deal does not close are Specific Performance (available to both buyers and sellers and involves trying to force a seller to sell or a purchaser to purchase), suing to recover a down payment (available to buyers only), or suing for a declaration that the seller can keep the down payment (available to sellers only). In this regard, we deal with Lis Pendens (a/k/a Notices of Pendancy), which are often filed by a jilted buyer and cloud the title of a property, as well as "Time is of the Essence" clauses, which may provide both a buyer or a seller a cause of action to assert that the other party is in breach of an agreement.

    • Broker's Fees Disputes

      Itkowitz PLLC has successfully represented real estate brokerage firms, individual real estate brokers, as well as "finders" in a variety of civil actions. We represent brokers who were denied all or part of their commissions following a successfully consummated transaction. We also represent sellers against brokers when commissions are undeserved. We have also represented brokers in housing discrimination matters, including before the New York State Office of the Attorney General Civil Rights Bureau. Additionally, we handle matters involving the recovery of finder's fees.

    • Limited Liability Company, Partnership, and Corporate Disputes Involving Real Estate

      Itkowitz PLLC is often tasked with providing advice and handling litigation concerning disputes between real estate businesses, including limited liability companies, partnerships, closely held corporations, joint ventures, and family businesses.

    • Construction and Architectural Disputes

      Itkowitz PLLC handles disputes, arbitrations, and litigations involving construction, development, architecture, and engineering. This often requires filing or removing mechanic's liens and commencing or defending against legal actions to foreclose on them.

    • Housing Discrimination Cases

      Itkowitz PLLC defends property owners and brokers in housing discrimination matters in court and before the New York State Office of the Attorney General Civil Rights Bureau.

    • Commercial Leasing

      Itkowitz PLLC also handles commercial leasing. We handle commercial leasing, for both landlords and tenants. Itkowitz PLLC brings special expertise to commercial leasing because we are also litigators who represent parties when there is a default under a lease. Many transactional document drafters, without the benefit of this experience, spend a lot of time working on clauses without a clear conception as to how such clauses can be enforced. They assume their work will be self-effectuating; it is not. The draftsperson should conduct his or her self as if every clause will at some time be violated. After all, we live in a very litigious environment in which, at some time or another, a party to a deal is going to test the limits of what has been written, either because of market forces, a business going bad, or just because they like to test.