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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.

    Keep reading for more Information on a special product we offer for commercial landlord and tenant representation.

  • 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 Due Diligence for Multifamily Properties

    When you buy a multifamily building, you hire an engineer to make sure that the building is not going to fall down. However, a multifamily building is so much more than bricks and mortar. A multifamily building is tenancies. Michelle Itkowitz can look at a building and see it in a way that an engineer, architect, transactional lawyer, or non-lawyer consultant simply cannot - she sees the tenancies at the heart of the building and any problems that come with them. Therefore, she offers her singular Rent Stabilization Due Diligence product.

    Keep reading for more information.

  • Rent Stabilization Coverage Analysis for Tenants

    This is a flat rate service for tenants, whereby Michelle Itkowitz will analyze whether your allegedly free-market tenancy is really Rent Stabilized and give you a detailed written report thereon.
    Keep reading for more information.

  • Buyout Analysis for Tenants

    We can provide a residential tenant with a systematic and clearly explained written analysis of the dollar potential for being bought out of an apartment. This analysis can be used to help a tenant make a decision about whether they wish to be bought out and, if they do, what their best leverage points are for a buyout discussion. We developed this product in response to a tremendous demand for this specific service.

    Keep reading for more information.

  • 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-Living Consulting and Litigation

    Co-living is an arrangement by which a landlord rents an apartment to a group of tenants, for at least thirty days, where the tenants occupy and share the apartment as roommates, an arrangement which the landlord consents to and facilitates as an active participant. The tenants have flexible terms, which are often short, and are allowed to vacate the apartment early without liability for the full term of the lease. If a roommate is lost, the landlord assists the remaining tenants with getting a qualified new roommate to take the lost roommate's place and gives the remaining tenants rent-relief while doing so. The landlord frequently provides the tenants with other advantages and amenities, including but not limited to furnishings and personal property, services, and thematic programing, such as dinners or lectures on topics of common interest to the roommates. Co-living places a big emphasis on the creation of a community within the apartment. The price per square foot for the apartment is often higher than it would be if the same apartment was not rented for co-living. The advantages of co-living for the tenant are affordability, flexibility, convenience, limited liability for bad roommates, and community. The advantage of co-living to a landlord is a higher price per square foot and greater control of the occupants of an apartment.

    Michelle Itkowitz has been a pioneer in the New York City co-living space. Please read one of her recent booklets on co-living in NYC. At any given time, Michelle has about a dozen NYC co-living clients. Some are big, some are small; some refer to what they are doing as "co-living" and some do not; some are property managers, some are owner-operators, some are neither; some get venture capital, some are self-funded; some are creating their co-living spaces around special themes. Some are local and some are in multiple cities (although Michelle is only qualified to consult re NYC properties).

    Michelle offers co-living consulting packages, which typically include:

    • Michelle will help your whole team (from the founders to the people on the front lines doing tech development, advertising, leasing, and management), understand that it is simply not legal to rent rooms in NYC, and that there are grave consequences therefor. Michelle helps you understand what you can do, and how to implement alternatives to illegal activity, while attempting to still deliver value to your clients.
    • Michelle helps you evaluate acquisitions. You cannot, obviously, do co-living in Rent Stabilized apartments. Co-living is about fluidity and flexibility. Rent Stabilization is about stability and tenant's rights. Just because a building presents as having under 6-units or appears to have been rehabilitated after 1974, doesn't make it deregulated. See Michelle's booklet on illegally deregulated apartments. In light of the Statewide Tenant Protection Act of 2019, such illegally deregulated apartments will become even more vulnerable. The goal of this aspect of the consulting package would be to get your acquisitions team to a point of basic proficiency, so you can ask the right questions, as opposed to having brokers lie to you and waste your transactional lawyers time on due diligence.
    • Michelle can draft a co-living lease for you, fix your current lease if it is not too badly broken, and/or help you with leasing procedures, from intake through transferring a tenant out.
    • This package does not include any litigation services. If you have tenants you need to sue or if you are getting sued by an over-landlord or the City, that's a separate conversation.

    Also of interest - two recent articles and a podcast, each where Michelle is being interviewed about co-living:

  • Co-op and Condominium Landlord and Tenant Matters

    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

    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.

  • Anti-"Up"-Zoning Representation for Neighborhoods Opposing Unchecked Development

    Real estate development is a necessary and important part of our lives here in New York City. Nevertheless, in recent years it seems as if development is out of control and out of synch with many of our neighborhoods.

    Itkowitz PLLC can represent individuals and neighborhood organizations fighting unchecked development. We can help you oppose applications by developers to the City for "up"-zoning your community, increasing the amount of bulk the government allows to be built on certain parcels. We can help you negotiate enforceable community benefits agreements with developers that will protect your community during the development process and beyond.