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L & Tea Time with Michelle: Episode 11

Topic: Additional Occupants In An Apartment
Guest: Neal Kurzner, Local Law 11

MMI: Welcome to Landlords TV, a production of Landlords New York. This is L&Tea Time with Michelle, it’s the show where you get to have a cup of tea with me, Michelle Maratto Itkowitz, and we get to discuss an area of law that I have been practicing in in New York for over 20 years, and that is real estate. Today, I am honored to have back as my guest, Neil Kurzner, of Allbren Realty Management and Landlords New York member for…?

NK: A month.

MMI: A month! Excellent! Neil, last time you were on, we covered your background extensively. Suffice it to say for this second show that you’re managing real estate all over the country, and you’re managing a ton of real estate here in New York City. You’re very hands-on, very business-oriented. 40 years, Allbren’s history is, and you’re all over the city. Today you’ve agreed to come on and talk to me about Local Law 11, everyone’s favorite local law.

NK: Absolutely. Thank you for having me back, Michelle, I appreciate it. Local Law 11 is a difficult one. It’s been on the books for a very long time, and it requires landlords of buildings greater than six stories in height to jump through hoops.

MMI: 12,500 buildings, Local Law 11 applies to.

NK: That’s a lot of buildings, and there’s a lot of older buildings in that mix. Many of those buildings actually do require a lot of work.

MMI: Start from the beginning. What is it for those who don’t know?

NK: Local Law 11 is a façade maintenance bill that requires landlords to inspect their buildings every five years. They can’t just inspect them – they actually have to hire a certified architect who will come in and do a visual inspection, often with drops from the roof and scaffolding.

MMI: I think it has to be drops and scaffolding.

NK: Some can be visual, depending; they can work off of fire escapes in some instances. They will examine window lintels, bricks’ pointing, the roof, things that may be hanging off the building, with a fine-tooth comb and they will prepare a very detailed report with photographs explaining not just to the landlord, but to the City, what they view as “Safe,” “Safe with repairs,” or “Unsafe.”

MMI: ok, those are three categories. There’s “Safe,” “Safe with repairs,” and “Unsafe.” Now, “Unsafe, has to get fixed?

NK: Immediately, within 30 days. The problem therein lies that you can’t have anything happen within 30 days, but at least if you show intent, starting to get a building permit and whatnot, they will generally let you slide.

MMI: So, the permit that you get to have the rigging and to do the inspection isn’t good enough to do the repair? It’s a new permit?

NK: That is correct – a building permit.

MMI: “Safe, but needs repair” – that’s where the devil lies in the details.

NK: It’s funny because when I read the law the first time, I assumed when it said “Safe with Repair,” you had the five-year window until the next report was due to make it safe. As it turns out, that’s not true. You have – I think it’s – two years to make the “Safe with repairs” “Safe”. We’re dealing with that right now in several circumstances, and again, it’s very expensive because you have to hire people to come out again to erect scaffolding and do work, and again, get it signed off. Additionally, the City has added a new element to the local law that requires you to do the same level of work on fire escapes. That is new and people don’t know about it. They will be caught not living up to the letter of the law when they file their next report.

MMI: You also mentioned something off-camera that I thought was very interesting. You said if you were going to give a tip to someone newer to this game, someone inheriting real estate or buying their first few buildings, you said the selection of the architect is huge because you want them to be good, and you want them to be very good, but you don’t want them to be crazy good.

NK: Here’s the problem, and the way the law was written, is that they hold the landlord responsible, but then they said, “We don’t trust the landlords.” They made the requirement that you had to have a certified architect and engineer certify the work that you did or did not do, so it is on their license. They run the risk of losing their license if they say something that is not true. So, yes, you want to find an architect who knows what he is doing, but you also want to find an architect or engineer who is “reasonable” because many of the architectural firms who we interviewed ran scared of their license, and they prepared something that, in our opinion, was overkill. You need to do the work that is legitimately hazardous to people and/or the building, and get that done, and get that done correctly, but that are certain things that one could argue you could defer to the future.

MMI: So, actually you want an architect that’s experienced and confident enough to be able to be reasonable.

NK: Correct. The interview process is a difficult one. We’ve interviewed scores.

MMI: Scores? Really?

NK: Yes, yes.

MMI: Very interesting. Neil, we could go on about this and other things all day, but we have to take a break now for my teaching portion. Could you stick around and give me some feedback?

NK: It would be my pleasure, Michelle.

MMI: Alright, thank you.

Teaching Segment

MMI: In today’s teaching segment, we’re going to talk about additional occupants in an apartment that the landlord isn’t necessarily aware of, and how those play out in a landlord-and-tenant case. This is a very important topic. Let’s start with what we’re trying to avoid. We’re trying to avoid is if Pat Smith is on the lease, and Pat Smith doesn’t pay the rent or there’s a holdover, and the landlord sues Pat Smith, you’ve listened to all my advice here, you’ve done everything correctly, and you go all the way through the case, and you prevail. Now you have a judgment of possession against Pat Smith, and you have a warrant of eviction. The marshal comes out to execute the warrant against Pat Smith. If, when the marshal gets there, somehow the marshal finds not only Pat Smith, but also Chris Johnson, and Chris Johnson can show the marshal some indicia that he too lives there, then it is very likely that the marshal will not evict Chris Johnson. The marshal will evict Pat Smith, but as soon as the marshal’s gone, Chris Johnson, if he or she likes Pat Smith, will probably let Pat Smith back in. You’ve really accomplished not a lot with that type of eviction. It’s very important at the outset to figure out how many adults are in the apartment and who they are, to the best that you can. Where do we find this information? You’re number one most obvious place is, are you getting checks from someone who isn’t your tenant? I’ve said this here before, and I’ll say it again, you really as the landlord or managing agent should not be accepting rent from someone who is not the tenant of record. If that check doesn’t come from pat Smith, you don’t want to be accepting a check from Chris Johnson or anyone else – it could set up a landlord-and-tenant relationship inadvertently with Chris Johnson. Let’s put that aside. That would be somewhere you would look to at least know Chris Johnson is there, and is going to at least make some claim to the apartment, so that person needs to be named as a respondent in your summary proceeding. Your super is your eyes and ears on the ground. The super will know usually if he sees somebody else coming and going, and will say, “Pat has somebody in there with him or her know. I see this other person going.” In that case, if you don’t know who’s there, you can name them as a “John” or “Jane Doe,” and if you find out their name, you can put in their name later. In the earlier case I gave you, where you’re getting a check from Chris Johnson, in that case, naming “John” or “Jane Doe” is not going to do it. You’re going to need to name Chris Johnson because you knew who he was. Also, little things: maybe there’s a name on the mailbox, maybe somebody is getting packages there, so it’s very important to look for indicia of how many people are there, and name them. It’s going to cost you a little bit more money with process servers, maybe with your lawyer to add other respondents onto your holdover because it’s more people. It’s also makes it a little more of hassle when you’re applying to the marshal if these tenants and occupants default, and you’re going for the default warrant, then you have to discontinue against your “John” and “Jane Does,” but the warrant clerk will end up telling you that, believe me. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s very important – we say this here all the time – a lot of doing this right is a quest for information. Information is power – find out how many people are in there, and as best as you can, what their names are. That’s our tip for today.

MMI: Neil, I’ve learned so much from you in your two appearances on my show. I hope you picked up something from my teaching section.

NK: I enjoyed what you had to say, Michelle.

MMI: Thank you so much. Hopefully I can get you back for a third time.

NK: I’m happy to help in any way I can.

MMI: This is Landlords TV, a production of Landlords New York, and you’ve been watching L&Tea Time with Michelle.

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