LIEB BLOG

How current events impact business & real estate

Showing posts with label Landlord. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Landlord. Show all posts

Monday, January 10, 2022

Suffolk County Renters: BEWARE!

Suffolk County renters: BEWARE! Those looking to rent in Suffolk County, New York should proceed with caution when searching for a rental home. 


In an effort to protect Suffolk County tenant/residents from rental fraud, the County Legislature has amended Local Law No. 30-2021. Rental fraud is committed when a person or entity leases a residential or commercial property to another, when that person or entity does not have an ownership interest in the property or authorization from the owner to lease the property. Properties that are vacant or foreclosed upon are typically the kinds of properties that are used for rental fraud. 


The law now states that "persons seeking to rent or lease real property MAY [emphasis added] demonstrate ... ownership interest or authorization to rent, lease or sublet real property." Ownership interest for real property can be demonstrated to a potential tenant via a fully signed and valid deed or a fully signed lease agreement. Similarly, a person can demonstrate they have authorization from the property owner to rent or lease the property by providing a potential tenant with proof of agency. 


The problem with this new law is that the Legislature does not actually require those looking to lease out their real property to prove that they are indeed the owner of the property. If the Legislature actually wants to protect potential tenants from rental fraud, they need to revise this law immediately and require that persons seeking to rent out real property provide proof of ownership or agency authorization incident to such rental.


Those who commit rental fraud and are caught will face penalties subject to a fine of up to $1,000.00 and/or up to six months imprisonment. Do you think the punishment fits the crime? 


In the meantime, potential tenants can and should take additional steps to protect themselves where the Legislature has fallen short. As rental fraud has become a hot topic in Suffolk, potential tenants should do their research, as well as request proof of ownership from those who are leasing properties. If a lessor refuses or cannot provide proof of ownership or agency authorization, it may be best to continue the house hunt.




Wednesday, December 29, 2021

New Law: Co-ops under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019

As of December 22, 2021, cooperatives have received 8 exemptions from the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, which otherwise restricts landlords' rights as to their tenants.


When the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act came out, we repeatedly tried to explain to co-op boards, property managers (managing agents), real estate brokers, local NAR boards, and courts, amongst others, that this law applied to co-ops regardless that it clearly was not the intent of the legislature. To a non-lawyer intent of the legislature matters, to a lawyer the rules of statutory interpretation matter and you never get to the intent of the legislature if the statute is clear on its face, which the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act is. You see, co-ops are landlords and their shareholder-owner-occupiers are tenants. This is longstanding settled law, which  created a huge predicament for co-ops. 


Thankfully, roughly 2 years later, the law is finally fixed as follows:

  • GOL 7-108(1-a), the deposit or advance limit of one month’s rent will no longer apply to owner-occupied cooperative apartments;
  • RPL 226-c, the notice requirement for rent increases of 5% or more / non-renewal will no longer apply to owner-occupied cooperative apartments;
  • RPL 238-a(1)(a), the preclusion of charging fees to review applications will no longer apply to  compensate managing agents and/or transfer agents for the processing, review, or acceptance of such prospective tenant’s application to become a shareholder of such co-op; 
  • RPL 238-a(1)(b), the cap on fees for applications of $25 is inapplicable to applications from prospective shareholders to co-ops, but the limitation of only charging up to the actual cost remains;  
  • RPL 238-a(2), late fees are now permitted on owner-occupied cooperative, but only up to 8% of monthly maintenance fee and only where the proprietary lease or occupancy agreement is updated to reflect such percentage;
  • RPAPL 702(2), the limited definition of rent for purposes of a judgment in a summary proceeding is inapplicable to owner-occupied cooperatives to the extent that the proprietary lease or occupancy agreement is updated to reflect a different definition;  
  • RPL 235-e, the 5-day non-payment of rent notice does not need to be sent by certified mail to co-op owner-occupants to the extent that the proprietary lease or occupancy agreement is updated to reflect a different method of serving notice; and 
  • RPL 234, attorneys’ fees may be awarded to either party in the event of a default judgment concerning a co-op owner-occupant to the extent that the proprietary lease or occupancy agreement is updated to reflect the availability of such fees. 

We can't stress enough that half of these new updates require an updated proprietary lease / occupancy agreement to become effective. As to the other half, co-ops would also be wise to expressly provide for their rights under an updated proprietary lease / occupancy agreement. That all being said and even if a co-op does update its proprietary lease / occupancy agreement, it will remain a landlord and subject to landlord / tenant laws for every other law that restricts landlords' actions in NYS.




Wednesday, December 22, 2021

New Law: Real Estate License Law Violation Fine Doubled to Fund Fair Housing Enforcement

Starting on February 19, 2022, the maximum fine for real estate license law violations has been doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 by S945B. Brokers beware. 


Further, 50% of these fines, for violating Article 12-A and 19 NYCRR 175, will be used to establish an Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund (ADHF). 


The ADHF shall be controlled by the NYS Attorney General and may be used for:

  • Fair housing testing;
  • Grants to duly applying county, city, town or village human rights commissions;
  • Grants to duly applying county, city, town or village agencies specializing in the prevention of unlawful discrimination in housing; &
  • Grants to duly applying not-for-profit agencies specializing in the prevention of unlawful discrimination in housing. 
It looks like there is about to be a lot more housing discrimination litigation going on starting in 2022. Are landlords, sellers, brokers, and property managers ready? 





Friday, December 17, 2021

Self-Represented Tenants Entering into Stipulations of Settlement Get More Protection

Additional protections in Housing Court are being enforced in order to aid self-represented parties. When opposing parties come to an agreement during a proceeding, they sign a Stipulation of Settlement ("Stipulation"), which is a binding agreement, so it is the judge's responsibility to ensure that the parties understand the Stipulation. 


Bill A3320A relates to stipulations in summary proceedings to recover possession of real property. Moving forward, a stipulation will not be approved by the court unless the court first verifies the following:

  • All parties have been accurately and appropriately named;
  • The authority of the signatory if a named party is not present;
  • The unrepresented party understands he may try the case if he does not agree with the stipulation;
  • An opposing party's attorney did not inappropriately give advice to the unrepresented party;
  • Whether or not the unrepresented party agrees or contests any allegations in the petition or predicate notices;
  • The unrepresented party understands the claims and defenses available to him and what his options may be in light of the claims and defenses, and, that the claims and defenses are adequately addressed in the stipulation;
  • The unrepresented party agrees to the terms in the stipulation;
  • The unrepresented party understands the consequences of either party's non-compliance with the stipulation; and
  • An appropriate rent breakdown is included, if applicable. 

An allocution is the process in which the judge determines if the parties understand the terms of the Stipulation. The amended Bill offers judges a checklist, if you will, that will allow them to efficiently ensure unrepresented parties understand the agreement that they have entered into.

Landlord's attorneys should become well versed in the allocution so that they can ensure that the Court will approve their client's settlements and resolve disputes.  












Landlord Training Classes to be Included in Neighborhood Preservation and Community Renewal Activities

In an effort to improve neighborhood preservation and community renewal, New York will expand their current definition of preservation and renewal to include the administration of landlord training classes. The amended bill covers all municipalities and aims to provide assistance primarily to underserved neighborhoods. Landlords are not required to participate in these classes so they will not be penalized if they choose not to do so. 


The amended bill, A05393, which is awaiting Gov. Hochul's signature, will administer landlord training classes in the definitions of neighborhood preservation activities and community renewal activities. These classes will cover information ranging from building codes to evictions. Preservation and community renewal activities include, but are not limited to, repairs, renovations, and restorations. Ultimately, the goal of the Bill is to preserve underserved neighborhoods and to protect tenants from being unnecessarily bothered and illegally evicted by landlords. 


Landlords are having new laws thrown at them on a regular basis in light of the COVID pandemic. And if you're not tuned in, updates on regulations and new laws can be easily missed or misunderstood. These classes will afford landlords the opportunity to know what's going on in their industry. This Bill could also help landlords reduce legal fees by getting it right the first time around. 


Details have not yet been released regarding where the classes will take place, in what form - virtual or in-person, how often, and how New York will monitor whether or not a landlord has actually completed the training classes. If all goes according to plan, this Bill will be helpful to both landlords and tenants alike. The classes in theory sound like they will be an extremely useful tool for landlords. But, if a landlord is not required to attend the classes, will they actually go to them?