HOW DOES CORCORAN COMPARE TO OTHER FIRMS IN NYC?

Year after year, The Corcoran Group leads Manhattan in overall residential sales, according to a ranking of closed transactions by The Real Deal analysis of StreetEasy research. In addition, Corcoran has the best rated, real estate website, out-ranking all other firms. This is key because most buyers begin their search online.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR PRICING AN APARTMENT FOR SALE?

Bulls and bears make money, pigs lose. Don’t be greedy and over-price. An apartment properly priced at its intro to the market always secures the highest and best offers.

IS THERE A SCIENCE TO PRICING PARK-VIEW APTS?

Pricing that “room with a view” is very subjective and not a science. Remember, real estate is a commodity with an emotional quotient attached. However, according to the WSJ, buyers who demand direct views of Central Park pay about three times as much for their apartment than a similar buyer without such a requirement. Think about it… with a park-view apt you also get a city skyline view no matter what direction you face! This park view criteria is another unique aspect of NYC’s real estate market. Most other cities treasure views along the waterfront (Chicago, Miami, LA) looking out rather than back into the urban center. The park-view premium is a reflection of New Yorkers’ inward looking culture (Yeah–we like ourselves). And, if money were no object, would anyone really prefer a view of NJ or Queens?

WHAT IS A 1031 EXCHANGE?

It refers to Section 1031 of the IRS Code. It enables a seller of an investment property to defer paying capital gains taxes by taking all the proceeds from the sale of the investment property and purchasing a replacement (“like kind”) property. The seller does not avoid paying capital gains taxes, but rather defers paying them. This enables the seller to use the entire proceeds from the sale to purchase another property.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING AN OWNER SHOULD KNOW BEFORE SELLING A COMBINATION APT?

The combination of two or more apts into one living space needs to be legally signed-off by the NYC Dept of Buildings. If not, a lender will not do a loan for a potential buyer.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A SELLER CANNOT FIND THEIR COOP STOCK AND LEASE?

Generally, the co-op board simply requires the shareholder to execute a Lost Stock and Lease Affidavit that states that the shareholder: is unable to locate the stock and lease and is required to indemnify the managing agent and co-op for any loss that the co-op incurs as a result of the lost stock and lease. The shareholder will likely incur a fee for this annoyance.

One of the first questions I ask a seller of a co-op is “Who has the original stock and lease?” If the shareholder has a loan, then it is likely in the possession of the lender. If the stock and lease is lost, then the managing agent for the co-op should be contacted immediately so as to determine the co-op’s procedures concerning lost stocks and leases.

WHAT IS A BPO?

BPO stands for Broker Price Opinion. It is prepared by a real estate broker to provide an estimated value of the probable selling price of a property where the requesting party does not want to incur the expense of an appraisal.

WHAT IS ABSORPTION RATE?

The absorption rate is the number of months it takes to sell current inventory at the current sales pace. Absorption Analysis is often used to define the likely direction of prices in the near future. This is very good info to have when discussing pricing with sellers in the current market. And, also when working with buyers who need advice on making initial offers and negotiating. Did you absorb that?

MAY A SELLER OR BUYER SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THE ATTORNEY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DEAL?

No. Ethics law states that an attorney may not have direct communication with another party if that party has their own attorney. Purchasers and Sellers should speak only to their own attorney or broker, who can then communicate with their counterpart on the other side. Purchasers and Sellers may, however, talk directly to each other. In fact, in some instances, direct communication between the parties can be an efficient way to reach an agreement when there is an impasse.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF AN "ON OR ABOUT" CLOSING DATE?

An “on or about” closing date means that the closing will not necessarily take place on the closing date specified in the contract. Either party to a transaction has the right to a “reasonable adjournment” of the closing date – normally assumed to be 30 days. Sellers most commonly postpone the closing when they have not yet found another place to live. Purchasers often postpone the closing when their financing is not in place.

Closing delays may also be caused by the failure of the coop board to timely review, interview or vote on a prospective purchaser. A managing agent’s busy schedule may cause a closing delay.

Closing delays are very common, and while this is often frustrating to the party who is ready to close, a reasonable postponement is permissible under the terms of the contract. For this reason, buyers and sellers should not make plans that they cannot easily change (i.e., locking-in interest rate, planning to move) until their attorney has received confirmation of the closing date from all parties concerned.

WINDOW WINDOW ON THE WALL... WHO'S THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?

Are you thinking of shopping for new window treatments before selling? Not sure which retailer will have the best and fairest prices? Unattractive window coverings display a negative impression. A cheap and dirty appearance can make buyers feel uncomfortable.

Adding upgraded window coverings help an apartment show better, but it’s an investment. I like to be consulted about this when I talk to a potential seller. If you don’t want to make the investment, then at least remove the existing mess so I am not embarrassed when I have to show it. I actually prefer seeing bare, yet freshly washed windows over dirty, old draperies. I don’t want to be in the position of representing cheap and dirty. If you leave them up, you’re just conveying that your property is only worth halfhearted intentions.

Talk to me before you replace anything. I have solutions for that Brick-Wall View, No View, or Light-Challenged Window.

I’m a big fan of bottom-to-top Roman Shades. I have them in my apartment and they solve lots of problems. In addition, I have gone to Bed, Bath & Beyond to get inexpensive white sheer full-length curtains to camouflage those brick-wall views that are so common in NYC. The sheers mask the view and still let in the light. In addition, I have other tricks using opaque curtains to improve a room’s appearance.

If you have a nice view, I have no problem telling you to just wash the windows and do nothing. Clean windows go a long way toward moving a prospective buyer into thinking your apartment feels like home.

WHAT ABOUT MIRRORS THAT MAKE MY TINY APARTMENT LOOK BIGGER?

Mirror mirror on the wall is a dated enhancement. When I see them today, I know I’m entering a time warp and I have to muster up my diplomatic skills and tell the seller they have to go. Mirrors as a decorating tool are no longer used to hi-light or expand small spaces. Mirrors are actually easy to remove and there is usually little damage to the wall underneath. Just spackle, re-paint and you are back in the 21st century.

CAN FINE ART HELP FIND THE RIGHT BUYER?

Art has intrinsic value. As an art lover, I am often amazed at people who don’t have art in their home. So yes, before you put your apartment on the market, consider renting some art! I have sources that can help you find the right creative solution.

Art puts the finishing touches on interior design. No matter how great your apartment is, I’ve never seen an empty wall that I found appealing. Art adds the fascination! And, distinctive art is memorable. When potential buyers see multiple properties, eye-catching artwork helps them recall your apartment at the end of the day.

I have actually moved some of my own art into my listings during the selling process. One or two key pieces are all that is needed to make a bold statement. There is no need to overwhelm the space or make it look cluttered. And remember, location, location, location…First impressions are made in the entry and living room. Also, not all art is equally effective. For staging, I prefer contemporary art (based on color and form) over representational art. And remember, when I am showing your apartment, it is no longer your home–it’s a retail showroom! We want to appeal to the broadest market.

WHAT DO YOU OFFER AS A BROKER VERSUS A BUYER LOOKING ON STREETEASY ALONE?

Data from on-line real estate sites is staggering. But data is simply that – just data. It is my job to analyze and interpret the info so it is relevant to my buyers needs. The service I provide goes far beyond data analysis. It is my responsibility to have knowledge of properties, neighborhoods, market conditions, and the rules and procedures required for financing.

Then there is negotiating. I have to be dispassionate in what can be a very emotional event for both sides of a sale. I have a history of getting buyers an accepted offer in multiple competitive auctions. In one situation, my buyer competed against 14 other buyers and won the apartment! We did not offer the highest price nor did we offer “all cash” to get it! Creativity is a key component to overcome obstacles and finding a winning strategy. Anyone can go on StreetEasy and find an apt. I am the one who can get you an accepted offer.

Finally, there is the infamous board package and interview. I am meticulous in preparing a package for my buyers and coaching them for the interview.

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISTAKE BUYERS MAKE WHEN TRYING TO MAKE A PURCHASE?

Buyers need to realize that at any price point, there is no perfect NYC apartment. Sometimes buyers try too hard to outsmart the market. They lose out on a property they really wanted by underbidding based on what they would like to pay (fiction) versus what the apartment is worth in today’s market (truth). Buyers take note: the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense!

DO I HAVE TO SIGN-IN AT AN OPEN HOUSE?

Yes please. Refusing to sign-in at my open house can put the wrong foot forward on the welcome mat. I follow-up with potential buyers to get feedback (for my sellers) and I ask buyers if they have continued interest in the property. I believe I’m providing a service by hosting an open house. Therefore, don’t you think it is polite to provide feedback– Good Karma, you know?

I actually find the resistance to sign-in absurd. If you can’t provide your contact info, how do you expect to get through a purchase app and lender approval? If you think a follow-up phone call from me is intrusive, how will you compose yourself for a coop board interview?

What happens if you actually like the apt and want to move forward? Playing games with me on the sign-in sheet sends a bad first impression. It causes mistrust and may result in both my seller and I not wanting to do business with you. I make notes on the back of my sign-in sheets and I generally know who I should call and who I should just email. In addition, I never call buyers who have their own broker. It is unethical. So, in the spirit of helping, have a HEART and sign-in. It doesn’t cost anything to make a good first impression.

ANY NEW DEV FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS?

Developers want to maximize their returns when they start new construction. The acquisition costs in Manhattan have become so high that it’s simply not financially viable to build a building that doesn’t sell for a very high dollar per foot. This does not bode well for the middle class buyer.

CAN A PIED-A-TERRE BUYER WHO DOESN’T LIVE IN NYC ANY PART OF THE CALENDAR YEAR BE TAXED AS A NY STATE RESIDENT?

If someone buys a home and spends more than 183 days of the year in NY, that homeowner can be taxed as a NY resident. Entering NY for any amount of time such as employment is enough to be considered “In NY” for that day. Out-of-state pied-a-terre owners should consult their attorneys and accountants about NY State tax consequences.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE RAMIFICATIONS OF GIFT MONEY FOR A PURCHASE?

Buyers inevitably ask me this question, and they often have incorrect assumptions about how it works.

ANNUAL EXCLUSION– Each year any individual can give any other individual up to $13,000 (married couples can give $26,000) without it being subject to taxation. And that exclusion can be used for any number of individuals. So a married couple can give their married child a total of $52,000 in December– $13,000 from each parent to each child and the child’s spouse, so the total is 4 X $13,000. THIS IS WHY THIS INFO IS TIMELY AT END OF YEAR because the parents can do it again in January for children planning a purchase without any reporting obligation.

WHO PAYS THE GIFT TAXES?— Gifts are not income, and in almost all cases it is the giver that must deal with the tax implications, not the receiver. Gifts to one’s spouse are not subject to taxation. Also gifts from an employer to an employee are always considered income.

WHEN MUST A BUYER PAY THE NY STATE MANSION TAX WHEN THE PURCHASE PRICE IS LESS THAN $1M?

The 1% NY State Mansion Tax is levied on Buyers who purchase a home for $1M or more. And, the NY State and City Transfer Taxes are typically the Seller’s obligation.

However, there are certain sales when a Buyer pays these Transfer Taxes. This occurs most commonly when a Buyer is buying an apartment from a Sponsor such as in a new development building.

In those cases, the sum of the transfer taxes is added to the purchase price and then the transfer taxes are recalculated based upon this new “grossed-up” purchase price.

If the actual purchase price for the apartment is less than $1 million, but the grossed-up price (for calculating the transfer taxes only) results in a price of $1 million or more, the Buyer will have to pay the additional 1% NY State Mansion Tax at Closing based upon the new grossed-up price.

For example, if the purchase price is $985,000 and the Buyer pays the transfer taxes ($14,036.25 to NYC + $3,940 to NYS = $17,976.25), the Buyer will then be obligated to pay the Mansion Tax since the aggregate of the purchase price plus the transfer tax ($985,000 + $17,976.25) now exceeds $1 million.

Usually, the Buyer’s broker can negotiate an accepted offer price that will be low enough to include the Transfer Taxes so that the sum total of the “Grossed-Up Price” falls under the $1M threshold.

WHAT IS A MORTGAGE CONTINGENCY?

A mortgage contingency refers to a buyer’s ability to cancel a contract of sale. This could happen when the buyer is unable to obtain a written loan commitment from a lender on or before a set date in the contract.

The term “Mortgage Contingency” is used by most lawyers because it is all encompassing. It includes both the credit worthiness of the buyer and the financial stability of the building. The financial worthiness of the buyer is vetted before a contract is signed. Usually if a building is not approved by the lender, a mortgage commitment won’t be issued. The key is to get both the borrower AND the building approved at the same time.

ARE MORTGAGE CONTINGENCIES STILL ON CONTRACTS?

It depends. Sellers, will lose a vast swath of the buyer pool if they refuse to grant a mortgage contingency to buyers. I defer to the real estate attorney representing the buyer to examine financing contingency language. And while mortgage contingencies are important, a funding contingency that ensures the return of your deposit if the bank decides not to issue the mortgage after approving you as a borrower may be even more critical. With tighter lending criteria, sometimes banks decide the building itself isn’t mortgage-worthy. Buyers should always push for a funding contingency, to protect against things not within their control.

However, contingencies can be the first casualty in a bidding war. Some segments of the market are seeing multiple offers for desirable inventory. If a property is special and goes into a multiple-offer situation then the seller may well ask bidders to skip the contingency to win the bid. And, some potential buyers will. A creative middle-ground alternative is the hybrid contingency, in which buyers agree to forfeit a fixed amount of money (less than the contract deposit, but a nice consolation prize for the seller) if the buyer can’t get financing.

HOW DOES A MORTGAGE CONTINGENCY CLAUSE PERMIT A BUYER TO CANCEL AND GET THEIR DOWN PAYMENT BACK?

A mortgage contingency clause in a sales contract allows the Buyer to cancel the contract and recover the down payment only if the buyer is unable to obtain a commitment letter from a lender within a certain period of time (usually 30 – 45 days).

However, sometimes a lender may withdraw a loan commitment letter after the expiration of the loan contingency period. This may occur if a Buyer loses his or her job, the Buyer’s credit score falls below the allowable threshold for the lender or some other factor relating to the Buyer not being able to qualify for the loan.

In those rare instances when the Buyer loses his or her loan commitment after the expiration of the mortgage contingency period, the Buyer may lose his down payment unless another loan can be obtained.

If the loan commitment is withdrawn because the building fails to meet certain threshold requirements of the lender, then the Buyer would have the right to cancel the contract and recover the down payment. Such reasons could be: an insufficient number of owner occupied apartments, insufficient capital reserves or inadequate building insurance coverage, or some other factor that relates to the building rather than to the Buyer.

Therefore, it is always in the seller’s best interest (through me as your broker) to know about the “lender approvability” of the Seller’s building so there are no surprises after an accepted offer has been negotiated.

WHAT DUE DILIGENCE SHOULD BE EXPECTED FROM A BUYER’S ATTORNEY?

A buyers attorney will negotiate the sales contract. Prior to signing, he should investigate and analyze the Coop or Condo’s underlying documents as well as the physical and financial condition of the building to uncover any serious issues the buyer should know about. Of particular importance may be potential or current special assessments to raise additional capital, pending maintenance increases, discussions of the need for capital improvements or other necessary repairs to the building, lawsuits involving the building, and quality of life concerns. An experienced lawyer will be able to read board minutes and foresee issues that may escalate into problems after the sale. Because real estate lawyers see a lot of contracts and know the routine, they can also help cut through roadblocks. For that reason, I strongly suggest using a lawyer with extensive familiarity with residential deals– not your attorney friend who specializes in securities fraud. I am always willing and able to refer an attorney that will be a good fit with my clients’ specific needs.

WHAT DUE DILIGENCE INFO DOES AN ATTORNEY REVIEW FOR A BUYER?

In advance of signing a contract, a buyer’s attorney conducts a due diligence investigation to better understand the overall condition of the property. Due Diligence may include the review of: Capital Projects that are being planned by the building; Pending increases in MM or CC’s; Pending special assessments; and if there are any “quality of life” issues in the building.

The customary due diligence materials that a buyer’s attorney will request include: the building’s board minutes; the offering plan and its amendments; the house rules and bylaws; a building questionnaire; and the two most recently audited financial statements.

IS THERE A TIMELINE FOR GETTING A WAIVER OF FIRST RIGHT OF REFUSAL WHEN BUYING A CONDO?

A waiver letter releasing the condo’s option of first right of refusal to buy the condo unit that a prospective purchaser wishes to buy has no time deadline. Sometimes condo Boards “shelve” their response when they have doubts about a prospective buyer, yet have no intention of buying the unit. Therefore, a buyer should have his attorney put a deadline in the sales contract. Promptly and Reasonable in “legal speak” is considered 30 days.

WHAT IS THE TIME FRAME FOR SUBMITTING A COOP BOARD PACKAGE?

Absent language in the contract to the contrary, the board package must be submitted within three business days of the purchaser’s receipt of the loan commitment letter. If financing is not involved, then the board package must be submitted within ten business days after the purchaser’s attorney receives a fully executed contract.

If the board package is not submitted within the applicable time frame, then the purchaser could be in default under the contract and risk losing his/her down payment. It is customary for the buyer’s real estate broker to prepare and submit the purchaser’s board package. The real estate broker assumes responsibility in ensuring that a completed and accurate board package is submitted within the appropriate time frame. Accordingly, the broker must be aware of the submission time frames and coordinate with all parties involved to ensure that the package is submitted on time.

MAY A SELLER OR BUYER SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THE ATTORNEY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DEAL?

No. Ethics law states that an attorney may not have direct communication with another party if that party has their own attorney. Purchasers and Sellers should speak only to their own attorney or broker, who can then communicate with their counterpart on the other side. Purchasers and Sellers may, however, talk directly to each other. In fact, in some instances, direct communication between the parties can be an efficient way to reach an agreement when there is an impasse.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF AN "ON OR ABOUT" CLOSING DATE?

An “on or about” closing date means that the closing will not necessarily take place on the closing date specified in the contract. Either party to a transaction has the right to a “reasonable adjournment” of the closing date – normally assumed to be 30 days. Sellers most commonly postpone the closing when they have not yet found another place to live. Purchasers often postpone the closing when their financing is not in place.

Closing delays may also be caused by the failure of the coop board to timely review, interview or vote on a prospective purchaser. A managing agent’s busy schedule may cause a closing delay.

Closing delays are very common, and while this is often frustrating to the party who is ready to close, a reasonable postponement is permissible under the terms of the contract. For this reason, buyers and sellers should not make plans that they cannot easily change (i.e., locking-in interest rate, planning to move) until their attorney has received confirmation of the closing date from all parties concerned.

HOW DO YOU COUNT THE NUMBER OF UNITS IN A RESIDENTIAL BUILDING?

Units in a NYC building are counted by the number of kitchens. The exception to this rule is “Kosher” as they may have two kitchens in one unit.

WHAT'S UP WITH THE DIFFERENT PET POLICIES IN NYC BUILDINGS?

It’s cats versus dogs in pet-friendly buildings. NYC has 15 protected classes to guard against discrimination in fair housing. PETS ARE NOT A PROTECTED CLASS. And, Coop and Condo Boards are now demanding better “manners” from dogs. Or, should I use that “behavior” word again?

Building policies have grown stricter. They are limiting dogs by breed, weight and personality (a sound mind). Some will not allow residents to have multiple dogs. They can also make the “Dog Interview” a contingency for acceptance.

Building managers are enforcing loosely written pet policies concerning dogs. Generally, rental buildings are a lot easier for pet owners rather than a coop or condo sublet. Even coops and condos that are pet friendly to resident owners often won’t allow owners to lease to tenants with dogs—maybe a cat. Most brownstones won’t allow renters with dogs.

I always ask clients for the breed and weight of their dog along with a picture. Sometimes, pet-friendly can mean cats OK— No dogs.

WHAT IS A LAND LEASE BUILDING?

A land-lease property is one in which the land beneath the building is owned by a third party. In some cases, a land-lease can reduce the value of an apartment but it is not a reason to dismiss the property.

Land-lease deals occur when an owner refuses to sell the land that a developer wishes to build on. Apartments in land-lease buildings generally have higher carrying charges because the rent for the land-lease is added to the MM or CC’s. Some lenders may be unwilling to lend in a land-lease building if the lease is set to expire in less than the term of the loan (30 years) or if the rent is scheduled to escalate shortly.

Land-lease buildings have an upside. They are often discounted by as much as 20% to other comparable properties. This offsets some or all of the risk involved in owning such a property. And, a buyer can purchase a bigger, nicer apartment than he may not have been able to afford.

A land-lease deal is treated just like any other deal. As long as the buyer is aware of the pros and cons, he can make an informed decision about whether such a property is perfect for him.

WHO IS PERMITTED TO LIVE IN A COOP?

Generally, only the purchaser and their immediate linear family (husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter) may live in a co-op apartment without the board’s consent.

Anyone else who will be a full time resident in the apartment (brother, sister, partner, friend) should be named in the contract of sale as an Occupant. The Occupant’s name must be included in the purchase application and the Occupant may be required to provide financial and personal information as well as attend a board interview.

Anyone else residing in a co-op apartment may be considered an illegal subtenant except that guests are generally permitted to stay in the apartment for short periods of time provided that the purchaser/shareholder is also residing in the apartment.

In the case of a parent purchasing an apartment for an adult child, many co-ops will require that the adult child be a co-owner if the parents will not be residing in the apartment.

And remember, Pets are not protected classes in New York. Coop Boards have rules about the size, breed and number (if any) of pets allowed in the apartment.

CAN A BUILDING DEMAND THAT UNIT OWNERS PROVIDE A SPARE KEY IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY?

Yes. A few years ago, a leak in an apartment at Olympic Tower, on Fifth Avenue at 51st Street, caused $500,000 in damage to several apartments below it. Latter, a building newsletter noted that the mess could have been completely avoided if a set of working spare keys for that apartment were available to building staff.

HOW BIG IS CENTRAL PARK?

It’s really big— 843 acres. It is one half mile wide by two and one half miles miles long.

ANY NEW DEV FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS?

Developers want to maximize their returns when they start new construction. The acquisition costs in Manhattan have become so high that it’s simply not financially viable to build a building that doesn’t sell for a very high dollar per foot. This does not bode well for the middle class buyer.

HOW LONG CAN A SPONSOR “CONTROL” A CONDO'S BOARD OF MANAGERS?

Control is the key word here. After a new condo project is approved by the Attorney General’s Office and the Offering Plan is declared effective, the developer or sponsor can begin to sell the units. Initially, the sponsor manages the building and controls the Board of Managers. The sponsor can also designate the majority of the members sitting on the Board.

The Sponsor must give up his control of the Board after he sells over 50% percent of the units or after five years from the first closing, whichever comes first. The AG may intervene on behalf of the unit owners if the Sponsor has “Control Issues” and does not keep the promises as outlined in the Offering Plan. We all know those “types” of people.

WHAT DOES MTA STAND FOR?

May Take Awhile. Did you know that approximately 150 people were struck and 50 people were killed by subway trains last year? Killing you is probably the only fast thing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can do. So while you are waiting forever at the platform edge, stop texting and pay attention! We need you here (to sell your apt). Estate sales can be complicated.

WHAT ARE LOT LINE WINDOWS?

A “lot line window” is a window that is built on a side of a building that shares a boundary line with a neighboring property. If the adjacent building is built up to or higher than this window, then the lot line window will likely need to be sealed off. For this reason, lot line windows are not counted towards light and ventilation requirements.

In condos and coops, the offering plan will generally indicate whether there are any lot line windows in the building, and if so, which apartments may be adversely affected by the lot line windows.

If a building has lot line windows, it can be very difficult to determine the probability of whether the lot line windows will actually be sealed off. Signs indicating that an adjacent property may be developed (i.e. vacant, adjoining lots or a rental building) could increase the probability that a lot line window may be sealed off. An architect or attorney who specializes in zoning and land use should be consulted.

WHAT IS A SHORT TERM RENTAL IN NYC?

Any rental between 30 and 180 days is considered a legal short term rental. And, the landlord or owner will pay higher tax rates.

It is illegal in NYC to rent for under 30 days, whether it be a landlord, co-op or condo. That is why we have hotels.

Under no circumstance should you rent a co-op or condo unless you know what the rental rules are in the building.

IS THERE A ROOMMATE LAW IN NY?

Yes, and here are the Cliff Notes of what it says: If there is one tenant on the lease, a landlord cannot prevent the tenant’s immediate family, or one additional occupant, from living with the tenant in the apt. If there are two tenants on the lease, the total number of tenants and additional occupants (excluding members of the tenant’s immediate family) living in an apt cannot exceed the amount of tenants specified in the lease. For example, if there are three tenants on a lease, and one tenant moves out, a third occupant may move into the apt.

WHAT HAPPENS TO A TENANT WHEN THE APT IS SOLD DURING THE TENANT'S OCCUPANCY?

A tenant’s rights under an existing lease are not extinguished upon the sale of the leased property. Both the new Owner and the Tenant must honor the terms of the lease. Landlords and Tenants must carefully review the terms of any lease to determine what happens to the Tenant in the event that the leased property is sold.

HOW OFTEN IS A LANDLORD REQUIRED TO PAINT AN APT?

A rental apt should be painted every three years.

CAN A BUILDING DEMAND THAT RESIDENTS PROVIDE A SPARE KEY IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY?

Yes. A few years ago, a leak in an apartment at Olympic Tower, on Fifth Avenue at 51st Street, caused $500,000 in damage to several apartments below it. Latter, a building newsletter noted that the mess could have been completely avoided if a set of working spare keys for that apartment were available to building staff.

CAN A DIPLOMAT BE SUED BY A LANDLORD?

Diplomatic immunity removes certain foreign government officials from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. A landlord may want to use other methods to protect themselves since going to court is not a practical option. Requesting 12 months rent up front on a 1 year lease is a common occurance.

Occupation, national origin and citizenship are protected fair housing categories in NYC so a landlord may not discriminate against tenants based on these factors. Diplomatic immunity, however, is a status and is not a protected fair housing category.

WHAT ARE A TENANT’S OPTIONS TO GET OUT OF A LEASE BEFORE THE END OF THE TERM?

Many of my buyers are currently renting and plan to close before the expiration of their current lease. As tenants, they want to get out of their lease. The first step is to ask the landlord for permission to break the lease. In some instances, a landlord will be happy to obtain a vacancy, especially if it will lead to a rent increase for the next tenant. If the landlord refuses to allow the tenant out of the lease, the tenant can ask the landlord for permission to assign the lease. An assignment of the lease means that the tenant is transferring the entire interest in the apartment lease to someone else and is permanently vacating the premises (unlike a sublease where a tenant is temporarily leaving the apartment with an intent to return). A landlord may withhold consent to the tenant’s request to assign the lease. If the landlord reasonably refuses consent, such as where the proposed tenant is not financially qualified, the tenant cannot assign the lease and is not entitled to be released from the lease. If the landlord unreasonably withholds its consent, the tenant is entitled to be released from the lease within 30 days from the date the request was given to the Landlord. Generally, if a tenant breaks his or her lease, the landlord can claim part of all of the tenant’s security deposit or go to court to enforce the terms of the lease and compel the tenant to continue paying rent until a new tenant is found, or the lease expires on its terms.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMPLETE AND FINISHED?

At a recent linguistic conference held in London, Samsundar Balgobin, a Guyanese, was the clear winner of this question.

Here is his astute answer: “When you marry the right woman, you are COMPLETE. But, when you marry the wrong woman, you are FINISHED. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are COMPLETELY FINISHED!”