Updated 09/28/2010 03:20 PM
NY1 For You: DOB Officials Share How To Spot An Illegal Apartment
Apartment hunting in New York City is not easy, and Department of Buildings officials warn that some spaces that sound like good deals may actually be illegal apartments. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following NY1 For You report.
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Some good deals that seem too good to be true turn out to be really bad, when dangerous living conditions are created by illegal conversions.
"In some cases, it might really cost you your life," says Buildings Department Commissioner Robert LiMandri.
Citywide, many buildings are being altered to create additional housing without obtaining proper approval from the Department of Buildings.
"We know that there are thousands of illegal conversions in New York City," says LiMandri.
Hoping to expose these conversions, DOB officials have initiated an educational campaign for renters that offer tips on how to spot an illegally-converted apartment.
First, know the market and be wary of apartments that rent for way below the going rate.
Beware of the words "basement" or "attic," as they often refer to apartments that lack adequate exits.
Avoid apartments with rooms without windows or very small windows, as they are often found in illegal cellar or basement apartments.
Beware of the word "flex," which implies the apartment can be converted into a multi-bedroom unit, often without the proper permits, which is illegal.
Utilities included in the rent is a red flag. A landlord may not want utilities under another name connected to the property, because those residents would violate the legal occupancy of the building.
Do not consider apartments with odd layouts.
Beware of apartments where tenants cannot have mail delivered. Landlords advertising illegal apartments will often request that tenants obtain a separate P.O. Box.
Avoid no-lease apartments where a landlord refuses to draw up a lease, requests a month-to-month agreement or requires cash payments.
Last but not least, check for adequate means of egress and look out for locked doors in the unit. A tenant should be able to access all available exits either directly from the unit or a public hallway.
"It’s a couple of clicks away to be able to tell how many apartments are in a building," says LiMandri. "There are many of our buildings that have the actual [certificate of fitness] online and you can check there."
To follow up on a building, visit www.nyc.gov/buildings.
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