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Questions regarding illegal/unsafe apartment

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Questions regarding illegal/unsafe apartment

Postby optic55 » Sat Jul 01, 2017 10:01 pm

Hi,

My friends and I are students and recently rented a renovated 3br apartment in Manhattan. It is our first time renting in Manhattan and although we tried to do our due diligence, we were not aware of all of the rules.

A colleague of ours came over and told us that the third bedroom, which is in the basement, is illegal because it does not have a window. Outside the room there is a hallway with stairs to the main level as well as a door at the other end that goes through an underground storage area to the outside. Our friend said that the bedroom is illegal because not having a window is very dangerous if there were to be a fire. This is very concerning to us.

It has only been a couple of days since we have moved in, however our roommate is understandably worried about living in the room downstairs.

1) Is this room dangerous if there were to be a fire?
2) Is this an illegal room according to NYC law?
3) What is the best way to proceed with this situation? We don't want our roommate to live in a unsafe environment, but we have signed a year lease.

Also, we went through a broker for this apartment which was no-fee (paid by the landlord), but he did not mention anything about the room. Also, the room was marketed as a 3br apartment and I still have the marketing paper from the broker.

We are really worried, any advice would be greatly appreciated.
optic55
 
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Re: Questions regarding illegal/unsafe apartment

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:38 am

Entire apartments in basements are generally illegal, but this appears to be just one room in the apartment. Also, all apartments must have two means of egress, but again, that refers to the entire apartment, not just one room.

Obviously this is not the type of situation where a LL can make simple repairs.

First, is the apartment rent stabilized? I don't think it matters in this case, but still nice to know as things play out.

Is this a basement or cellar? See https://goo.gl/hwzfjz for the explanation.

Does the building have a Certificate of Occupancy? Go here: https://goo.gl/MoCymi - enter the street address and check the property profile where it says "View Certificates of Occupancy."

You can quietly check with an architect or engineer. Or you call in HPD or DOB and if illegal, they will issue a violation. But then the LL will find out. At that point you have to be careful as some LLs will take illegal action.

If it turns out to be illegal, then that room should not be used as a bedroom, although it might legal for use as a storage room. I do not know if they would require you to vacate the entire apartment. If the LL tries that without a DOB order, then that would be an illegal eviction. If he tries to alter the apartment, that might also be illegal without proper permits from DOB.

As I said, this is not something a LL can just fix. Ultimately it might require you to leave, or make major alterations. It could get you tied up in court, so I would get an expert opinion before proceeding.
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Re: Questions regarding illegal/unsafe apartment

Postby optic55 » Sun Jul 02, 2017 12:24 pm

Thank you for the reply.

The apartment we are renting is not rent stabilized.

I am not sure if it is a basement or cellar. The front of the basement definitely does not have one-half of its height above curb level, however the back of the building is deeper and I believe it does have more than half of its height above curb level there. However, there are no windows in the bottom level at all so it is difficult to tell.

According to the DOB website there is no certificate of occupancy available.

There are also no vents in the downstairs for air to circulate which is concerning as well.

Do we have any grounds to end the lease as this was marketed as a 3br apt? I have the paperwork that shows it was marketed this way.

Would it be a good/bad idea to bring up with the landlord that we are concerned about the lack of ventilation/a window down there and ask them to let us out of the lease?

Advice is appreciated. Thanks.
optic55
 
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Re: Questions regarding illegal/unsafe apartment

Postby optic55 » Sun Jul 02, 2017 12:26 pm

In addition, would it be a good/bad idea to contact the broker and to see if they can help us get out of the lease? They may have more sway with the landlord as they have worked with them before.
optic55
 
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Re: Questions regarding illegal/unsafe apartment

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 02, 2017 12:47 pm

I'd get an opinion from an architect or engineer. Understand if you leave you might have to eat the associated costs on moving and fining another place. The LL might claim you are still responsible for the rent for the rest of the lease, but if the unit is illegal, that should be sufficient to deflate that position.

Don't expect much help from the broker. They tend to run away in situations like this.
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