cashierPrior blog posts have discussed types of eviction actions in New York State.  To summarize, generally, an eviction action is considered a holdover proceeding when a tenant’s lease has expired, and a non-payment action when the tenant has failed to pay rent when due.  In the actual practice of landlord-tenant law, the distinction is not always clear, and there may be certain cases which defy such categorization.  This post will discuss these situations.

The first aspect to consider is that the Courts that hear landlord-tenant matters in New York are generally courts of limited jurisdiction.  These are lower courts, which in New York City are known as the Civil Court of the County in which they are located.  For example, an eviction action for a tenant located in Queens would be brought in Civil Court, Queens County (Landlord-Tenant Part).  In the suburbs, there are local courts that hear these cases, usually known as Town Courts or Justice Courts.  If they are located in a city outside of New York City, they would be known as City Courts.  An eviction action in New Rochelle (Westchester County) would be brought in City Court of New Rochelle.

New York State law allows for these lower courts to hear landlord-tenant disputes.  However, jurisdiction is usually limited to landlord-tenant cases involving eviction proceedings.  If the case does not involve evicting the tenant for proper grounds, the case may be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

reliestphotoMany of our readers are about to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  We wish those who observe a happy and healthy new year.  At this time of year, those of the Jewish faith tend to reflect upon their acts during the past year and to set goals for improvements in the following year.  Attorneys can provide the opportunity for one’s religious, moral and ethical values to be reflected in a final legacy, such as a Will or Trust.   This post will discuss the means by which your attorney will insure that your values are properly contained within your estate documents.

Primarily, we suggest that you meet with a skilled professional , who is prepared to discuss your ethical values.  The meeting should not only address the standard discussion of who should serve as fiduciaries (those named in the Will to act on behalf of the estate such as executors, trustees and guardians) and who should inherit your assets.  For instance, a couple with minor children typically needs to determine who will serve as guardians to raise their children if they pass away.  If religion is important to such a couple, they may want to appoint someone of the same religious background who will be instructed to continue the religious instruction and ritual observance to which the children have been accustomed.  It is possible that a separate fiduciary may need to be named to handle financial matters for the children when a religiously sensitive guardian has been selected.

Discussions should be undertaken as to the distribution of assets.  Authorizing a trust to distribute assets for religious education and travel, in addition to the standard education expenses, may be appropriate.  Charitable matters should also be considered.  If charitable giving is an important value to the client, we discuss the means by which charitable giving can be accomplished.  Gifts made during lifetime typically have less significant tax consequences and the donor may be recognized personally for the contribution.  However, the donor may need the assets during her lifetime and would rather part with them at a later time.  Charitable trusts can also be established if appropriate.  Our firm commonly coordinates with various organizations that are prepared to assist in the establishment of such charitable trusts.

property-dividedOur firm is often consulted in situations where a number of individuals have inherited real property.  For example, a parent passes away, and leaves a house to her three children. Many legal issues can arise from this type of situation, which will be discussed in this blog post.

The first question when a property owner dies is whether they have a written will.  If they do, then their Last Will and Testament should direct the disposition of the said property.  For example, the Will may state “I leave my property located at (address) to my three children (names of children).  Another possibility is that the property is not specifically addressed, but the testator (the person making the Will), simply leaves all of their property owned at time of death jointly to their children.

If the person dies without a Will (intestate), then the disposition of their property, including any real property, is made pursuant to New York Estate Law. For example, if a person passes away without a Will, and has no living spouse or parents, then their property would be inherited by her living children.

interviewAfter a long search, you have finally located your dream apartment.  In New York, such an apartment is likely to be a cooperative apartment.  You have been fortunate enough to obtain your loan commitment.  Are you ready to close?  No, because you now need approval for your purchase from the board of the cooperative.  Such a condition is contained in the form contract for cooperative purchases.  This post will discuss what is entailed in obtaining cooperative board approval.

The contract will specify a timeframe for the submission of your board application package.  Your attorney should monitor this deadline, along with other deadlines to confirm that you have made the submission within the proper timeframe.  It is preferable to work with a professional real estate agent who is familiar with the building or its managing agent, so that the board package is prepared in a manner pleasing to the board.  Typical items for submission include financial records such as bank statements, and personal and professional letters of reference, along with the completed board application and credit check authorization.  Each building specifies the number of copies required to be submitted.  Most buildings will require that the application not be submitted unless it is also accompanied by a loan commitment letter from your lender.

The managing agent will review the application with the building’s interview committee (usually a smaller portion of the board).  If such application on its face is not acceptable to the board (usually for financial reasons), they will decline to interview the candidate.  This is a wise move, so that the board is not accused of discrimination in the event that the applicant happens to be a member of a protected class, which is not discoverable unless the applicant is met face-to-face.  Otherwise, the board will schedule the interview.  Potentially during the summer months or holiday season, meetings may occur more sporatically.

foreclosuresignPrior blog posts have discussed a “short sale” of a property in foreclosure.  A short sale is when the house is worth less than the mortgage owed to the lending institution, and the lender agrees to accept less than the full amount owed when the transaction takes place.  However,  a situation may also arise when a house is worth more than the loan balance, or when the amount owed is small enough that the seller may decide to pay the difference in order to sell the property to a third party.  This post will discuss legal issues related to these circumstances.

Many of our firm’s intend to sell their houses or other property in foreclosure.  They have listed their properties with a real estate agent, and are confident that the selling price will exceed the amounts owed on the property’s mortgage.  In that case, the first legal recommendation is to have an attorney file an answer to the foreclosure complaint in the appropriate court, including all legal defenses .  This will allow the homeowner additional time in which to find a buyer for the property while the foreclosure process plays out in Court.  Mandatory settlement conferences for foreclosure actions may also further delay a lender’s obtaining of a judgment of foreclosure and sale, allowing more time to market and sell the property.

Once a buyer is procured, it is important that the seller’s attorney immediately prepare a Contract of Sale.  Assuming all parties then execute the contract, the buyer’s downpayment should then be deposited in the attorney’s escrow account.  The next step would be for the seller’s attorney to contact the attorneys handling the foreclosure for the lending institution.  The attorney should provide copies of the fully signed contract, together with proof of the downpayment deposit.  At this point, the attorneys for the lender may agree (although legally, they are not obligated) to put a “hold” on any foreclosure litigation, pending the closing of the sale of the property.  The reason for this is that at the closing, the lender will be paid in full.  Therefore, it is usually not cost effective for a lender to continue to pursue a judgment of foreclosure in Court once there is a signed contract and downpayment.

prince2In a prior post , we  discussed the death of the musician Prince and speculated about matters pertaining to his estate.  Since that time, the public has become aware of the tragic circumstances of his death and that he did indeed die without a Will.

In New York, person dying without a Will is deemed “intestate”.  The proceeding held in Surrogate’s Court  is then called an Administration Proceeding.  In such a proceeding, those persons inherit depending upon their proximity in relationship to the deceased.  For instance, if the deceased died without a spouse or children, then his parents would inherit from the deceased.  With the estimated $300,000,000 estate at stake in the Prince case, random people may have an interest in claiming to be “related”.

Recent news reports have indicated that the Judge in the Prince case has limited those who claim to be Prince’s “relatives”.  Even a person serving time in prison made such a claim.  A DNA test was administered to the inmate to eliminate his claim in the estate.  Others were not offered blood testing.  While we can debate which persons should have been more thoroughly considered through DNA and blood testing, the mechanism shows that the Court will look at scientific evidence when necessary to determine whether a claimant is indeed related.

CDIn a prior post , we alerted our readers that the HUD real estate closing form as they knew it would be disappearing from closings.  In a later post , we informed our readers that the new loan closing disclosure rules were in effect.  Several months after the implementation of these rules, we would like to share with you our observations of how clients have been dealing with these new rules.

Fortunately, we have experienced a busy home transaction season.  On the flip side, we have observed that transactions are closing approximately one month later than they did prior to the implementation of these new rules.  The exception to later closings is when a transaction is all cash, which does not require these disclosure documents and the mandatory waiting periods involved.  Longer closing timeframes are a result of lenders taking longer to issue the loan commitment, evaluate collateral, and clear the loan to close.  Even if the buyer and seller are ready and anxious to close, the lenders have been disregarding the will of the parties because they can incur substantial fines for failure to provide timely disclosures under the new regulations.  Lenders may also need to refund money to borrowers if the closing costs are higher than were disclosed.  The mandatory disclosure timeframe can be shortened in rare circumstances, such as an actual emergency.  An emergency is not that a buyer is going to have a baby imminently and wants to get settled, but is when a buyer may lose her downpayment by needing to react to a time of the essence closing notice or if the property is about to miss a short sale closing deadline .

Lenders have become much more inconsistent and conservative in recent months.  We have found that most lenders are internally deciding to require disclosure timeframes that are longer than required by law.  We have noted that one regional lender has required that even more time pass than required than a major national lender that is complying with the law.  A lender that is open for business on Saturday may seem to get the parties to closing faster because it can count Saturday as one of the disclosure days.

potA recent news story in Bloomberg News discusses the effects of the legalization of medical marijuana, and its effect on smoking bans in apartments.  This blog post will discuss the possible effects of such new legal developments on apartments in the New York City area and its surrounding suburbs.

Although marijuana use for recreational purposes is not yet legal in New York State (although several other states, such as Colorado, have legalized its use for all purposes), it can be used legally in New York for medical purposes.  According to the New York State Department of Health’s website, a person with a severe medical condition, such as cancer, HIV, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, as well as other life-threatening conditions, may be eligible to receive medical marijuana with a prescription from a doctor registered with the Medical Marijuana Program.

Legal issues may arise from the use of medical marijuana, as many rental apartments, cooperatives, and condominium buildings have enacted bans on smoking.  Many rental apartments will contain in their leases a ban on smoking within the apartment and in the building common areas.  In addition, many cooperative buildings have also started to ban all smoking, even within the individual unit owner’s apartment.  These smoking bans were discussed in a prior blog post.  Of course, prior to the legalization of medical marijuana, these smoking bans would have also applied to smoking marijuana (or any other smokable substance) in an apartment.  The use of an illegal drug within a rental unit may have also likely given a landlord cause to evict the tenant for illegal activity in their apartment.