suqs-225x300Recently in the news is a story about a couple who purchased a house in Queens after foreclosure.  After they completed their purchase, they discovered a “squatter” living in the house.  This story raises the question of who is legally defined as a squatter, and how can such a person be evicted?

First, let it be said that this is by no means an unusual course of events in New York.  New York State laws, as well as many Judges in the landlord-tenant Courts, are notoriously “pro-tenant,” making it difficult to evict anyone, even squatters.  Changes in New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law, which governs eviction procedure, have made it even more difficult to complete an eviction process.  Even in situations in which the tenant has already been evicted, the tenant in many cases may seek a temporary injunction to allow him to move back into the premises, even if the eviction was done completely and lawfully.

The “squatter” in the Queens case turned out to be a handyman who claimed that the former owner of the premises gave him permission to reside at the premises.  This moves him out of the category of squatter, as a squatter under the law is an individual who was never given consent, by any owner or former owner, to reside at the premises.  Under the law, the handyman would be considered an alleged “licensee.”   A licensee is someone who was allowed to live at the property by the owner without a lease or payment of rent, such as a girlfriend or boyfriend of the owner, or in this case, a handyman who claims to have permission from the former owner.

delay-300x228A recent case was filed in Supreme Court, Queens County by a group of corporations under the umbrella of the LeFrak Organization – one of the largest landlords in Queens.  The lawsuit was brought as an Article 78 proceeding.  An Article 78 proceeding is a lawsuit brought against a New York State official, or New York administrative agency, in which the plaintiff seeks to overturn a decision made by the official or agency on the grounds that it violated New York law.

The plaintiffs in this action seek reform of the handling of housing court cases in Queens County, in which long delays have been the rule, rather than the exception.  New York housing courts have jurisdiction over eviction cases, which can be brought as summary proceedings.  As the name “summary proceedings” suggests, these cases are meant to be brought in an expedited matter, and are supposed to be heard and resolved more quickly than actions brought in New York Supreme Court.

Under current New York law, housing court cases are required to be scheduled by the Court for an appearance in Court between three and eight days after a tenant responds to an eviction petition.  If the tenant fails to respond, or fails to appear on the return date, the landlord-tenant court is supposed to issue a warrant of eviction, as well as a judgment in favor of the landlord.

We have represented both landlords and tenants with respect to commercial leases.  This post will examine the particulars to be considered when a doctor or medical practice is the tenant.

When evaluating a potential location, the proposed tenant should first determine whether the space is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  For instance, if the building has steps to its front entrance, is a ramp also installed to allow for wheelchair access?  Is there an elevator and if so, is it also suitable to be used by patients with wheelchairs.  Do the restroom facilities comply with ADA?

In the event that the space is not ADA compliant or requires adjustments to be suited for the installation of medical equipment, the parties may decide that the space will be built out before the tenant occupies.  The parties will decide which one of them will be responsible for the build out costs and whether the tenant will be afforded a rent concession until such time as the space is completely constructed and ready for use, provided that the tenant exercises diligence in completing the construction, in accordance with building permits to be obtained and without the attachment of mechanics liens to the property.

heartbreak-1124613223-770x533-1-300x208Today is Valentine’s Day, and our firm extends best wishes to all the happy couples celebrating.  However, an unfortunate truth is that sometimes couples, whether they are man and woman, or of the same sex, will discover differences and break up.  When such a couple is legally married, they usually would consult a divorce attorney to negotiate the terms of the divorce and a fair division of their jointly-owned property.

However, what happens when a couple are not married?  Marriage as an institution  is in decline, and many couples stay together for years, even decades, have children together, purchase property together, but never take the legal step of getting married.  In such situations, how is their property to be divided once they decide to break up?  They cannot bring a divorce action in Supreme Court, as divorces are only available to married couples.

As this blog deals with real property issues, we will discuss the legal issues of how an unmarried couple can divide jointly owned real estate.  Of course, the parties should negotiate, using experienced attorneys to represent their interests.  It is possible that one party wishes to retain the real property in question, and has sufficient funds to buy out the other person.  In such a case, a buyout price must be agreed upon.  The individual retaining the property must have sufficient funds to purchase the one-half interest of the other party.  Possibly the funds will need to borrowed through a mortgage on the property.  There may also be an existing mortgage on the property that needs to be satisfied.

We have been following several national Court rulings concerning compensation paid to buyer’s real estate agents.  A significant Federal Court ruling involved the National Association of Realtors, owner of the powerful “Realtor” trademark.  The case found that a seller should not be required to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission as a condition to having the property listed on Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”).  Similar cases in other jurisdictions have followed.  Of course, a seller could avoid this situation altogether by not even having a seller’s agent.

It had been customary practice for the seller to list her property with a real estate agent affiliated with a real estate brokerage, the “seller’s agent.”  The seller’s agent would enter the listing on MLS, making the property more readily known to buyers and their agents, the “buyer’s agent.”  Without MLS, many properties may not have been located by potential buyers.  The seller would pay a commission in the range of 5%-6% of the sales price at the closing.  When a buyer’s agent was also part of the transaction, the commission would be divided between the seller’s and buyer’s agents.

Sellers in the lawsuits challenged the requirement to also compensate the buyer’s agent, when the seller engaged its own agent, and resented the requirement to pay the buyer’s agent as a condition to having their property listed on MLS.  They suggested that commissions were inflated to allow for the buyer’s agent to also be compensated.

goldbarMany viewers have been intrigued by the popular television series The Golden Bachelor, in which an older widower selected the second love of his life as his fiancee.  The widower was portrayed as absent from the dating scene after the death of his wife.  On the eve of the final episode, an article was published describing the bachelor’s relationship after the death of his wife with a live-in girlfriend and unsavory details about the golden bachelor (Gerry).  For instance, Gerry’s thrifty side allegedly caused him to “go dutch” on all expenses and activities with his girlfriend.

One distinguishing factor between the show’s two finalists (Leslie and Theresa) was that Theresa may be wealthy.  During their last date, Gerry asked Theresa about her professional life.  She stated that she was a homemaker before she dappled in the stock market.  She was successful trading stocks for herself and then started a career as a financial services professional.  Gerry, who has been reported to have a questionable professional history, was quite impressed by this information.  Perhaps the golden bachelor is actually a gold digger seeking wealth.  This post will examine estate matters to be addressed on behalf of older individuals such as Gerry and Theresa, aged 72 and 70 respectively.

A newly engaged couple with children and grandchildren from a prior marriage should seek the advice of an experienced attorney.  It would be prudent to draft estate documents whereby the second spouse would not inherit outright, but would receive income during lifetime from assets held in a testamentary trust, with the balance to be delivered to the children or grandchildren of the first marriage.  This plan will protect the spouse’s family of the first marriage from a second spouse who may be motivated by acquiring wealth from the new spouse.

landlordkillstenants-300x174A recent article in the New York Post reports on the tragic story of a New York City landlord who claimed he was “under pressure” and had “a lot of issues” with his tenants, namely, that they were late paying rent.  Unfortunately, the landlord responded to the situation by murdering his tenants, for which he has now been arrested and is in police custody.

Obviously, this is the wrong way for a landlord to handle tenants who have not paid their rent.  What should the landlord have done instead?  This blog post will discuss the proper manner in which non-paying tenants should be dealt.

Almost all tenants are required to pay rent when leasing property, such as an apartment or a house.  To simplify, we will discuss residential, rather than commercial tenants, in this post.

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