person holding mask over a model of a house

What to Know About New York’s Updated Guidelines for Residential Real Estate Sales Showings During Coronavirus

As New York and the rest of the country have begun slowly emerging from stay at home orders in place to protect against the Coronavirus, real estate professionals are looking towards updating the way they conduct elements of residential real estate sales transactions. The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has issued recommendations for New York City real estate agents based on guidance from New York State and City Health Departments and the CDC covering nearly every aspect of sales transactions. Below is a brief overview of what you may see in the course of your next residential real estate purchase. 

Accessing the Property In-Person

If in-person showings are imminent, not only are agents to abide by building and management protocols for showings, it’s also recommended they obtain signed limitation of liability forms from anyone visiting the property in-person. The form advises of potential COVID-19 exposure risks and requires the signatory to assume the risk of visiting the property. 

General New York Real Estate Showing Precautions

Agents should require everyone attending an in-person showing to complete a health screening questionnaire to determine if anyone:

  • Has received a positive COVID-19 test in the last 14 days
  • Experienced any COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days
  • Knowingly been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive for or had symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days

To comply with Fair Housing regulations, any agent taking this step must uniformly implement it with everyone prior to all in-person showings.

Not only are social distancing guidelines to be followed at all times, agents showing any spaces too small to conform with the 6-foot guidelines should schedule additional showings to accommodate all parties. 

Seller’s Agent Requirements and Guidelines

Per the CDC and other health authorities, there are some protocols a seller’s agent must comply with when in-person showings occur:

  • No handshakes.
  • The seller’s agent must clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces and areas before and after each appointment
  • The seller’s agent must also provide hand sanitizer or soap and paper towels to all visitors on arrival. 
  • The seller’s agent may not permit a buyer or their agent to touch anything in the property except essential surfaces such as handrails. 
  • The seller’s agent should, when possible, open windows to introduce fresh air.
  • The seller’s agent, along with all other parties, must wear face coverings. Failure to bring a face covering may be cause for cancellation or postponing the showing without penalty or prejudice.
  • Anyone may cancel without penalty or prejudice if they are presenting COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms. 

New York Real Estate Attorney

Buying residential real estate in New York was complicated enough prior to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. The alternation of the showing and sales process has made it difficult to keep up with what is expected of you not only as a potential seller or purchaser, but as a real estate agent as well. If you are unsure of your rights, responsibilities, or the process of residential real estate sales in the current climate, the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law are here to answer your questions. We can evaluate your unique situation, provide counsel on the appropriate course of action, and look out for your best interests. Contact us today to learn more and get started. 

What Does New York’s Extended Eviction Ban Mean for Tenants?

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on across the country, initial orders issued by New York and other states inch closer to expiration – including moratoriums on evictions of tenants unable to pay their rent. To alleviate concerns of renters and lessees in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced he was extending his March 20 eviction moratorium order through August. However, the extension may not change what might happen to some delinquent tenants past the order’s original June 20th expiration date. 

Who Qualifies? 

The extended eviction moratorium announced by the Governor applies only to New York tenants who are “eligible for unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law or otherwise facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The original moratorium granted protection to all commercial and residential tenants. However, a “financial hardship” is not specifically defined and no parameters have been set as to who qualify for this protection as of now.

Undocumented Immigrant Status

Some people worry that the new standard for extended protection may negatively impact individuals with undocumented immigration status. There is a question of whether a tenant who is brought to court will willingly demonstrate whether they were impacted and reveal their immigration status to help their credibility with the court – especially knowing that some landlords in New York City recently have called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) upon finding out their status and their inability to pay rent or abide by the terms of their existing lease.

Tenants Who Do Not Qualify

For other tenants, they are not protected from a landlord’s initiation of a holdover proceeding. This is an action filed with the court by a landlord who wants to evict you and is demanding possession of the apartment. This follows either a notice to terminate or notice to cure, not necessarily for failure to pay rent. Even though there may be a holdover proceeding, the only one who has the power to order you to move is the court. However, until housing courts are able to reopen landlords are still not able to commence a new eviction proceeding.

New York Real Estate Attorney

Though many people will qualify for extra protections from eviction during the pandemic, some will not and may need additional help. Many tenants may not be sure if the extension applies to them, as many parts of the new order are unclear, and some terms are not explicitly defined. If you have questions about how or if the eviction ban extension applies to you, or if you need help dealing with a problematic landlord, the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law can help. We are here to help evaluate the situation, fight for your rights, and work towards the best resolution possible. Contact us today with your questions.

Can I Break My Lease in New York Over Coronavirus Concerns?

Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and mounting financial difficulties in places where rent is high but unemployment is rampant, many renters in New York City and other densely populated cities are wondering if they can break their lease and move to more remote areas or move in with family. Some landlords are accommodating tenant requests, but if your landlord will not let you break your lease or have someone take it over you may wonder what your options are. 

Consequences of Breaking a Lease

If you decide the best solution for you is to break your lease, you are responsible for the balance of rent that remains on the property under the lease until a new tenant moves in. Though landlords must make a good faith effort to find another renter for the property, the shelter in place orders currently in effect mean it is likely much more difficult than normal to find a replacement because less people are looking to rent apartments in heavily populated cities. 

If you do break your lease, your landlord may file a lawsuit when the courts reopen for the balance of the lease. It might be possible to negotiate a settlement after the suit begins and only pay a portion of what you owe. 

Alternative Solutions

If you want to get out of your lease but do not want to break it right away, you might be able to pursue alternative solutions with your landlord directly to see if you can reach a mutually agreeable solution. It’s advisable for you to first speak with your landlord to see if you can reach a deal that works for both of you. It may be helpful if you can figure out an amount that you’re comfortable giving up or can afford to part with as an alternative to breaking your lease. Some landlords might be willing to let you out of your lease if you forfeit your security deposit or rent for a month or two as a compromise, freeing you up to leave without facing legal action. 

New York Real Estate Attorney

Renters in New York right now are facing difficult decisions because of financial difficulties or concerns over staying healthy during a pandemic in a crowded city. In order to make sure you’re exploring all your options  and making the wisest possible decisions for your situation, contact the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law today. We can help you exercise your rights so you can try to make the best of an uncertain, unfortunate situation. Contact us today to get your questions answered and make sure someone is looking out for your interests.  

Do New York Tenants Have Special Rights During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

With the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic in New York, many people with landlords or mortgages face reduced hours, unemployment, and financial uncertainty. To mitigate the fear of losing your home as a tenant from of abiding by the current shelter at home guidelines, New York has issued orders changing the usual laws related to foreclosures, evictions, and tenant rights. 

Current New York Coronavirus Executive Orders

  • Until at least June 19, 2020, evictions are suspended. Courts also will not accept any new eviction or foreclosure cases. 
  • No Sheriffs, Marshals, or Constables are permitted to perform evictions due to the New York Governor’s Executive Order – even if a warrant for eviction exists. 
  • No landlord is permitted to engage or participate in rent gouging by increasing your rent to capitalize on the current crisis. If you are currently in a lease, your landlord can’t increase your rent until the lease expires. If you are either in a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized property, your landlord is limited in how much they can increase your rent. Currently, the rate is a 1.5 percent increase on a 1 year renewal and 2.5 percent increase on a 2 year renewal. 
  • Month-to-month tenants or tenants at market rate whose lease is expiring must be provided with advance notice in writing if your rent will increase more than 5 percent. You must receive 90 days notice if you have lived in your apartment for 2 years or more or have a 2 year lease. You must have 60 days notice if you have lived in your apartment for more than 1, but less than 2 years. You must have 30 days notice if you have rented or leased for less than 1 year. 
  • Your landlord may not charge you increased rent – even with proper advance notice – unless you take an affirmative step such as paying the increase or signing a new lease. If you do not pay, your landlord must go to court to evict you, but currently there is a moratorium on their ability to do so. 
  • Landlords may not withhold essential services such as heat or hot water due to a failure to pay rent. 
  • Landlords may not take any action with the intention of forcing you to leave your home or sacrifice your legal rights, such as interfering with your privacy or your quiet enjoyment of your home. They also may not threaten to change locks or engage in disruptive construction in the building intended to interfere with your health, safety, or use of your home. 
  • Landlords may not engage in discrimination against or evictions proceedings with a tenant because they or someone they live with contracted or has had COVID-19 or because the landlord believes they have had the virus. This includes posting notices identifying a specific individual. 

New York Real Estate AttorneyEven though there are government resources available to help with landlords who do not abide by the current executive orders, in some situations extra help is needed. If the relationship is not going as planned, the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law can help you deal with any issues, protect your home and your rights, and look out for your best interests. Contact us today with your questions.

Tenant Eviction

How Do Landlords Properly Notify Tenants They Are Being Evicted in New York City?

Everyone knows New York City is a town predominantly filled with residents who rent or lease the place they live. However, not everyone knows what happens when a landlord decides they’re ready to be rid of a problematic tenant. Recent high-profile cases of refusal to pay rent in the city put a spotlight on the issue of eviction, when it’s permissible, and how the process works. Here is an overview of New York’s eviction rules and procedures in typical landlord-tenant relationships.

When is Eviction Allowed?

New York landlords are permitted to evict tenants for a number of different reasons. However, before this can happen landlords must terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant written notice that meets the city’s requirements. In New York City, this means landlords must include the reason for termination, the date the tenant must move – but no less than 30 days from the date of service, and that an eviction lawsuit will be filed if the tenant doesn’t comply. If a tenant doesn’t comply, the landlord can proceed with their eviction lawsuit in a New York court.

Termination with Cause

If a landlord wants their tenant to move out before the rental term is finished, they must have cause. This can include nonpayment of rent or violating the terms of their lease or rental agreement. The type of notice given depends on the reason for eviction.

                Fourteen Day Notice to Quit or Pay Rent

If a tenant doesn’t pay rent as agreed, they may receive one of these notices informing them they must pay rent in full within 14 days or move out. The landlord can pursue an eviction lawsuit in court after 14 days if the tenant has neither paid nor moved off the property.

                Notice to Cure and Notice of Termination

If the landlord believes the tenant violated terms of the lease, they must give two types of notice. The first is a notice to cure informing the tenant they have 10 days to correct the violation. If the violation isn’t corrected, the landlord may provide a notice of termination. If it is corrected, the landlord can take no further steps. The second notice is a notice of termination, given when the tenant doesn’t comply with a notice to cure. This informs the tenant they have no less than 30 days to move out, and if they don’t comply the landlord can begin eviction proceedings.

Termination Without Cause

With no cause, a landlord must wait until the lease ends before asking the tenant to vacate.

                Month to Month Rental

If the tenant had a month to month agreement, tenants who occupied the property for at least one year have 30 days’ notice. Tenants between one and two years receive 60 days’ notice, and tenants of over two years receive 90 days’ notice.

                Fixed Term Lease

A fixed term tenant cannot have their tenancy terminated before the term ends without cause. After the term ends, no notice to move is required from the landlord unless the lease terms require it. Unless the tenant asked for a lease renewal, the landlord is generally in the right expecting the tenant to have left the rental by the term’s end.

COVID-19 & New York Evictions

What impact does the coronavirus have on New York evictions? Like many cities across the US, there may be a temporary inability for tenants to meet rent requirements during this unique time. Renters make-up nearly 2/3 of the city of New York’s occupancy and currently there is a statewide moratorium on commercial and residential evictions until June 20 (at least).

New York Real Estate Attorney

Lease and rental agreements are in place to set out the terms of a landlord-tenant relationship and prevent unwanted surprises. If the relationship is not going as planned or the agreement has not been upheld, the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law can help you deal with any issues and look out for your best interests. And if you have questions about your commercial or residential lease during or after the Covid-19 moratorium, Contact us today with your questions.

Blog Commission Rebates

What Do Real Estate Buyers in New York City Need to Know About Commission Rebates?

Buying property in New York City requires a lot of work – saving, searching, finding the right broker, and finally taking the plunge and purchasing real estate. This may seem like a dream come true, but in some cases the dream can get even better. Real estate brokers can enter a deal with the purchasers of real estate offering them a commission rebate on the property they purchase.

What Is a New York Commission Rebate?

The concept of a commission rebate, also known as a buyer agent rebate, is simple. The buyer’s broker will give a homebuyer a portion of their commission back in the form of either a refund or rebate. Though it isn’t widely practiced in New York City, commission rebates are legal. Section 442 of the New York Real Property Law on splitting commission does not prevent a broker from rebating part of their commission to the client, though this is not generally known to real estate agents, let alone their clients.

Traditional Broker Commission Structures

Usually, when a listing agent negotiates full-service commissions on the purchase and sale of real estate, they’re dealing with the seller. Sellers usually pay around 6 percent of the property’s sale price in New York City. If a buyer’s broker is involved in the transaction, half the commission goes to the seller’s broker and half to the buyer’s broker – so, 3 percent each. That 3 percent is divided between the real estate agent and their brokerage.

How Do I Get a Commission Rebate?

The answer is simple – ask for it! Though some brokers are known as “flat-fee brokers” and will not agree to the terms, some brokers are amenable to the idea of providing their buyers with a commission rebate. This can help you offset closing costs or simply add money back into your bank account. It’s important to ask and negotiate with your broker as a buyer, and it’s absolutely critical that any agreement made about commission rebates between a buyer and broker is in writing and signed. An experienced real estate attorney can help negotiate for a commission rebate in New York City and make sure it’s honored after the purchase of property.

New York Real Estate Attorney

Buying real estate in New York City is something to celebrate and getting the best deal possible as a buyer only makes the celebration sweeter. It’s important to start your relationship with your broker in the most advantageous position possible, and a buyer securing a commission rebate is a good step in that direction. The experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law can help you get the best deal possible and make your real estate buying experience go smoothly. Contact us today to get your questions answered and make sure someone is looking out for your best interests. 

Lady Gaga’s Father Refusing to Pay the MTA Rent on His Grand Central Terminal Restaurant

In a lease- and rental-centric area like New York City, the importance of the landlord-tenant relationship can’t be overstated. The relationship establishes the rights, obligations, and details for parties involved in renting or leasing property; it should theoretically help avoid tenant lawsuits, eviction actions, and other legal suits. However, conflicts and questions arise when tenants take matters into their own hands and unilaterally decide to stop paying rent as payback for perceived problems on the property.

At the end of February, The New York Post published the story that Lady Gaga’s father Joe Germanotta is refusing to pay a portion of the $40,000 monthly rent and $10,000 monthly fees he owes on his Grand Central Terminal restaurant and bar. Germanotta is withholding rent on the grounds his landlord, the MTA, failed to address the location’s homeless population and other issues including a rodent problem, old seating, and poorly maintained restrooms. The MTA contends Germanotta is improperly withholding $260,000 in rent and fees, refused to sign an agreement to defer rent payments, and will face eviction proceedings if he doesn’t pay by mid-March.

Though the exact terms of the lease agreement between Germanotta and the MTA are not publicly known, the dispute is a powerful reminder for landlords and tenants alike of the importance of negotiating and creating a clear, concise, and legal written rental or lease agreement. This agreement should be a comprehensive examination of all issues and a negotiation and agreement on duties, rights, expectations, and remedies for all parties involved.

This type of commercial landlord-tenant dispute is unfortunately commonplace and takes place in shopping centers, malls, and other commercial plazas all over the country when tenants claim their landlord is not doing things it is agreed to do or is failing to meet its obligations. Germanotta is not alone in his claims in Grand Central Terminal – other restaurant managers have also cited the homeless population as a violation of expected conditions by the MTA and a cause of decreased business. Though the outcome of the situation has yet to be determined, a New York City court will most likely be forced to decide whether landlord or tenant was in the right in this and other similar cases.

New York Real Estate Attorney

Leases and rental agreements in New York City set boundaries, rights, expectations, and remedies that can help landlords and tenants enter a business relationship with no surprises. To make sure someone is looking out for your best interests and addressing all the potential issues that may arise during the course of your agreement, the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law can handle negotiations on your behalf and make sure you’re protected. Contact us today to get your questions answered and get started!

What Rights Do Buyers Have Against Builders for New Home Construction Defects in New York?

Buyers often assume newly build homes, condos, and apartments should be perfect, but even new builds can have defects – design, materials, carpentry, appliance installation and even construction itself can be faulty. If this happens after you move in, buyers often wonder what rights they have in New York to have the problems fixed and what steps to take. Ideally, you discover defects prior to purchase. However, a final inspection may not uncover all defects before closing so it’s important to understand your rights against the builder days, weeks, or even years later. MOWK law can help you in either situation.

Housing Merchant Implied Warranty

New York has laws creating a new construction warranty – the Housing Merchant Implied Warranty. It doesn’t need to be written into the sales contract for single family homes and multi-unit residential building units five stories tall or less on land you didn’t own before construction.

Generally, construction defects are covered for one year after the date the title passed to the first new owner – known as the warranty date. Ventilation, plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical systems are covered for two years following the warranty date. Material defects are covered for six years. You must notify the builder in writing no later than 30 days after the warranty period expires and before filing a lawsuit. The builder must also be allowed a reasonable opportunity to inspect, test, and repair the defect.  You must notify the builder of the defect before filing suit, but don’t have to allow them the time to inspect, test, and repair. You may also file suit up to one year after the warranty period ends or within four years of the warranty date after you’ve notified the builder in a timely manner.

You may also pursue alternative dispute resolution such a mediation to try and reach a settlement. In New York, however, builders may not require binding arbitration in any limited warranting replacing or modifying the Housing Merchant Implied Warranty and must pay for voluntary arbitration. 

How Do You Recover?

If you sue, whether a defect exists is evaluated by the level of skillful workmanship standard within the community. Expert testimony and local building ordinance standards are helpful evidence to present. If you establish that a defect is present, you may typically recover damages equivalent to the cost of repairing or replacing the defect and the cost to repair any damage to the home the warranty work causes.

New York Real Estate Attorney

Buying property in New York is stressful even without the added headache of dealing with an unexpected defect in your brand-new home. If you’ve discovered an unpleasant surprise, the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law can help you pursue remedies to make sure you get what you paid for from your builder. Contact us today to get your questions answered and make sure someone is looking out for your best interests. 

NYC Co-Op Real Estate Blog

What Are Common Questions When Buying a New York City Co-Op?

In New York City, nearly every apartment is a co-op which are subject to many more rules than traditional apartment buildings. Due to these additional rules, it’s no wonder buyers in the market for a co-op have more questions than the average purchaser. Though everyone is different, some questions consistently arise when purchasing a co-op in New York City.

  • How is a Co-Op Different from a Condominium in New York City?

Co-ops and condominiums differ in the structure of their ownership. Corporations own co-op apartments and so are not technically real property. The purchase of a co-op is really a purchase of shares in the corporation that are allocated to the particular apartment in the building, allowing you an entitlement to a proprietary lease of the unit. With a condominium, you purchase real property when purchasing the unit and will receive an actual deed and separate tax bill.

  • Do Co-Ops Have a Required Down Payment Amount?

There is no fixed rule as to how much co-ops can require as a down payment, so each co-op is different. Many in New York City allow 20-25% down, but very prestigious, exclusive co-ops often require 40% or more.

  • How Much Should I Expect to Pay in Closing Costs?

Closing costs for co-ops are much cheaper than for condominiums in New York City, because co-op purchasers aren’t required to purchase title insurance or pay a mortgage recording tax. Normally, a co-op buyer should anticipate paying between 1-2% of the purchase price in closing costs. The cost rises to 2-3% of the price for apartments bought for $1 million or more.

  • Can I Co-Purchase or Gift a Co-Op?

Due to the high price of real estate in New York City, it’s not uncommon for first time buyers to get financial help from family or friends to make the purchase possible. You should verify with any co-op building you might want to live in if they allow for either co-purchasing or gifting a co-op apartment. If it’s allowed, you will probably need a gift letter to document the fact the apartment is in fact a gift. You should mention this to your broker and real estate attorney early in the purchase process so that you can get the appropriate documents in order if you do end up purchasing the co-op in this manner.

New York Real Estate Attorney

Buying property in New York City is complicated enough, and the additional regulations around co-ops makes the process even harder to navigate. It’s important for prospective buyers to ask the right questions in order to avoid unpleasant surprises further into the purchase process. Having the help of the experienced New York real estate attorneys at MOWK Law can make buying a co-op a seamless transaction and ensure you get what you want and exactly what you pay for. Contact us today to get your questions answered and make sure someone is looking out for your best interests. 

Property Encroachment

What if Someone Is Encroaching on My Property in New York?

New York City is a metropolis constantly under construction. New buildings are erected, and structures are renovated and remodeled every day. The flurry of activity means the city is also hotbed of disputes between landowners. A common source of disputes between real estate owners comes up when a new structure encroaches onto adjoining property owned by someone else. This could come up, for example, if a neighboring property owner expands their patio or deck so it ends up on your property.

Should I Do Nothing?

One option for a New York property owner whose land is encroached on is to do nothing – there is no legal downside to this until they want to sell their property. At that point the seller must disclose the encroachment to every potential buyer for consideration. It’s wise, though, to give the encroaching party written permission to use that part of your property to avoid a future adverse possession claim. If, however, the owner wants to act on the encroachment there are a few options they can exercise to remedy the situation.

Can I Sell the Property to the Adjoining Property Owner?

Another option is giving the adjoining property owner the option to buy the property they encroached upon. If the other owner accepts, you’ll receive financial compensation and they can continue to use the land without consequence. When selling the property, it’s important to contact your lender and a real estate lawyer to make sure land records are updated and accurate.

Is There Clear Title?

Sometimes an encroachment dispute happens because the parties dispute who owns the land at issue. If you and the other owner can’t agree on the boundaries of your respective properties, an action for quiet title can be brought by the person who claims encroachment to settle the issue. After filing a complaint, the plaintiff must serve a copy on everyone they know has claimed a property interest. Once the other parties have presented evidence supporting their property interest claims, the court will evaluate the evidence and determine the valid title holder when it issues a judgment.

Once the plaintiff has established clear title to the property, they can file an ejectment action. If the plaintiff proves they own the property and the neighbor is using it improperly and should be removed, they can also seek an injunction compelling the encroaching, adjoining property owner to get rid of the structure. The plaintiff may also be awarded damages by a court instead of an injunction.

New York Real Estate Lawyer

Property is a valuable investment, so it’s important to do everything in your power to protect what you own. If your neighbor is encroaching on your property, don’t wait until it’s too late to take action – speak to an experienced New York real estate lawyer at MOWK Law. We will fight for the integrity of your property and help you pursue whatever remedies make sense for your situation. Contact us today – we look forward to hearing from you!