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Steven Warren Smollens

Steven Smollens’s Answers

7,698 total


  • I received a letter from my management that my lease will not be renewed in August. Could they evict me?

    I am due to give birth in August and have a 5 year old son. What are my rights?

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Kew Gardens Tenant:

    I gather you are not a Rent Stabilized Tenant (if you were the landlord must offer a lease renewal or provide proper notice [not earlier than 150 days before the lease expires] as to a legal reason not to offer a renewal lease) and so there is no law to compel a new lease. The lease ends by its own terms. If you stay beyond the lease you become a "Holdover Tenant" and the landlord has the right to start an eviction case in Housing Court to secure a court order allowing for your eviction.

    You may consider letting a lawyer look at the landlord's letter and your lease and discuss a plan with you considering your family circumstance.

    See question 
  • Can you get conversion damages even with no damage to property?

    If someone steals a coin collection, that appreciates, and returns it (after being caught) five years later, are there damages? There would be no damage to the coins. Obviously there is no compensation, since I did not use the coins or even show t...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Collector:

    Your statement does not suggest any basis for a lawsuit. The thief returned the property. The returned property was intact and not damaged. The returned property is worth more today then when stolen. You were not aware of the theft. If you have money to burn, you could see where a lawsuit could get you. The statute of limitations began to run on the date of the theft, but since you were not aware of the thief's actions, you may have a way around the expiration of the statute of limitations for conversion. Lawsuits cost money and take time.

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  • Recycling Laws

    I live in a rent stabilized building which has three apartments. The landlord finally got new garbage and recycling cans because I reported him to HPD & to sanitation because previous to that the landlord had broken garbage pails that he used for...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Ozone Park Tenant:

    The landlord or other person in charge is responsible for placing clear plastic bags in the recycling containers. See: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/dsny/recycling-and-garbage/residents/recycling-in-nyc-apartment-buildings.page

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  • I have been renting my basement illegally for 10 years in NY and I received a housing letter. I do not know what to do?

    I have been renting my basement illegally for 10 years in NY and I received a housing letter. I do not know what to do or what to expect? I do not even know if my basement is illegal for renting. I have a 2 floor house. The first floor has the liv...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Bronx property Owner:

    You said it yourself, you have been illegally renting the basement in your one family house. You have access to your home's certificate of occupancy so you should know if only the first and second floors are described on the C of O for use as a residence. Generally, basements every where in NYC (there are a few exceptions) are not legal to use, occupy and rent as a residence.

    You have the "housing letter" so you should what it says. You have not shared that information on AVVO, so I am guessing you want to do so only with a lawyer in a confidential setting. That is what you should do. If you are facing a violation for an illegal alteration and illegal use, the potential fines are huge ( a maximum of $25,000 for each violation.) But I do not know whether the City issued a violation or whether you are correct in your belief that for ten years you rented an illegal basement apartment in your one-family home.

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  • The DOB posted a vacate order in the basement i live in. Can i make my landlord pay for my moving expense ?

    My landlord has been charging me rent for an illegal basement and I recently received a vacate sign from DOB . I have no money saved to move out, and no place to go in the meantime. Can i make my landlord pay for my moving expense and possibly get...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Jamaica Tenant:

    New York State (unlike New Jersey) has no law to force a landlord renting an illegal apartment to cough up rent income made during the period of illegal rental, has no law to force a landlord to pay a tenant's moving expenses, and in nearly every instance where a New York court has had to decide a tenant lawsuit to claw back rent paid for living in an illegal dwelling the courts deny the tenant's claim because New York's state legislators have had plenty of time to write laws to deal with these criminal profiteering landlords and have not done so. The likelihood your crook of a landlord will voluntarily return your security is not great.

    There are a few tenant lawyers looking for the right case to change the law using different legal approaches than already proved useless, and if you find one of those attorneys, you may give yourself a chance to change New York law and so help bring an end to the industry built up around the business of renting illegal residences to innocent tenants.

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  • Can i change a stipulation?

    Went through a non payment proceeding, counter claimed for warrant of habitability. Non payment converted to holdover proceeding through th stipulation, with 3 months to move out and LL awarded possession. Know I am in the dilemma of not being ab...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Jamaica Tenant:

    You may consider consulting an attorney to discuss the situation and consider the options that may apply to the Stipulation you made in NYC Housing Court. In certain circumstances, the Housing Court will undo (vacate) an improvidently made settlement, particularly when the tenant made the agreement without an attorney, and the tenant had true defenses to the underlying petition.

    See for an example: http://www.legalservicesnyc.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=281&Itemid=100

    Rarely, should a tenant resolve a nonpayment case by surrendering defenses and counterclaims and agreeing to move out from the apartment, without also receiving money from the landlord. As you discovered, making that deal, cost you your apartment, without some fair exchange (other than a rent waiver; and where you have real defenses to paying rent, that really means giving up the apartment for nothing), without also assuring you that the existence of the case would not land you on the Tenant Blacklist.

    Allowing an attorney to look over your settlement and discover the facts of your case, may open the opportunity for discarding the settlement in the entirety rather than just going back to court on your own by an Order to Show Cause and requesting more time to move. There is often a big "catch" with any request for additional time and that is the judge will often require that the former tenant pay "use and occupancy" (what was once your rent) to the landlord in exchange for more time to move. And, that raises another issue, since you still live in an apartment where the landlord did not make the repairs, the court would need to conduct a special hearing to determine the amount of monthly use and occupancy you would need to pay for the one or two more months of the remaining six, the court may decide to allow you to have to make an orderly move from the apartment. The "delay" in having the hearing if the landlord insists on use and occupancy so you would have more time may turn out not to be worthwhile for the landlord, so you may just settle your order to show cause with another agreement. But, if you remain not aware of the process or of your rights, you may just as easily make another one-sided deal.

    So go see a lawyer.

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  • My ? Is can I sue my landlord for Emotional stress. And have voicemails from her n harassing me every time we see each other

    i'm mentaly stressed out

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Bronx Tenant:

    You should visit a lawyer and let the lawyer hear the voice messages. If the landlord intended to cause injury and harm to you by those calls your lawyer will advise you on your options, as to whether your injuries are best addressed by your own civil lawsuit or by police for criminal harassment.

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  • This question for a L&T attorney. As a Mitchell Lama cooperator in NYC is it illegal to have a second home?

    For example a weekend house outside the city.

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York M L Shareholder:

    It is not illegal. But may cause problems if evidence indicates the second home is a primary residence.

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  • For an eviction, I know that the petitioner can't serve the papers, but can a family member serve them?

    When serving the papers "demand for payment of past due rent" for an eviction, can a family member over the age of 18 serve the papers for the petitioner?

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Rochester Homeowner:

    A person over the age of 18 who is not a party to the action or proceeding may serve the rent demand. Even though the relative may be eligible, as a process server, a mistake made in serving the papers or in the affidavit of service may doom a case.

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  • I have a real estate / real estate fraud related question.

    I have a foreign buyer looking to buy my property site unseen. They say they’ve visited my area multiple times and want to do a contract quickly, WITHOUT seeing my house (except the video tour online). They want to sign my contract, use my closing...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Seller:

    Your situation seems an improvement on the wire money scams reported at:
    https://homesteadtitle.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/real-estate-scam-warning/

    Your lawyer will be wise to recognize this as a money laundering scam. The money wires in from a foreign account and looks legitimate since there is a contract of sale, then something goes wrong and the buyer calls off the transaction and request a refund of the money wired to the lawyer. That allows "good" money to flow out from the lawyer's account. Your lawyer's bank may hold up the wire transfer since the lawyer, the bank and you do not know the purchaser, but since the foreign buyer has your lawyer's wire credentials ripping off the lawyer and the bank may be the real objective.

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