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Eviction from commercial building basement

Staten Island, NY |

My friend's landlord lied to him that it was okay for him to be residing in the basement of a commercial building and my friend pays rent to the landlord. Now the landlord has suddenly changed and wants to kick my friend out. The landlord is harassing my friend and threatening to change the locks, saying it is illegal to be living in the basement of a commercial building. Is my friend entitled to eviction process in court or the landlord can just change the locks and throw him out without going to court? The commercial building seems not covered under loft law since my friend only moved in 2 months ago. I believe the loft law requires a tenant to have been living in a commercial building since 1980, 1981 or 1990 in order to be covered under it. Regardless can he sue for harassment.

Hello Mr Smollens. I have just been informed. My friend has already moved out. Can he still sue for harassment and constructive eviction or do you think the fact that the basement is illegal will work in favor of the landlord for such lawsuit?

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

Dear Staten Island Friend:

Your friend should consult a lawyer. Even without a legal right to claim a residence in the basement of a commercial building threatening an eviction without process of the court is an actionable claim.

The landlord is also in a bit of a fix as to the proper form of proceeding. Although the building is commercial and the basement is not lawful as a residence, your friend is a living in the building. The landlord may find it difficult to articulate a claim in a residential holdover proceeding, since the building is commercial and likewise would find it hard to state the facts to support a commercial holdover proceeding because the tenant is a person and not a business, and is living in the basement of the building.

Because the landlord may feel that there is not a simple court solution, the landlord may look to short circuit the court system by asking for an inspection by the FDNY. A vacate order may force your friend out quickly.

That is another reason for your friend to get an attorney involved right away. The chance that a vacate order may come around and the ambiguity in the form of legal proceeding, should provide your friend's attorney with enough room to work out a settlement for your friend to move with a bit of money.

The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.

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Posted

I don't think the lawsuit is worth much. First there appears to be nothing in writing ("landlord lied") and you know the landlord does not tell the truth - this is not someone who is going to admit to renting the space for residential use. Second, the tenant will likely have to answer the question: "what made you think it was legal to reside in the basement of a commercial building." Unless this place was fully set up for residential use when your friend took occupancy (full bathroom, kitchen, etc), it is a very tough case - if that IS the case and he left, I hope he took pictures.

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