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Steven Warren Smollens
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Steven Smollens’s Answers

9,657 total


  • Can my landlord retrospectively amend my original lease with a tax benefit notice to save himself?

    I am in a 421-A rent regulated building and my landlord "just" found out that we are rent stabilized, as angry tenants were complaining he was trying to unlawfully deregulate the building. Therefore, he's added an amendment to my renewal lease st...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York City Tenant:

    The late inclusion of a rider to the lease renewal that the building real property taxes are subject to the 421-a program does not impair your right to continued renewals of your lease even after the tax abatement program expired. Tenants are protected if the landlord did not provide this information in the original lease or missed providing this notice when subsequently renewing the lease. Read more at: http://www.6sqft.com/rent-stabilization-demystified-know-the-rules-and-your-rights/

    This notice does not retroactively affect your original lease or other prior renewal leases. It is a going forward notice. Your tenancy will survive the expiration of the tax abatement.

    Read more at: http://www.nycrgb.org/html/resources/faq/421a-J51.html#my

    You must be aware that because your landlord may not have charged a legal rent when you came to the building in 2012. You should secure the Rent History for your apartment and file a rent overcharge complaint if the rent charged to you is greater than the proper legal regulated rent.

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  • As one of the two tenants on my rent stabilized lease, am I entitled to a rent stabilized renewal even when other leaves?

    I am one of the two tenants listed on my rent-stabilized lease. She isn't looking to stay long-term (crazy, since we have a great rent stabilized deal!), but I am looking to stay. To avoid a vacancy lease increase, I was going to consider having a...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    Yes. The departing tenant may inform the landlord and you by written communication that she is departing the apartment and the right to a lease renewal and you should all sign a written modification altering the lease to change the tenant of record to your name.

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  • Tried to help tenants moved but now scared I will get burned

    I live in a two family home. My family has grown and I want to start a home business. I want to take occupancy in one of my apartments. The tenant that is currently residing there is a couple with 3 children. Understanding their plight of havi...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Brooklyn Property Owner:

    If you wrote this agreement and you and the tenant signed the papers, you likely inadvertently made a six month lease. So now you need a lawyer to look at that letter where they agreed to those terms. If this paper meets the legal standard for a written lease or rental agreement, your hands are tied until the lease expires. When the lease ends you may proceed directly to a holdover proceeding. But now you need a lawyer.

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  • What can I do with a former landlord.

    I was a renter for 8 years with a glowing recommendation from the landlord. The landlord now wants me to pay for her floors that she says are damaged. She is also threatening to call my new landlord. Is there anything that could stop her?

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Ridge Tenant:

    You should see a local lawyer who may send a cease and desist letter to your former landlord who seems bent on a course to extort money from you for the damage she claims you caused to her floors even though the floors were in that condition when you moved in. It seems you are past the point of fighting over the return of the security deposit as that was your concern two weeks ago when you posted your earlier question at: https://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/what-should-i-do-if-my-past-landlord-is-blaming-me-2636567.html

    Now in utter disregard of the recommendation she provided to you it seems she is willing to threaten interfering with your relation with your new landlord. So you need an attorney to stop her.

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  • If a woman divorces her husband can she take him off the family composition in a NYCHA apartment?

    The ex- wife is the head of household in her apartment. He is a occupant that has a seven year old living with them. The son has no ties to the ex- wife but lives in the apartment as well. Both wife and husband have a daughter together. They are ...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    Only the property manager may modify the lease and lawful household composition. This matter should have been addressed in the divorce decree. The divorce should have delivered the marital residence to the wife and directed the husband move out.

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  • Lease renew negotiations and checks after lease ends

    I am a residential landlord. I understand that I have to promptly return any check given after lease end if I don't want to renew the tenancy. Are they allowed to be kept a few weeks longer though if both parties are in active negotiations regardi...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Brooklyn Property Owner:

    If you are negotiating a new lease or an extension of an expiring lease and you have in hand checks for future rent no matter whether you cash those checks or hold on you have a month to month tenancy after the end of the lease. Tenant attorneys often claim if a landlord holds a check longer than it would take to return the check to the tenant that counts as accepting the check as rent.

    Whether a judge would agree that is so when you come to court and the tenant claims the rent is paid in advance several months will likely turn on the legal arguments presented at that time.

    I know you have asked this question several times with slight alteration in your fact pattern and you have drawn varied responses. But no attorney answering here has crystal ball power to see the future perfectly. So if you take that reality into account and go with the trend (since you seem determined not to consult counsel in a lawyer/client manner) you would return the checks and start the holdover proceeding when the lease ends. If you subsequently come to new terms with the tenant you will get the rent paid as set out in the new lease.

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  • Is it illegal to sublet my NYC apartment to my friend for 3 months?

    I rent a room in an apartment in NYC with one other person. I am away for the summer - 3 months - and have allowed my friend to stay there for the duration at the cost of my portion of the rent (and with consent of the other leaseholder). No airb...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    If your lease is one of many popular leaeses used in NYC.your three month paying guest is not likely permitted. Go look at the opening section of the lesse (legal use of apartment) you will see that you and your co-tenant agreed the apartment was rented to you for your use as a residence and that would include immediate family and an occupant as provided at NY Real Property Law section 235-f. Your friend is not a tenant, and she is not a family member. The "Roommate Law" does not allow you or your co-tenant the right to have a roommate because there are two named tenants on the lease.

    Look at the lease section discussing subletting and assignment. To have a sublease a tenant must secure in advance the landlord's written permission. In any case, a sublease in NYC is for the entire apartment; not just your room.

    The Super seems to know your landlord's approach may very well jeopardize the lease. If the landlord runs a tight ship in as little time as three weeks the landlord may demand a correction of the breach of lease and then terminate the lease if your friend doesn't leave.

    You risk your co-tenant's right to continue to live in your home. No law or lease provision allows you to do what you want to do for the three months you will be away.

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  • Is this a retaliatory non-renewal of my lease?

    In the Spring, I texted my landlord that the doorknob on the only egress to the apartment building was unable to be opened from the inside. I live on the ground floor so I jumped out the window, walked around the building and opened the door from...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Kingston Tenant:

    I read the question a few times to form my opinion. I see the decision to not offer a lease renewal as falling outside the scope of the anti-retaliatory eviction law.

    You did not in fact make the complaint to the Fire Marshal, and so, you did not make: ">>>A good faith complaint was made, by or in behalf of the tenant, to a governmental authority of the landlord's violation of any health or safety law, regulation, code, or ordinance, or any law or regulation which has as its objective the regulation of premises used for dwelling purposes***>>>" - See more at: http://codes.findlaw.com/ny/real-property-law/rpp-sect-223-b.html#sthash.Qz3OoevB.dpuf

    You did not participate in the activities of a tenant association. You did not even discuss this defective front entrance door lock with another tenant. It just happened you were not the only tenant to recognize the inherent danger being locked in a building you could not exit, While other tenants may have been more exposed to this hazard than you (going out the window as you did may be quicker and safer than leaving by your front door into a hallway to leave the building in an emergency.

    While the landlord likely did retaliate against you the statute does not recognize making a direct complaint to the landlord about a defective condition as a basis for finding a presumption of retaliation when the landlord lets a lease expire.

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  • Is an emotional support animal considered a pet?

    Purchased a co-op in a "no pet building" and I didn't present my emotional support animal registration and psychiatrist letters to the board during the board meeting because of my bird being a fully registered support animal and not a "pet".

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Shareholder:

    You did not consider discussing with your attorney protecting your animal companion from an exclusion in a "no pet building" before going through with your purchase. Birds as emotional support animals are not on as firm ground as dogs, even as dogs who are not service animals after the 2011 change in the ADA that eliminated specially trained birds as "service animals" and thus not "pets" and made dogs alone able to carry the "tag" of service animal (and some miniature horses). All other previous animals recognized as service animals, including all birds, lost that special ADA protection in 2011 with the new definition of "service animal."

    [see: http://www.birdchannel.com/therapy-pet-birds.aspx]

    Nevertheless, birds working as "emotional support animals" remain protected if living together with a person with a disability. That person and the animal companion are protected by the Fair Housing Act (if no longer protected by the ADA. See: https://www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/pdfs/publications/service_animals_brochure.pdf

    You may need to deal with this some day. Your Bird will become known as you and your Bird go out and come back to the building. A travel cage even for a small bird is obvious. Even a small bird's happy greeting hello chirps can penetrate walls and to the common hallway. So someone will know. The sooner you line up your legal support the quicker you and your supporting Bird companion will feel safe and comfortable in your own home.

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  • Appearance of parties at the trial is mandatory?

    Hello everyone I´m an investigative reporter. I want to know some details about a Civil Complaint. It is a demand for a foreigner (venezuelan politic) against The Wall Street Journal newspaper. I wonder if it will be mandatory to the plaintiff...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Investigative Reporter:

    You will need to ask Mr. Cabello-Rondon's attorney if he will enter USA jurisdiction for the jury trial of the case he commenced [ https://dockets.justia.com/docket/new-york/nysdce/1:2016cv03346/457104] when he is a target of US law enforcement as an alleged drug kingpin (trafficking): http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/05/21/venezuelas-2-targeted-in-us-drug-probe-has-faced-slew-corruption-allegations/

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