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Steven Warren Smollens
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Steven Smollens’s Answers

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  • Handwrote modifications to a contract prior to signing - is it still binding?

    This is an apartment lease; I'm the tenant. The procedure was that the landlord gave me two unsigned copies of the lease, I signed both of them and gave them back, and then the landlord signed both of them, kept one copy, and gave the other copy t...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    It is not clear from your statement that the landlord "technically signed off on it" if the landlord initialled the hand writing in the margins, or simply signed the lease.

    If the landlord signed the lease then it is not likely a court would view your margin notes in the lease as a modification of the original printed text. That outcome is more likely when the doodling in the margins makes for a new term totally in conflict with the text.

    Courts (judges, lawyers) understand that most forms of printed leases contains terms and conditions thoroughly "tested" in court in resolution of disputes and that those pre-printed leases contain legal terms. A tenant marginalizing the legal terms of a lease to create a new and untested "legal meaning" is not likely to withstand scrutiny.

    Your landlord should have rejected the lease, but perhaps his attorney suggested your written comments amount to nothing.

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  • Landlord's right to cure tenant violations with active lease

    I have no attorney at the moment and can really use some help. I posted something similar before but this is a different situation. For reasons extremely beneficial to me I'm extending the tenant's lease and they are to cure the violations they ca...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York. Property Owner:

    The new lease you negotiated with the tenant who built the illegal back yard deck controls your remedies. If the lease provides the remedies you describe in the event the tenant breached the lease and does not cure, then you may carry out those remedies. Otherwise, you have the traditional remedy to demand a cure and terminate the lease in case the default continues and return to housing court in a new holdover proceeding.

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  • Can a potential landlord deny me as a tenant on account of having a service dog if policy states "No dogs allowed"?

    My fiancee wants to move to a housing development "condominiums" with our son. I have an eviction, two repos, and a service dog. I think we can overcome my repos and evictions with extra money down and auto draft for rent each month but she is wor...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Pittsburgh Condo Renter:

    I am an attorney licensed to practice law in New York State. I do not practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

    Your question, though, implicates a law of the United State of America, (the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Acts), so the ADA is law in all the States as well. The ADA strictly defines "service animal", now mostly confined to certainly specially bred, raised and trained dogs.

    See: https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet

    A "therapy" animal is any animal that may provide emotional support, but even a dog may be a support animal but not a service animal. Different states define a person with disability right to a therapy animal outside the scope of the ADA. However, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords provide reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities. See: http://www.bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=mHq8GV0FI4c%3D&tabid

    Here is your problem. Your potential landlord does have reasonable grounds to refuse to rent to you based on your record of evictions. If you are turned down, you would need to prove that reason was a subterfuge to cover the landlord from illegally discriminating against you due to your disability. See: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/top-9-landlord-legal-responsibilities-pennsylvania.html

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  • What recourse do I have if the lease they gave me lied about the internet situaution?

    I signed a lease under the impression that i could install my own wired connection and the contract states: "should you choose to purchase a separate internet connection, it must be delivered to your devices via a wired connection." I was just in...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Ithaca Tenant:

    I am not certain that your lease actually reads as you believe. Having an "impression" is not the same as a right. I gather the apartment is already wired for a local area connection and the landlord contracted with a local ISP to provide the Internet connection (actually that is no longer allowed, but landlords and ISP providers employ a sly way around the law: See http://www.cio.com/article/3090031/consumer-electronics/landlords-isps-team-up-to-rip-off-tenants-on-broadband.html).

    I don't know how you would have your own wired connection without a new cable, or a FIOS entering into the apartment. But that is apparently what the lease does not allow you to do.

    Or, all this means is that your building bars you from installation of a wireless router to the modem or cable already provided to the apartment by the landlord.

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  • What age do have to be to drive a Tao Tao scooter

    I'm only 13

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Buffalo Rider:

    Your current age prevents you from obtaining a legal license and precludes you from registering the TaoTao.

    NYS treats this vehicle as a moped or motorcycle and has varying license and registration rules based on maximum speed.

    See: http://www.moped2.org/laws/new-york.htm

    https://dmv.ny.gov/registration/register-moped

    https://dmv.ny.gov/driver-license/upstate-new-york-junior-driver-license-restrictions

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  • Can I get individual contracts/waivers for every piece of furniture I sale?

    In order to prevent getting sued, would I be able to have some type of contract that a client signs for civil responsibility in which they cant sue the manufacturer if the they trip over a table they bought and broke an ankle per se.

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Furniture Seller:

    Buy liability insurance. No document or signed agreement can stop a lawsuit filing. Depending on your lawyer's skill in drafting this waiver and customer's willingness to accept your terms at best the document would provide a defense if you are sued. You cannot avoid liability for acts of gross negligence and intentional acts.

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  • What are the regulatory differences between different types of commercial kitchens in Manhattan?

    Two types of "restaurants" in Manhattan, both would be delivery only (so I'd only need a kitchen to make the food - no need to serve customers on-site): Type 1 doesn't require any cooking. Just Acai bowls, Smoothies, Avocado toast, and apples a...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Food Seller:

    NYC has several different forms of licenses and certification requirements for every manner of food preparation and sale.

    Your question suggests you have not earned any required certificate for any business involving food. That is where you start.

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  • Can I assign my lease in Upstate New York?

    I have a 2 year lease which I need to terminate early due to the fact that we bought a house. To make a long story short, I have 1 year remaining on my lease. I spoke to my landlord and he was naturally annoyed and very demanding. He agreed to a...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Syracuse Tenant:

    New York State law gives tenants like you a right to assign the lease. The landlord has the right to turn down the offered assignment (this is a formal legal document signed by you and the assignee and notarized; so you may need a local lawyer) but if the refusal is unreasonable (as you described -- higher rent) the law allows you the personal privilege to cancel the lease with thirty days notice.

    So go look up NY Attorney General Tenant Rights Guide.

    Look up NY tenant right to assign a lease.

    For greater comfort look up the law that allows you the right to assign:

    NY Real Property Law Section 226-b.

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  • How do I know if my landlord is using "shady" tactics to force me out of my apt?

    I moved into my apt in NYC 7 1/2 months ago on a 1 yr lease. Suddenly my landlord informs me that the real estate agent who brokered my rental is going to buy the building AND the agent wants to move into my apt. I am a Section 8 tenant. I feel li...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Bronx Tenant:

    You have the same rights as any other tenant in NYC and in New York State to live out the remainder of your lease without interference from the landlord.

    Look up NY Attorney General Tenants Rights Guide.

    Nowhere in New York State is a landlord allowed to force out a tenant even without a lease without a court proceeding.

    You may have greater rights than an ordinary tenant because your landlord has a binding contract with section 8

    Look up section 8 tenant rights in NYC

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  • What are my options when dealing with a S.I. Landlord who purposely created a situation that voided our lease 3 months in?

    We signed our lease Feb 2016, on May 14 I find my LL having his girlfriend birthday party in our apartment and all of things ransacked, mostly targeting my 4yr autistic son. LL told us that we were not living in the apartment, and that he will no...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Brooklyn Tenant:

    What should I say? You experienced a horrible event in your life and your son's life. You are at the point where what is lost is gone. Since the police will not arrest the person who harbors your stolen property, you may need to go directly to the District Attorney.

    Whatever property you have that is stolen and still in the landlord's possession is recoverable by a court lawsuit known as replevin (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/replevin).

    Otherwise, all you have left is a lawsuit for money damages; unless you had homeowner insurance.

    Shop around for an attorney.

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