Skip to main content
Steven Warren Smollens
Avvo
Pro

Steven Smollens’s Answers

9,853 total


  • Is notice of petition for non payment defective?

    Notice states that the building is not under rent stabilization, though it is under a 421-a tax abatement. Is it defective if it reads the wrong status regarding the buildings rent stabilization description status?

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    The allegation made in the petition is the least of your problems. Is your lease Rent Stabilized? Does your lease contain the proper 421-a Rider? Did your initial lease contain that Rider? Did you receive a Rent Stabilization Rider with your lease and leas renewal? Do you have the Rent History for your apartment? Those are the documents you need to prove the petition falsely stated a material issue of fact.

    You may raise a defense relating to subject matter jurisdiction at any time. In the responding answer, in a motion to dismiss or even at trial. But you need to prove the petition is wrong to secure a judgment dismissing the petition.

    If your leases, lease renewal and rent history do not back up the information that the building is midway through a 421-a tax abatement, your problem is far greater than this petition.

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

    See question 
  • Is notice of petition for non-payment defective?

    on the notice of petition it states that the unit isn't rent stabilized, but according to the nyc department of finance it is on the 10th year of 20 years tax abatement (421-a) thus making it rent stabilize, can this discrepancy be brought upon up...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    The allegation made in the petition is the least of your problems. Is your lease Rent Stabilized? Does your lease contain the proper 421-a Rider? Did your initial lease contain that Rider? Did you receive a Rent Stabilization Rider with your lease and leas renewal? Do you have the Rent History for your apartment? Those are the documents you need to prove the petition falsely stated a material issue of fact.

    You may raise a defense relating to subject matter jurisdiction at any time. In the responding answer, in a motion to dismiss or even at trial. But you need to prove the petition is wrong to secure a judgment dismissing the petition.

    If your leases, lease renewal and rent history do not back up the information that the building is midway through a 421-a tax abatement, your problem is far greater than this petition.

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

    See question 
  • Can I sue for rent already paid on an illegal apartment

    I just found out that an apartment I am living in is illegal. No CO issued. Probably also illegal in terms of fire codes. I have paid up until 8/31, which is the end of the lease. I am moved out already with the exception of having to pick up s...

    Steven’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Dear Orangeburg Tenant:

    New York State uses a mixed approach to tenant rights in renting illegal dwellings. NY allows the landlord to keep all rent collected from the tenant while allowing the tenant the right to not pay rent at all but face eviction from the illegal rental.

    You have no leverage unless the Town would retroactively fine your landlord for the illegal business.

    The landlord's hem and haw is beside the point. New York State does not have a law to require return of the tenant security deposit in any set time. You have a right to sue for the security after thirty days.

    See question 
  • Renting room in basement of Brooklyn brownstone - do laws apply?

    Landlord wants to evict me on 3 day notice from a basement "room" with no windows (pretty sure this is illegal although I am not 100% positive. I know the whole basement used to be rented out as an illegal apt before though). In terms of me callin...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear Brooklyn Tenant:

    Look up NYC gov hpd illegal basement conversion

    Does your room seem legal after reading that pamphlet? Do you have a kitchen and a bathroom? Is the apartment below grade?

    I would say the absence of any windows suggests your room was once a utility or storage room in the basement.

    You could also check the Certificate of Occupancy for the building. Look up the building profile at NYC gov dob

    In any case, legal or illegal if you are a tenant without a lease all the landlord needs to do before starting a housing court holdover proceeding is a properly served written thirty day notice of tenancy termination.

    If locked out the police may help. If not you are left looking at an Illegal Lockout Order to Show cause (look up NYC Housing Court Illegal Lockout) and then dealing with the reluctance of some judges to put a tenant back in possession of an illegal dwelling.

    See question 
  • Evicting lodgers (Roommate Couple) from NYC Room after written agreement expiration

    I rented a room from my house in New York City to a couple who was going to pay rent weekly for 3 month. We had a written agreement signed by me and the two individuals describing the things the can do and cannot do as room renters as well as the ...

    Steven’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    You have one legal remedy if the roommates do not move out at the end of the three month lease. Look up NYC Housing Court Roommate Holdover Proceeding.

    No legal reason exists to provide a ten day notice ahead of the end of the lease. If there were as a party you are barred from serving any notice.

    Do not expect any more rent even should a judge direct your roommates to pay during the case. Do not take any money after the end of the lease. If you do so you msde those roommates brand new tenants.

    If you are a rent stabilized tenant you could not charge a rent greater than a proportionate share of your lease rent.

    See question 
  • Eviction from illegal basement apt in Brooklyn

    Hi, for the past year I have been living in a room with no windows in the basement of a Brooklyn brownstone. Originally, I was paying rent, however, the landlord has an airbnb "business" upstairs and said that if I run that (meaning change sheets,...

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    When you relate this story to investigators at the NYC DOB, you likely will trigger a set of complaints issued by NYC charging your landlord with running an illegal hotel (no certificate of ocupancy for a hotel; no hotel taxes, no required sprinklers and smoke alarms, no notice on the door of every rented room about the NYC rights of hotel guests, etc.), and if followed through by the City will cost your landlord the hotel tax that was not paid as well as possible thousands of dollars in penalties. It is possible your landlord may lose the building.

    Meanwhile, threats to move out in three days is just nonsense. Look it up yourself. A month to month tenant like you is entitled to a full thirty day notice (written and served in the same manner as a Housing Court lawsuit) . So a notice made this month could "end" the tenancy on September 30, but the landlord would still need to start a special proceeding ( a summary proceeding holdover) in the Housing Court to see if a judge would agree you should move.

    Even if the landlord wanted to sue for rent, that requires a written three day notice and then a follow up nonpayment summary proceeding.

    Even if the landlord denied your tenancy and claimed you are a fired employee, the landlord would still need to take you to court.

    You have a record of the "guests" their booking records, the duration of the stay and so on. Nearly a perfect ability to prove your landlord operated an illegal hotel in the house.

    http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/1891/illegal-building-conversion-or-occupancy-complaint

    See question 
  • What can I do to prevent filing false "Order of protection" against me from Landlord?

    Hello, Landlord says she will fill file "Order of protection" against me in order to evict me from apartment. What can I legally do to prevent this?

    Steven’s Answer

    Dear New York Tenant:

    Your landlord cannot "file" for an order of protection, as a subterfuge for commiting an "illegal eviction."

    You, on the other hand, have a near-perfect claim for filing a tenant complaint in NYC Housing Court for landlord harassment.

    Read the material at this link provided by the Legal Aid Society: https://www.legal-aid.org/media/180998/kyr_tenant_harrassment_en.pdf

    So that is what you can do to prevent that. You will have the upper hand and should not fear your landlord will feed a false tale to the police.

    See question 
  • 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.

    See question 
  • 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.

    See question 
  • 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

    See question