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Basement Apartments

Government housing officials are still strictly enforcing rules governing basement apartments in New York City.

Current housing experts estimate that over 75% of basements are being rented illegally. There is a Brooklyn pilot program underway to help East New York homeowners by providing an avenue for income, while helping tenants by providing an affordable and safe place to live. Department of Buildings and Department of Housing and Preservation still by and large discourage renting basement apartments with some very limited exceptions, namely if they have legal ceiling heights, proper waterproofing, and other safety measures in place.

While many houses in the Borough of Queens were built either as mother/daughter homes or as legal two-family residences with a summer kitchen and bathroom on the ground floor or basement floor. Many of these homeowners converted these properties so their adult children or elderly parents could live downstairs. Homeowners converted basements, garages, and split units in half illegally to increase apartment living spaces without filing permits.

These illegal basement apartments/units provide homeowners the opportunity to generate additional rental income from below market basement rental apartments. They are often enticing to low-income New Yorkers, struggling to find affordable units in the midst of the city's affordable housing crisis.

But the bottom line is basements in one-and two-family homes cannot be lawfully rented or occupied for residential use unless the basement apartment has received approval by the Department of Buildings. Owners with illegally converted basements may face civil and criminal penalties. Primarily because occupants of illegal basement apartments face potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation and inadequate egress in the event of a fire, occupants of illegal basement apartments may be ordered by the City to vacate or leave any such apartment.

Government limitations aside, Gordon Legal understands that in New York City, illegal space is still space in demand. Gordon Legal understands that cash strapped homeowners struggling to pay their monthly bills and mortgage are easily tempted and all too eager to rent basement apartments to desperate cash strapped tenants looking for inexpensive housing.

When it comes time to basement evictions, Queens County landlords and tenants turn to Gordon Legal for efficient, ethical, legal counsel.

In some rare instances, basement tenants may agree to leave upon your request, but if they refuse to vacate the premises, you must abide by New York's eviction laws and must act quickly. You don't want this situation to turn from bad to worse.

While some desperate homeowners may feel tempted to turn to self-help remedies such as locking out their tenants that refuse to vacate the basement or by shutting off the utilities, Gordon Legal cautions homeowners not to engage in such risky illegal actions and instead strongly advised homeowners to contact a local evictions attorney to start the proper legal procedure immediately. Landlords have the right to evict tenants the same as if it were a legal rental. Landlords do not have the right to lock out a basement tenant. Landlords do not have the right to turn off the electricity or shut off the water on your basement tenant. Turning off the utilities amounts to a constructive eviction, is illegal and could result in civil and criminal penalties.

Rather than risk arrest or months of lost rent, New York City Housing Court allows landlords to use the Housing Court to evict tenants who occupy illegal apartments. Recent court decisions have consistently indicated that it is best to have basement eviction cases processed as quickly and efficiently as possible and that the Housing Court was particularly well suited to accomplish that goal.


Gordon Legal, PC is committed to answering your questions about landlord-tenant law .

We offer a free initial phone consultation to Queens, New York landlords and tenants and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.