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Basement Apartments

The present-day housing crisis in Queens County has driven many tenants literally underground to rent basement apartments from homeowners.

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. Government housing officials are still strictly enforcing rules governing basement apartments in New York City. 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, a Queens evictions law firm, represents landlords and tenants in Queens Housing Court. Gordon Legal has had an extensive successful track record of helping landlords and tenants enforce their statutory and contractual property rights. We admonish landlords and tenants to contact an experienced landlord tenant attorney at the first indication of a landlord tenant dispute. Too often, smart, good natured people get infected with the insidious disease of wishful thinking and hoping that a problem will resolve itself on its own, when in fact landlord tenant disputes rarely work themselves out so simply. In a perfect world, every tenant will pay rent on time and in turn every landlord will provide a safe habitable apartment; every landlord and tenant will take diligent care of their respective property rights and not engage in illegal activities. In a perfect world, landlords will never have to evict tenants. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Please do not wait until the situation worsens - take proactive action with Gordon Legal.

Client Reviews
From my very first contact with Steve, it was clear I was in highly capable hands. My landlord against tenant case was handled expertly at every step with professionalism. Steve handled my case in a very professional and competent manner. His extensive knowledge and advice regarding the law and negotiations with the opposing party were clear and effective and it is clear that he is a expert in the field. I felt my options were clearly explained and he made sure I understood the process. I would highly recommend his services. Amy
Landlord-Tenant is a small portion of my practice; usually cases are taken on only as an accommodation to a client. Working with Mr. Gordon has allowed me to take on cases which would ordinarily be time/cost inefficient. This assists me in my goal of being the “go-to” person for legal advice to my clients. His knowledge of Landlord-Tenant law allows me to feel confident in allowing him to handle my appearances. Mr. Gordon is fair and trustworthy. I would recommend him and his services. Victor
It is my distinct honor and pleasure to write this testimonial for Steven Gordon, Esq. As an attorney who does not normally practice in the housing courts, I found myself with an important client who needed sophisticated help with a landlord/tenant matter. I brought Steven in on the case and he immediately demonstrated a tremendous depth and breadth of knowledge and experience. He was a tenacious advocate for my client and helped resolve the matter fast and cost efficiently. I would recommend Steven to any attorney looking for assistance with a housing court matter. Gregg
Mr Gordon was fantastic in helping us collect our money. He was patient and walked us through the entire process, explaining clearly what would happen and how long the process would take. Any questions or concerns we had were responded to in a timely manner. We would certainly utilize his services in the future if needed. Scott
Mr. Gordon was respondent to any court paper work and was very familiar with the process. He won the case for us to have a tenant evicted who stopped paying his rent. Eric