Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An oldie but goodie from 2005

Landlords, either greedy for profit or struggling to pay high mortgages, avoid paying for legal structural changes that conform to the building code. They slap up walls to carve up main floors into small rooms and convert basements, attics and garages into living space and rent to poor families. Housing advocates complain that these apartments often have faulty wiring and shoddy construction, as well as inadequate sprinkler and alarm systems and emergency exits.

Queens Leads City in Complaints About Illegally Overcrowded Houses

Most of New York City's illegal conversions - apartments built without approval, permits or a certificate of occupancy from the city - occur in Queens, which abounds with recent immigrants and older, spacious homes ripe for alterations.

According to city records, 70 percent of all complaints citywide to the Buildings Department about illegal conversions since 1999 have involved houses in Queens. Complaints about illegal conversions citywide have increased to 23,393 in 2005 from 6,064 in 1999.

In Queens, the number of complaints rose to 15,794 through November this year from 4,495 in 1999, more than double the complaints logged in the four other boroughs combined, city records show.

Housing advocates estimate that there are 100,000 illegal apartments in New York City and that illegal conversions account for half of the city's net housing increase in the last 15 years.

Make sure to check out the graphic!


Anonymous said...

i have a question for the readers here. i am renting an apartment in a 3-family house in queens.

upon signing the lease and moving in last year i discovered after i had moved in that my landlord also rents out the basement to her cousin making it a 4 family>

i do not know what to do. this raises safety concerns over faulty wiring and fire hazards

my lease is up in may and i am not sure what i want to do. i feel i should report this lady what is my best course of action

thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

Find a new place to stay. In the meantime, your rent is free. In NYC, a tenant cannot be forced to pay rent if there is the presence of an illegal apartment in the building.

anonymous3 said...


Even in an illegal conversion, the tenant may still be required to pay "use and occupancy". The myth of living rent-free is false.

As anonymous #2 suggested, find a new place. First and foremost for your safety.

anonymous3 said...

Also, if it is in fact the landlord's family or "cousin", then it may not fall under the category of an illegal apartment.

Still, you are correct to be concerned about the burden of utilities and other resources. How many utility meters does it have? A telltale sign.

I don't think there is such a thing as a "3-family" house. Anything with 3 families or more are considered multiple dwellings. A quick look at the certificate of occupancy on the DOB ACRIS website will show you.

By the sound of it though, it seems like there are too many families crammed into a 2 family house.

Queens Crapper said...

If there is occupancy in a non-legalized part of the house, it doesn't matter if its family or not.

georgetheatheist said...

Dear Queensborough President Helen Marshall:

Would you please address this issue of illegal conversions in your State of the Borough Address.

Thank you kindly.

Frank said...

A buddy of mine works at a chain restaurant where one of the other employees (who is an illegal alien himself) bought a house and set up bunk beds in practically every room. He charges $300 a month for a bed to other illegal aliens. He boasts that his house will be paid off in the next few months.

anonymous3 said...

If the basement is being used by a "cousin", it qualifies as owner's use, and not a separate 4th family.

Regardless, unless it is classified as a multiple dwelling, it is most likely an illegally converted 1 or 2 family house.

If 3 or more families are living there, it is illegal nonetheless.

Queens Crapper said...

If you've constructed an apartment in your basement without permits, regardless of whether or not the person who occupies it is family, that is an illegal conversion and you will get hit for it.

Queens Crapper said...

Read this

Anonymous said...

OCCUPANCY.-The purpose or activity for which a building or space is used or is designed or intended to be used.

Unless a basement is classified as "living space" on the C of O, a family member living in it is using it illegally.

Anonymous said...

i am the original poster

thanks for the tips and advice

i did check the C of O on the dob web site and it is a legal 3 family home with the basement referred to as utiltiy area and storage so it is in fact illegal to have tenant down there family or not. i can use this info to break my lease anytime i want

anonymous3 said...

It was not clearly stated whether the basement had been altered beyond its intended use.

The question is whether the basement tenant is actually a family member, or a separate and distinct family.

The legality of altering the space is a separate issue.

Anonymous said...

"A chicken in every pot"......
and a vote from every new tenant.....
squeezed, illegally, into these big juicy Queens houses
(that is if the renters are here in the USA legally) !

Just what the clubhouse ordered!

That's why DOB looks the other way.
They have the Dem/machine's blessing.

Queens is a veritable Breeding ground
for the newly tweeded!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Bloomberg should introduce
a "Congestion Building" program in Queens.

We're choking with over development
and illegal conversions!

Anonymous said...

I also understand if you occupy an illegal apartment you may stop paying rent and live there until the landlord goes to court and gets fined.

In any event an illegal conversion is probably unsafe at any cost and you or your spouse and children may die trying to escape a fire as so many other in the past have. Call 311 to report illegally converted apartments.

anonymous3 said...

Think about this for a moment. You know it is an illegal apartment. Yet, you choose to stay, and not pay rent.

The tenant who knowingly rents and stays in an illegal apartment is just as guilty as the landlord for proliferating the problem.

However, the system does not penalize the illegal tenant. The tenant is removed from the apartment, and is free to seek another illegal apartment to start the cycle again.

Queens Crapper said...

The commenter is not the one who lives in the illegal apartment. It is the landlady's "cousin" who is the illegal tenant.

Anonymous said...

Earth to Crappie Earth to Crappie

Take a look at that story and its graphic.

While I am sorry for that fellow with the basement illegal (and I hope this doesnt get buried to far in the thread),

I hope we can take a step aside, and comment on this report, and the graph

(declining response in the face of skyrocketing complaints in the boro - for years)

for both are a bombshell.

It mutely displays a very serious problem that the posters on this site has expressed since it was set up.

Queens has some very serious problems here, something that puts us into a different catagory than the rest of the city.

And its not good.

Why is this?

Why are the officials and newspapers staying quiet?

Why are they suggesting we can add a half million to Queens?

Don't we think there a little problem here, Houston?!?!?!?

anonymous3 said...

I should have been more specific. Part of my reply was aimed at the post about stopping rent and waiting for a court trial. The point I am trying to make is, if you are knowingly and willingly staying in an illegal apartment. You are not that concerned about the safety issues and the problems they cause.

The rest of the comments address the general issue of why the complicit illegal tenant should be penalized along with the landlord. I think the problem would decrease significantly if there was a penalty for all involved.

Thus far, the illegal tenant is released to continue onto another illegal apartment. The cycle continues.

Anonymous said...


Previous poster, yes yes yes yes you are right.

Trees can give you nasty splinters.

May we discuss one that fell over our car?

Anonymous said...

This chart is mind boggling as it is scandalous.

Does anyone have one that is newer?

Have trends changed or is my perception that things are a hell of a lot worse since 2005?

anonymous3 said...


A tree doesn't cause splinters.

But feel free to discuss your car.