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.
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