Nicholas M. Moccia, P.C.
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Staten Island Foreclosure & Alternatives Law Blog

The Importance of Preparing Dispute Documentation

Stephanie had been living as a tenant in a co-op building for the last three years and had never had an issue with the other people in the building. However, she recently started complaining about Laura, a new tenant who lives across the hall. Stephanie said Laura played music loudly throughout the day and late into the evening. Stephanie also complained about Laura constantly inviting people at all hours of the night, making her feel unsafe. When Stephanie complained, Laura said it was within her right to do all of these things.

The Importance of Preparing Dispute Documentation

If you are a property owner with tenants who are in conflict, it's necessary to mediate, document your policies and processes, and act quickly to resolve disputes that could potentially result in the loss of income from a great tenant who decides not to renew their lease or the legal expenses involved in evicting a disruptive tenant.

Ideally, individuals living in a close community go about their daily lives without clashing with other members of the building, condo, or co-op. However, there are times when two members of the community rub each other the wrong way and wreak havoc on the rest of the community. A dispute might begin with parking on the wrong spot in the lot to playing music too loud and escalate to bigger problems. In order to avoid further conflict, you need to prepare proper dispute documentation.

Ultimately, a well thought out dispute policy will protect you as the landlord as well as the tenants. Establish a protocol that will be followed in the event of a tenant dispute. It could, for example, include the following points:
  

  • After a tenant complaint is received, meet with both parties to get the facts.
  • Document the findings and give a verbal warning.
  • If the offensive behavior continues, send a written letter.
  • Advise the complaining tenant to call police and file an incident report depending on the behavior.
  • If the offensive behavior persists, start eviction proceedings.


Your dispute resolution guidelines should be clear to all residents before they move into the building. Before signing the lease, rental agreement, or purchase agreement, you should go over the dispute policy with your prospective tenants or residents. While nobody plans on entering a dispute, having a resolution process in place in the event that a conflict does occur is critical. With proper documentation, you can bring the disputing parties together and mediate the situation until an appropriate middle ground is found. Dispute documentation should cover all the bases and leave nothing out.

Luckily, Stephanie and Laura's landlord had prepared dispute documentation. Stephanie filled out her complaint and submitted it. After going over the documentation, the landlord called a meeting with Stephanie and Laura. They discussed the noise and visitor issue. According to the documentation she had signed, Laura would have to either turn down the volume or use headphones after 8pm. However, Laura did have the right to invite guests at any time as long as they were accompanied by her and followed the building's rules. By sitting down and going over the disputes and documentation, both Stephanie and Laura came to a resolution.

As a property owner, you can avoid problems like this by working with an experienced real estate attorney to create clear guidelines and contracts that document expectations, rights, and penalties for all parties involved, which is essential to managing disputes and growing your successful leasing business.

What To Do Next:

ust as every piece of property is unique, each instance of litigation for a piece of property is unique - and not every lawyer has experience handling such litigation. Using the legal process to achieve your strategic objectives involves much more than paper pushing. It requires an understanding of how New York City and New York State law is applied to your specific case.

Nicholas Moccia provides prospective clients a Property Strategy Session in order to ensure he understands your objectives as well as your obstacles. Nicholas Moccia then formulates a plan of action that is tailored to your objectives including a cost/benefit analysis. To this end, Nicholas Moccia provides predictable and transparent fees structures, and to the extent possible he will project for you, step by step, the likely course your case will take. 

If he's not the right attorney for the matter, or if an alternative to legal action is more appropriate, you have his commitment that he'll point you in the right direction. Just call his office at (718) 701-5772 to schedule.

 

 

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Never Prepare a Commercial Lease without an Attorney’s Guidance
When Frank's commercial tenant, an auto parts dealer, told him they would not have the rent on time, Frank tried to play it cool. It was his first commercial rental property, and he wanted to make sure he came off as professional. He told himself that this was just part of being a landlord, and he would have to roll with the punches. Besides, he had enough money to make his payment to the bank.

The real problem came a month later when the tenant explained that business had yet to pick up. The tenant did not have last month's rent, and unfortunately, would not be able to pay this month's rent either. This left Frank in a real tough spot. He needed the rent money to meet his debt with the bank. He was going to have to make an arrangement with the lender. 

After the phone call with the bank, Frank was feeling pretty frustrated. The lender expected him to pay his loan payment on time. Tenant issues were Frank's problem, not theirs. 

A day later, Frank decided he was not going to put up with a deadbeat tenant. He called the tenant and told him that he wanted him out. The tenant told Frank he was being unfair, that he should understand how business worked. He told Frank that he needed more time and that he was not going to leave. He was going to stick it out and make things right. 

As much as Frank wanted to believe the guy, he had his own problems. The bank was not going to continue to let things slide. Choosing what seemed like the only reasonable option, Frank set out to officially remove the tenant. 

Money was tight, so Frank opted for the DIY method. He went online, found some forms, took them down to the courthouse, and submitted them. Then he waited. One week. Two weeks. After two and a half weeks, he had not heard anything. Frank went down to the courthouse again, waited in line for an hour – again – and finally got the chance to talk to a clerk. The clerk informed Frank, in a barely civil tone, that he had submitted the wrong forms. He was going to have to restart the action and wait for approval. Meanwhile, Frank had yet to see a dime in rent money. 

After weeks of frustration, confusion, and stress, Frank made a call to a real estate attorney. With the attorney's help, he managed to get his commercial rental space back. The lesson was a costly one, but, from then on, Frank always consulted his attorney on rental matters. Having a lease that protected Frank as a landlord and having legal guidance when dealing with tenant matters proved to be far more valuable than Frank would have ever imagined when he started out.

The Importance of Commercial Leases

Frank could have saved himself a lot of stress if he had discussed his first commercial rental with a qualified real estate attorney. Had Frank talked to an attorney, he would have had a commercial lease that was designed to protect his interests and would have known what his options were when dealing with his problem tenant. 
  
Commercial leases are essential to define the business relationship between the renter and the landlord. While most leases have fairly similar structures, a quality lease is written with the specific needs of a property owner in mind. This is why it is so important to visit a lawyer when writing a lease. Your business and your properties are unique to you, and the lease should reflect that.

Key Elements of a Commercial Lease

Designed to cover all common concerns in a landlord-tenant relationship, these elements of a lease address a wide range of potential problems:
 
· Parties Clause. A parties clause defines who the lease refers to. Your business is one party, while the tenant's business is the other party. Exact language is important in legal matters, so you want to make sure that the names listed here match the names of each company exactly.
· Premises Clause. This is the official address that is being rented. Any space that is part of the rental needs to be listed here as well, including additional storage locations, parking, kitchen facilities, etc.
 
· Use Clause. You want to be clear on what the tenant can and cannot use the space for. It may not be a problem if the renter conducts various types of activities in your rental, or you may want to make certain that only specific business activities occur in the building.
 
· Exclusive Clause. The tenant may want to have certain exclusivity. For instance, a coffee shop tenant may want to be the only coffee shop in your building.
 
· Rent Clause. This clause defines monthly rent amount and other expenses. This is the amount the tenant is agreeing to pay to you during the term described by the lease. You can also list dates when rent will increase in this clause.
 
· Term Clause. This defines the starting and ending dates of the rental agreement. Other dates can be defined here, such as when the business will open or when the rent payment is due.
 
· Alterations or Improvements Clause. Either you or the tenant may want to make improvements to the space. This clause defines who will pay for improvements, when they will be started, and when they will be finished. You can also state which contractor will do the improvements.
 
· Security Deposits. As a commercial property owner, you can ask for whatever amount you want for a security deposit. Or course, if you want to attract tenants, the amount needs to be competitive for the area. Whatever amount you choose will be listed in the lease.
 
· Insurance. You can define the amount and type of insurance each tenant is required to carry. Think carefully about what levels of insurance are reasonable – low enough to attract tenants, but high enough to protect your investment.
 
· Maintenance. Tenants reasonably expect you to keep the property in working order. Define your responsibilities for building maintenance.
 
· Assignment/Sublet Clause. This provision is important especially if you want the flexibility of selling your business or sharing space with other individuals or companies. There may come a point when you want out of a space. It this clause that sets the parameters for doing so.
A Comprehensive Lease Protects Your Investment
 
Your commercial rental property can prove to be a solid long-term investment, but only if it is protected. A strong lease is a necessity to protect both you and your property from the unexpected. The best way to develop such a lease is with the help of a skilled attorney.
 
What To Do Next:
 
Just as every piece of property is unique, each instance of litigation for a piece of property is unique - and not every lawyer has experience handling such litigation. Using the legal process to achieve your strategic objectives involves much more than paper pushing. It requires an understanding of how New York City and New York State law is applied to your specific case.

Nicholas Moccia provides prospective clients a Property Strategy Session in order to ensure he understands your objectives as well as your obstacles. Nicholas Moccia then formulates a plan of action that is tailored to your objectives including a cost/benefit analysis. To this end, Nicholas Moccia provides predictable and transparent fees structures, and to the extent possible he will project for you, step by step, the likely course your case will take. 

If he's not the right attorney for the matter, or if an alternative to legal action is more appropriate, you have his commitment that he'll point you in the right direction. Just call his office at (718) 701-5772 to schedule.
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Related Companies labels luxury rentals "affordable housing" for tax break

It is not breaking news that Related Companies has been cracking down on Airbnb.com, a social networking site that allows individuals to find roommates or sublet their apartments via the internet.  Related Companies has sued Henry Ikezi in a New York City Housing Court for profiteering from his "rent stabilized" apartment through Airbnb.com, but as will be demonstrated on appeal Related Companies and its attorneys, Borah Goldstein, have failed to sustain their burden of proof.  The fact is that Mr. Ikezi's tenancy in the MiMA Building was terminated a mere twenty (20) days after the commencement of his lease merely because of an account he maintained on Airbnb.com -- an account that Mr. Ikezi testified he opened some six (6) months before his tenancy commenced.

At trial, none of Related Company's witnesses could testify how many unauthorized guests Mr. Ikezi hosted, how much he charged these guests, how long they stayed, or even their identity.  None of these guests were called as witnesses at trial.  The testimony of Related's witnesses was conveniently self-serving but insufficient to prove Related's claims of profiteering.  The MiMA building, while technically rent stabilized because of a 421-a tax abatement, nevertheless charges its tenants rent at or in excess of fair market value.  Related could charge upwards of $9,000.00 a month for Mr. Ikezi's apartment. Related charged Mr. Ikezi a "preferential rent" of about $6,000.00 a month, not because the law requires that figure, but because the $9,000.00 legal maximum is likely in excess of market value.  If someone were willing to pay $9,000.00 per month for Mr. Ikezi's apartment, Related could legally charge $9,000.00 per month while still calling the apartment "rent stabilized" in order to maintain its 421-a tax abatement.   Todd Nahins, Esq., of Borah Goldstein touts his victory as a "landmark decision", but the fact is the decision rendered in Housing Court is not binding precedent and is under appeal.    Mr. Nahins styles himself as some sort of crusader who protects the integrity of rent regulation and affordable housing in New York City, yet nothing could be further from the truth.  Instead, Mr. Nahins' clients grotesquely profit from a property tax loophole. This loophole allows one of the largest of real estate concerns in the City to label luxury high rises as "affordable housing" for a generous tax abatement, all while charging rents at or in excess of fair market value.

The records of the New York City Housing Court Clerk demonstrate that Mr. Nahins' firm aggressively commences evictions in the MiMA building under the slightest pretext, and every time a new tenant is placed, MiMA takes a 18% or 20% vacancy increase allowance permitted under the NYC Rent Stabilization Law.  Thus, the legal regulated rent for Mr. Ikezi's allegedly rent stabilized apartment increased from about $6,000.00 in 2011 to about $9,000.00 in 2014.  The real profiteer is Related Companies.  Even by New York City standards, the MiMA Building can scarcely be characterized as "affordable housing."

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Brooklyn Evictions Q&A: whether house guests (licensees) can be "asked to leave" after just 15 days.

Question: Can a temporary house guest staying in a furnished room be asked to leave after just 15 days? they leave the main door unlock day and night! and this is very dangerous for New York!  They never clean up. No moneys were given. They were to design a website in exchange for short-term help...

Answer: You can ask them to leave voluntarily, of course; however, if they refuse to leave, you have to evict them through the housing court. You need to serve a 10 day notice to quit and commence a licensee holdover proceeding. If this is done improperly, the court will throw your case out, and you waste time.

I do not recommend engaging in "self-help" and forcibly removing them, otherwise you may find yourself looking not only for a landlord/tenant attorney, but also a criminal defense attorney.

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Staten Island Foreclosures -- Exit Strategies

Foreclosure law is a specialized practice area that should be entrusted to a professional who handles foreclosure cases on a daily basis. The Law Office of Nicholas M. Moccia, P.C., has successfully litigated and settled dozens of foreclosure matters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island. Your exit strategy may include the following:

1.  loan modification;

2.  short sale

3.  deed-in-lieu of foreclosure

4.  cash-for-keys from bank in order to relocate

BANK ATTORNEYS DO MAKE MISTAKES

I have yet to see a single foreclosure case where the bank or its attorneys have not made several serious errors in their papers. The reason these errors are so pervasive is due to the sheer volume of cases that they must handle. I have also observed many foreclosure firms intentionally cut corners fully expecting that most homeowners will not contest the foreclosure at all or call them out on their mistakes. In particular, it is very common for banks to commence foreclosures without being able to demonstrate their standing to do so. This amounts to the banks being unable to demonstrate to the court their legal right to enforce a mortgage and take someone's home.

Such defects form the basis of your legal defense strategy, and may result in the dismissal of your case or a more favorable settlement. Sometimes these errors are so serious that it may be possible to undo a foreclosure sale. These errors, however, are not always obvious to a non-attorney or to an attorney who does not regularly practice in this area. Failure to raise these defenses at the appropriate time may result in decreased leverage to negotiate a favorable settlement or, worse still, even the loss of your home.

I HAVE HANDLED CASES AGAINST ALL THE BIG FORECLOSURE FIRMS IN NYC

My firm has defended foreclosure cases against all the big foreclosure firms including Steven J. Baum, Rosicki Rosicki & Assoc., McCabe Weisberg, Berkman Henoch, Frenkel Lambert, Fein Such & Crane, Hogan Lovells, etc. I am able to anticipate the litigation strategy of bank attorneys, and I understand how these firms operate. I have also developed working relationships with attorney's in many of these firms, which helps to facilitate settlement discussions for the benefit of my clients.

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