What to Do When Your Landlord Doesn’t Make Repairs | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer


MIdwood1Condos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer

Brooklyn landlord tenant relationships can have many issues, but a major one occurs when landlords do not adequately maintain or repair their rental units. Residents of one Brooklyn apartment building are taking legal action to deal with this problem.

Complaint of the Tenants

After dealing with issues since 2005, individuals living in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn have finally had enough with their landlord. According to their reports, needed repairs are not being done, and the little work that is done is substandard and short-lived. One man’s oven has been out of order for over a month. Another resident complained of recurring problems with the building’s elevator, including a recent five-hour outage. The city has also recognized issues with the management of this complex. The building has more than 250 open violations for such things as a broken water line, defective ventilation in the garage, and a leaky roof. The tenants are suing the holding company for immediate repairs of all violations.

Defense of the Landlord

Despite these complaints, the management company alleges that they have done nothing wrong. The current management purchased the building in 2007 and blames many of the problems on poor maintenance by the previous owners. They state that they have spent more than $1.6 million on improvements and renovated 83 apartments since they acquired the building. According to the company, the majority of the open violations have been addressed, and they are unaware of any current complaints from the tenants. Obviously, residents who have complained to the building superintendent about peeling paint and leaking pipes find these statements rather hard to believe.

What Can Be Don

Regrettably, this situation is not isolated. Brooklyn landlord tenant relationships are often strained when management does not respond to repair requests. As this scenario makes clear however, tenants do have options when this problem occurs. The initial step is to ensure that the problem is not due to the tenant’s own neglect or abuse. Next, the resident must report the problem to the building superintendent and allow a reasonable time for a response. If the issue is not dealt with appropriately, the tenant has a number of options including contacting the city for a housing inspection, withholding rent to cover the repair cost, or suing the landlord. Before taking any of these steps, it is important for the tenant to safeguard himself by seeking legal counsel.

If your Brooklyn landlord tenant relationship has been harmed by this kind of situation, it is important to take action promptly. Contact the Witkon Law office today for a free consultation about your rights as a tenant and options for dealing with your unresponsive landlord.

Bank Employees Rewarded for Bringing About Foreclosures

As many homeowners worry about the high number of foreclosures in Long Island and struggle to make their mortgage payments, reports of one company’s questionable business tactics are likely to precipitate both fear and anger in their hearers. Former employees of Bank of America are testifying on behalf of homeowners who were denied modifications to their loans. If their stories are true, every individual with a mortgage will have cause for concern.

The Allegations

Some former employees of Bank of America state that the company awarded cash bonuses of $500 to employees who sent at least 10 cases into foreclosure. Smaller numbers of foreclosures reportedly earned gift cards for retail stores.  Another employee reported receiving $25 bonuses and restaurant gift cards for denying applications for loans. Because of this reward system, the employees were motivated to meet quotas of foreclosures and loan disqualifications by any means necessary. Some individuals report incidents of managers removing paperwork from a file in order to disallow an application or simply rejecting applications without a sound basis. In fact, some allege that Bank of America actually instructed employees to delay and mislead customers. This information has been furnished in support of a lawsuit currently pending in the court system. The case was filed by a group of homeowners who were denied permanent loan modifications even after properly completing the application and trial program.

The State of New York

Unfortunately, this recent report is not the first instance of mishandled foreclosures in Long Island and throughout the state of the New York. In fact, Bank of America, along with four other mortgage companies, agreed to a $25 billion settlement in 2012 in response to accusations of improper foreclosures. The settlement prescribed guidelines to protect homeowners from abusive foreclosure proceedings. Included in the guidelines were specific timelines and procedures for dealing with loan modification applications. Based on the reports of Bank of America employees, a New York attorney has announced that he plans to bring a lawsuit against the company for violating the settlement agreement.

The Response of the Company

Bank of America is denying all allegations and claiming that these former employees are grossly misrepresenting both the actions and intents of its staff. They state that they are committed to helping customers who find themselves under the threat of foreclosure. They also argue that the state of New York has no basis for their threats to take legal action against the company.

This report simply underscores the importance of retaining qualified legal representation when threatened with foreclosure. Homeowners facing foreclosures in Long Island can find assistance at the Witkon Law firm. Contact us today for a free consultation.

HSBC in Trouble for Irregular New York Foreclosures | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer

English: Sign of the times - Foreclosure

English: Sign of the times – Foreclosure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Borrowers and banks usually enjoy a friendly relationship. It’s an exciting day when an individual or couple signs the papers for a mortgage, sealing the deal on their new home. Handshakes, smiles, and free pens make the whole process festive—a milestone in the life of a growing family. But when things have not gone according to plan and foreclosure is on the horizon, that relationship often changes for the worse.

Shady Activities

In New York, foreclosures are notoriously common; so common, in fact, that officials conducted an investigation concluding that a number of different banks were at fault for failing to follow the correct protocols when pushing for foreclosure. HSBC, a prominent mortgage lending bank, was not included in the investigation, but New York’s attorney general has filed a separate lawsuit against the bank, accusing it of the same kinds of shady activities.

Not Willing to Help

At issue is a legal requirement that a bank offer help, in the form of negotiations to modify loan terms, when a borrower is in trouble. This requirement is intended to give homeowners a last alternative to foreclosure, with both the borrower and the lender making compromises. Unfortunately, the attorney general’s lawsuit alleges that many New York foreclosures conducted by HSBC did not include those negotiations.

Stalling Tactics

Many New York homeowners are shocked to discover the kind of stalling tactics that their banks engage in when their home is on the line. The attorney general will seek to prove that HSBC put off the required negotiations for months, and even years in some cases, while continuing to allow the borrowers to get farther behind on their loans. The farther behind a borrower is, the less likely it is that negotiations to avoid foreclosure will be successful.

The Lawsuit’s Goal

In filing the case against HSBC, the attorney general will attempt to recover damages for those who have already been the victims of irregular New York foreclosures. In addition, of course, he will try to ensure that HSBC complies with state law in the future, giving troubled homeowners the chance to stay in their homes and follow a modified payment plan to meet their loan obligations.

If you are in danger of foreclosure and want to know what your options are, contact us for a free consultation. We will work to prevent foreclosure and negotiate a plan that will keep you in your home.

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Why Use A Lawyer for Real Estate Transactions? | Long Island Attorney


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The state of New York does not require homebuyers to retain the services of a lawyer, but it is an almost universal practice to do so. Individuals relocating from other areas may question the need for legal representation, but there are several reasons that make it the wisest choice.

A Guide Through the Complexity

Real estate transactions in Nassau County can be quite complex, and an experienced lawyer can provide invaluable guidance through the process. Potential homebuyers should choose a lawyer before they even make an offer on a house. A lawyer can help to negotiate the contract with the seller. They can help the buyer to review the terms of the agreement and ask for any needed adjustments. Retaining the services of a competent lawyer will also give the buyer credibility in the negotiating process. If roadblocks are encountered during the purchasing process, a lawyer familiar with the system can help to move things along.

A Protection from Financial Mistakes

With the high prices of real estate in Suffolk County, a home purchase will be a major financial commitment. A competent attorney can help protect buyers from making costly mistakes that they will later regret. Many home purchases in the New York City area involve co-ops. In these cases, the lawyer will review the finances and board meeting minutes of the co-op. Because of his familiarity with these groups, he may spot potential problems that the more inexperienced homebuyer would have missed.

An Advocate Without Bias

The process of purchasing and selling a home can be emotionally charged for everyone involved. The seller is trying to complete the transaction to obtain the cash purchase price; the buyer is attempting to procure a piece of property; and each real estate agent is interested in earning his or her commission. The real estate lawyer is the only completely unbiased party involved. This detachment can be very useful by providing an objective opinion and voice that can help the buyer make reasoned decisions instead of emotional ones.

The attorneys of Witkon Law have a great deal of experience in dealing with real estate transactions. They will be glad to serve as your guide, protection, and advocate to ensure that you have the best possible outcome. If you are planning to make a home purchase in Suffolk or Nassau County, contact the office today for a free consultation.

Hurricane Sandy Insurance Claims: Settled or Underestimated

Insurance companies are reporting that the vast majority of insurance claims stemming from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy have been settled. Unfortunately, a significant number of homeowners do not feel that they have been justly compensated.

What Has Been Done

On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall near the Atlantic City area of New Jersey. The storm caused deaths and property damage across a wide area of the Eastern seaboard, but especially impacted the states of New York and New Jersey. After the initial devastation and flooding, homeowners began returning to their houses, surveying the damage, and contacting their insurance companies. The insurers sent armies of adjustors to assess the damage and determine appropriate payments. A late April report from the Insurance Information Institute states that these insurance companies have now settled 93 percent of the claims for damage from the storm. It is estimated that insurers will pay out 18.8 billion dollars to their policyholders. This amount will rank Sandy as the third-most expensive storm in U.S. history, surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew. The payout includes nearly 1.1 million homeowners, 200,000 business owners, and a quarter million vehicle owners.

The Problem

Despite these enormous payouts, some individual policyholders are arguing that damage to their homes was grossly underestimated and that payments were not nearly adequate for the necessary repairs. Although some of these claims are unsubstantiated or stem from a misunderstanding of their insurance coverage, many homeowners seem to have a valid argument. One homeowner received a check for $201.90 to pay for repairs to her home. This amount did not even come close to covering the damages. Just making the recommended repairs to the roof cost her $500, and other needed repairs set her back even more. She, along with other homeowners, has hired a lawyer to combat her insurance company.

The Recourse

Homeowners facing this situation should seek legal counsel immediately. Retaining a lawyer does not mean that a case will automatically go to court, but legal advice can provide important protection. For instance, in some cases simply cashing the check sent from the insurance company can signify legal agreement with the amount of compensation the insurer has provided. This agreement can forestall the homeowner from bringing any legal action against the insurance provider.

If you believe that your insurance claim was underpaid, whether from Superstorm Sandy or any other incident, it is in your best interest to secure legal representation. Contact the office of Witkon Law today for a free consultation.

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Foreclosures in New York Increasing | Long Island Attorney

Half million dollar house in Salinas, Californ...

Half million dollar house in Salinas, California under foreclosure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much of the nation is seeing encouraging signs of an improving housing market. Foreclosures are decreasing in nearly every state. However, in a few states, the number of foreclosures continues to rise.

A Recent Report

Realty Trac, Inc., a foreclosure listing firm, released a report in mid-April that detailed the number of home repossessions and compared them with numbers from the previous year. Thirty-four states reported a decline in the number of foreclosures. Twelve states saw an increase. The state of New York had the most dramatic upsurge with a two hundred percent increase in foreclosure starts during March of 2013 as compared with March of 2012. According to Realty Trac’s statistics, the Long Island area of New York was particularly impacted by these high numbers. Suffolk County and Nassau County hold the first and third positions for foreclosure rates. The data shows that 1 in every 465 homes in Suffolk County is in the process of repossession.

The Demographics

Another report compiled by the Empire Justice Center takes a look at the demographics of these threatened homeowners. The report states that the communities in Long Island with the highest numbers of foreclosures are also the areas where a major concentration of African-American and Hispanic families resides. These neighborhoods also tend to have an unusually sharp decline in home values and poor access to loans and other assistance.  Empire’s statistics show that Long Island represents nearly 26 percent of the state’s foreclosure filings for the first half of 2012.

A Response

These statistics are unsettling, but not nearly as frightening as the predicaments of the homeowners they represent. These hard numbers represent hundreds of real families, struggling to make ends meet, yet facing the loss of the property they worked so hard to purchase. When the first summons arrives, they will likely be devastated, unsure of what to do or where to turn. It is important to communicate to these homeowners that help is available. An experienced foreclosure lawyer can help them to mount a vigorous defense. From negotiations to loan modifications, there are a number of options that may enable these families to keep their homes, but it is important to act quickly.

If you or someone you know is experiencing this devastating scenario, the law offices of Witkon Law can help. Don’t let foreclosure end your family’s dreams of home ownership. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Signing a Commercial Lease

Are you considering renting space for your business? Before you sign a commercial lease, there are a number of things you should consider.

Not the Same as a Residential Lease

Commercial leases have a number of differences from residential leases. A major difference is that most consumer protection laws do not apply to commercial leases. The paperwork used for these leases is not standardized, which means that you need to carefully study every portion of the contract. A commercial lease agreement is legally binding and cannot easily be broken. You may even need to sign a personal guarantee, which says that you (or another officer of the company) will personally cover the remaining rent payments if the business fails. On the positive side, commercial leases typically allow for much more negotiation in terms and amenities. Especially when a landlord is eager to rent the space, you may be able to obtain some very favorable considerations.

Terms of the Lease

Since this type of agreement is legally binding and usually involves a large financial commitment, the terms of a commercial lease are very important. The amount of the rent is an obvious consideration, but there are several accompanying factors. How is the rent calculated? Typically it should be the number of square feet multiplied by the cost per square foot divided into twelve monthly payments. Can your landlord increase the rent? How often? Does he have to give you an explanation? Is there any cap on the amount? What does the rent include? Does it cover property taxes and insurance? Who pays for maintenance costs?

Other things to consider include regulations regarding outside signage and agreements concerning rental of space in the building to your competitors. Often, you can negotiate changes to be made to the space to make it fit your needs. However, if such modifications are done, the agreement should specify exactly what they entail, who pays for them, and who owns them after their completion. If the rental location includes space held in common with other tenants, the contract should specify the party responsible for maintaining and restocking these areas. Of course, the lease should also include guidelines for renewal, termination, and mediation.

As you can see, there are many details that make up a commercial lease agreement. It is definitely not something into which to enter hastily. Contact the Witkon Law office today. We are experienced in negotiating commercial leases and can help protect you from the large financial cost that can accompany innocent mistakes.



Filing for Bankruptcy: Four Different Types

Although nearly every adult has heard of filing for bankruptcy, very few know the aspects that are involved. For instance, most people do not realize that there are four different kinds of bankruptcy filings — Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13. Although similar, they are small differences between them.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common type of filing and can be used by individuals, married couples, or companies. In this type, a bankruptcy trustee cancels most, if not all, of your debts but may also sell off some of your property to repay creditors. The process takes between four to six months and costs a fee of $299. This category of bankruptcy is limited to those who pass a Chapter 7 means test designed to exclude those with a higher income.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 is different from Chapter 7 in that you can keep your assets but must agree to pay back your debts (or an agreed-upon portion of them) over three to five years. You and the bankruptcy trustee will develop a repayment plan that must be approved by the court. This will include full repayment of certain kinds of debts, regular payments on secured debts, and an honest attempt to make payments on unsecured debts using any remaining disposable income. The qualifications for Chapter 13 bankruptcy are fairly simple. You must have an income that is high enough and reliable enough to convince the court that you are capable of paying off your debts in the time provided. There is also a limit to the amount of debt you can have and still be eligible for this type of bankruptcy.

Chapter 12 Bankruptcy

Chapter 12 bankruptcy is almost identical to Chapter 13 bankruptcy, except for one additional qualification: Those filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 12 must be family farmers.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is also very similar to Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but it removes one of the qualifications. Chapter 11 has no limit on the amount of money owed to creditors. This type of bankruptcy was originally intended for corporations with a large operating budget, but it has now also been extended to individuals.

This brief overview of the types of bankruptcy just scratches the surface of the complexities of bankruptcy law. Making decisions regarding this process can be difficult and overwhelming. Don’t struggle through filing for bankruptcy on your own. Contact the offices of Witkon Law today for a free confidential consultation.




Equitable Distribution in Divorce Proceedings

Who will get the new car? What is equitable distribution? What about my pension? When facing a divorce, many such questions can come to mind, and many incorrect assumptions abound. Some people believe that all assets will be divided equally between the husband and wife. Others think that decisions will be made based on the name on the title of the property. But in the state of New York, neither of these scenarios is necessarily true. Since 1980, New York has been what is known as an equitable distribution state. This term means that if a couple cannot come to an agreement on the division of their assets, the judge will divide their properties based on what is fair to both parties — equitable.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

The first thing the judge must determine is which assets are marital property and which are separate property. Only those assets deemed to be marital property are divided during the divorce proceedings. Separate property is left in the ownership of each spouse. In general, separate property refers to any asset owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. Conversely, marital property is those assets purchased during the marriage. However, determining the category of some assets can be challenging. For instance, a car purchased during the marriage may be considered separate property if it was purchased using only funds held by one spouse prior to the marriage. On the other hand, money accumulated in one spouse’s pension fund is considered marital property since both partners had the expectation of being able to use that money.

Factors Under Consideration

Once the marital property is identified, it must be divided in a way that is fair to both parties. In order to make this decision, the judge will examine a number of factors including the age and health of each spouse, the likely future financial circumstances of each, and any misconduct of either party in regard to their assets. Beyond the list of factors included in the law, the judge is entitled to take into account any other factor he/she deems to be a pertinent consideration. These decisions can become quite difficult and complex, especially when businesses or professional practices are involved.

All of these factors can combine to create a very challenging divorce proceeding and may result in one spouse receiving fewer assets than they anticipated. Experienced divorce attorneys like those at Witkon Law understand the peculiarities of equitable distribution and work to ensure that their clients are treated fairly. Contact us today for an appointment to discuss your situation.




Help When Facing Foreclosure

No one wants to consider the possibility of foreclosure, yet more and more Americans have faced this nightmare in recent years.

The Statistics

In the time since the beginning of the economic recession in 2008, more than 4 million homes have experienced foreclosure. CoreLogic, a data collection company, recently reported a national foreclosure inventory of more than 1 million homes — about 3 percent of all homes carrying a mortgage. Yet, many of these statistics have little correlation with personal fiscal responsibility. Rather, the high foreclosure rate is a result of a great number of unemployed or underemployed individuals, falling housing values, and a myriad of other factors resulting from a depressed economy. Even the current encouraging signs in the housing market do little for those struggling now to make overdue payments.

Effect of Hurricane Sandy

These statistics are certainly frightening to every homeowner struggling to make their next mortgage payment, but those with the added burden of recovery from Hurricane Sandy have additional worries. In the aftermath of the storm, many of these families faced not only severe property damage but also significant amounts of missed work. Together, these factors ate away at their already slim savings, making foreclosure a real possibility.

Announcement Brings Temporary Relief

However, the plight of these homeowners has not gone unrecognized by the federal government, and a new announcement may give at least temporary relief. Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, and Edward J. DeMarco, the Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director, recently announced a ninety-day halt on the initiation of new foreclosures and on the processing of current foreclosures. This moratorium applies to properties located in the regions declared to be federal disaster areas following Hurricane Sandy. Mortgages affected are those held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Authority. In addition, these homeowners may also be able to apply for forgiveness of late charges, modifications to their loans, and forbearance. This halt in foreclosures is in effect until April 30, 2013 and is intended to provide more time for recovery in these hard-hit areas.

Is your home threatened by foreclosure? Do you know what your rights are or if this new announcement even applies to you? Don’t try to struggle through the paperwork alone. The Law Offices of David Witkon are experienced in helping homeowners through the intimidating process of foreclosure appeal. Don’t become one of the statistics. Contact us today for an appointment.