If it’s the light and the views that grab you in an apartment, don’t ask only about the low buildings in the distance, cautions real estate lawyer Ron Gitter, who regularly contributes his advice to readers of this blog and writes one of his own that is well worth bookmarking: coopandcondo.com. There is, he says, one other very important issue to consider.
by Ron Gitter
With an almost unquenchable thirst for square footage, developers of late have been utilizing the entire footprint of building lots–sometime with consequences that the residents of the newly constructed building don’t anticipate.
You’ll find an increasing number of examples of this trend in “lot line windows,” which are features of many newly constructed condos.
Such windows exist on the wall of a building that is on or close to the interior property lines of a building. Because they are not counted for required light or ventilation in many cases, those windows will have to be closed up if an adjacent building is constructed within 30 feet of the wall with lot line windows. And that’s usually at the expense of the apartment owner.
Unless the developer has acquired the air rights over adjacent properties, views over low-rise buildings and vacant lots from new condos can suffer when construction takes place on adjoining lots.
That’s why prospective buyers should carefully review the “Special Risks” section of the offering plan (as well as the annexed floor plans) for the disclosures that developers must provide.
However, co-op and condo offering plans that are more than 20 years old often don’t clearly spell out the location of lot line windows. To make matters more complicated, managing agents often are unfamiliar with the location of these windows and sometimes don’t know whether a building has such windows in the first place.
So, you cannot count on managing agents for credible assurance.
When a windowed room is described as a “home office,” consider the designation to be a red flag that a lot line window is present. And pay attention to the window itself: Lot line windows will have wire mess imbedded in the glass so as to be fire rated or will have a sprinkler head directly above the window.
The Internet provides an abundance of resources to research development in the area around a newly constructed condominium.
Can you buy an apartment with a lot line window? Of course, you can.
Whether to buy an apartment with a lot line window is just one of many factors to consider. In some cases, the possibility of closing a lot line window will have minimal impact on the overall value or livability of the co-op or condo; in other cases, it could be devastating to value and to quality of life.
A buyer who does not research possible development of adjacent lots does so at his or her great misfortune if a window has to be closed up. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the prospective buyer of an apartment in an established co-op or condo to consider boundary line issues that might have an impact on the view and to do the required research.
As I like to say, finish your due diligence. It’s good for you.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022