Is the home you hope to buy against the law?

Don’t go there. (flickr photo by poweron)

You won’t go to jail if the home you covet violates local laws, restrictions, zoning codes or building standards.

But such a property could impede your acquisition of clear title, home insurance or a mortgage.  It also could cost the seller before the transaction closes (or you afterward) a bundle to rectify.  It could derail the sale altogether as well.

A column reminded me of the risks and of a co-op I sold that almost was blocked for lack of a required building permit and certificate of occupancy (CofO).

In the sale of two combined units on which my buyers had gone to contract, they didn’t learn until the last minute that the combination never was approved by the city.

Was the work up to code?  Even if so, there would be expenses just to have the place approved.  If not, there would be expenses — perhaps considerable ones — involved in having the construction conform to mandatory standards.  In the end, the seller absorbed the responsibility and extra cost.

Let’s say you are able to go ahead with the purchase without all the necessary approvals, hoping the lapses will go undiscovered.

First, the chances are not inconsequential that the omissions will be detected during your period of ownership.  Then, you’ll be faced with the possibility of burdensome remediation.

Have you checked lately what plumbers charge?  What demolition and re-renovation would run you?  How your co-op board might react to the situation?

In the worst of all worlds, for example, you could be in the position of re-relocating a kitchen or bath, tearing down a rooftop addition, adding steel beams or having the property rewired.  The process will not be fun, convenient or inexpensive.

Even if you get away with living in a home that lacks official approval, as Bankrate’s Steve McLinden points out, the onus of proving otherwise or evading the issue will rest on your shoulders when you decide to sell the property yourself.

While failure to comply with local requirements won’t land you behind bars, the last thing you want is a new home that is against the law.

Tomorrow: Sisyphus revisited

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, you have the option to search all available properties privately.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

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