City Codes, Zoning Issue, Due Process! - Posted by Bob

Posted by Frank Chin on July 28, 2007 at 05:04:20:


Bob will have to know the zoning issues in his town, and how seriously zoning is taken there. More and more, municipalities are tough on things they used to let slide.

Most of the suburbs in the NYC metro areas, NJ included, are zoned “one family”. Recently I asked about an older women who retired from my business, and bought into a home in south NJ wth here daughter a year ago, “how she’s doing”??

I was told they had to sell the place and move already. The reason was they thought it was a simple matter to get an added unit “approved” and built for mom, in other words, converting a SFH to a mother/daugher unit. Guess it wan’t so simple.

I was reading that it was a tectonic change in thinking in many neighboring area towns that even considered allowing “mother/daughter” units. The reason was many older retired folks:

  • Have homes too large that they cannot afford, yet cannot take on young single roomers.
  • Young single folks cannot afford to live in many of these towns because the only housing is large SFH on a large lot.
  • People cannot have aged parents moving in because they cannot built or convert to have an additional unit.

Even so, they are very still tough im the NYC metro area, particularly low density areas zoned for single family, and those for 2 families, where I live. The reason are not only infrastructure issues, but the fear of more traffic, congestion, and in the long run HIGHER TAXES.

As an example, a good friend of mine live in an area in NJ affected by the notorious “Mount Laurel” decision, allowing higher density housing. The effects were not felt till a few years ago, when in a period of less than 10 years, his annual taxes went from under $6,000/year, to over $12,000/year, and rising still. He had to move. The reason is the constant widening of roads, construction of schools, added water and sewer lines, all paid being paid for by the taxpayers.

After attending local community meetings, I well know that trying to legalize an “illegal unit” is a lost cause here. In NYC, the code enforecement officer is not the guy that could help me, but the folks on the community board, and “buildings dept” that has to approve the plans and variances.

Here, the law requires notification of neighbors in a certain radius on “variance” hearings, so it’s not a question of my schmoozing a “code enforecement” guy". I get letter for such hearings myself when nieghbors file for varainces.

Being selfish, I know I would oppose neighbors adding units to their properties, because of limited parking, plus tax issues. Conversely, I don’t expect my neighbors to embrace any variances for my having three rental units in an area zoned for two. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right??

And you might ask what I did on the citation for my “illegal” kitchen. Expeditors I sonsulted here said I have to file plans to remove it. So, I decided to be more creative.

OK, so I filed plans to have a “bar” in it’s place. Basically keeping the kitchen cabints where they are, and replacing the kitchen sink with a bar sink. And I’m supposed to reomve the gas connection coming out of the wall. The connection is still there, though the nice inspector certified it was removed.

They turned me down at first, but I argued that I have a “constitional right” to a have a “bar” in my house, and I’m even nice enough to file plans for a bar. And I can’t have a bar because it’s not a million dollar mansion???

Well, there’s nothing in the code that says I can’t ahve a bar, or even what a bar looks like. OK, so mine’s look like a kitchen!! So they approved it.

Basically, all someone who wants the kitchen is to put in a larger sink, and run to the local “PC Richards” here and buy a stove.

So, if you want to know how I get around zoning, I replace a kitchen sink with a bar sink, and I had to go through the BS of hiring a licensed architect to file plans, some thousands dollars more to have the plans filed, and approved, with permits and so forth. Still, less trouble, and cheaper than messing around with community variance hearings.

And for my troubles, I got a legalize BAR, with plans on file.

So, Let’s drink to that.

Frank Chin

City Codes, Zoning Issue, Due Process! - Posted by Bob

Posted by Bob on July 25, 2007 at 20:32:41:

Dealing with a small city codes dept. have a building bought as a 4 unit, on record as a three. Building is rehabbed, codes for the city does a county inspection for county assistance applied for by a tennant. They get into all apts except 1 unit. Argue by phone that there are four kichens making this is a four unit and they are shutting it down deeming it uninhabitable tennants to vacate in 24hr. They want to hold a meeting on the 16th of aug. to decide course of action.

Now the true question is if I tell the tenants to stay anyway. What course of action does the codes dept. have to enforce their decision, don’t we have to go to court before anyone can be set out?

Please not looking to be criticized, just what the due process a city codes dept. must take to enforce their opinions of a property.

Thank You.

Re: City Codes, Zoning Issue, Due Process! - Posted by James

Posted by James on July 27, 2007 at 06:50:53:

Frank Chin is probablly right. Ok, he’s right.

I’ve dealt with my city on many issues in the same realm of things.
It’s hard to be nice when the city trys to find ANYTHING to creat more income…especially city rentals (and fees).
I’ve had my tenants threatened with a 24 hour notice to vacate when their water was shutoff - 80k gallon bill that I didn’t recieve made the water department turn off the water - normally they just call to see what’s up.). Long story short, the city never evicted - they have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Why? Because they TRIED to evict a tenant once (not mine) and got sued the crap out of by the tenant.

Now they just make(try to have) the landlord evict and still condem the house anyway. (Nice bright red sign on the door/windows/etc)

Anyhoo, to answer your questions, get that 4th apartment up to standards and make sure you are completly able to have 4 apartments on that property. Have your hearing and BEFORE the hearing, have the housing inspector head-guy (general) come through with you and buddy-buddy with him (bring along whoever cited you too). Explain the situation to him and be as nice as possible and see what the hearing brings.

When that fails…, ‘sell’ the house to a friend and quit claim your interest over to them to manage the property as their own house. Turn that 4th unit into a ‘managers office’ where the new buyer lives.
I doubt there’s a way for them to enforce it as a rental/4 unit when it will now be a SFH w/ rented apartments individually.


Ok, THAT’S what I would do…but that’s only because I am on GREAT terms with the city inspectors right now…

Always do the right thing first and try to be civil. You’re dealing with ‘police-type’ individuals who abuse their power moreso.*

Keep us informed,

  • The above statement is purely opinion and is not intended to flame or offend anyone, especially police officers who take their control issues too far.

Re: City Codes, Zoning Issue, Due Process! - Posted by Frank Chin

Posted by Frank Chin on July 26, 2007 at 04:15:36:


Hard to answer what the rules and politics are in YOUR community. Your best bet is to hire an attorney in YOUR town.

Where I am, in NYC, they’re cracking down on rehabs where 2 families are turned into 3, and 3 families into 4. Where a tenant is found to live in an illegal unit, then there’s a procedure call “emergency dispossess”, where the tenant is actually locked out immediately.

NOTE. No hearings or due process!!!

Because it is known that landlords, and tenants often use “the rules” to gain indefinite hearing postponements, in certain situations, they use “emergency dispossess”, because they can’t wait for due process and have people live in dangerous situations while hearing are continuously postponed.

Also, here in NYC, what governs is the “certiicate of occupany”. If the C/O says it’s a 2 family and I yell like you that there are 3 kitchens, then they’ll yell back that there is an illegal kitchen that has to be removed.

In other words, they don’t care how many kitchens I have.

In fact, I got a citation myself to have an extra kitchen, and bath removed. I know better than to yell that I got three kitchens. I got no tenant living in the one in question at the time, but a tenant down the street got hit with an “emergency dispossess”.

The only way around this is a zoning hearing and a variance granted. Because of the politics here, it would be difficult for me to get a variance for 3 units in an area zoned for two, not to mention the building has to be upgraded to include fire escapes among other things if it was a “three”. Neighborhood groups would object on grounds of traffic and parking, and so would the city. If every 2 family in the area is rehabbed into 3, they’ll have to build another school to alleviate the already crowded school, not to mention the need to upgrade water, sewer, and power lines.

Talking about “county assistance”, I got this idiot friend of mine who worked an “off the books” job, living in a cheap but “illegal” basement unit. He wanted his employer to give him a 1099 for the last two years on income that no one reported, so he can apply for the subsidy.

I told him for a few miserable stupid dollars in assistance, he’s going to get into big trouble with the IRS, not to mention that he can get locked out of his apartment if the city checks on where he’s living.

And his landlord will be in trouble with the city, and probably cost him big bucks.

Frank Chin