Fire escapes, NY

A landlord in Elmhurst, Queens was bewildered to find that two of his tenants had turned a 3-bedroom unit into an overloaded 10-bedroom space without his consent. This extreme story is emblematic of a burgeoning problem that has afflicted New York City for the better part of the past decade: apartment overcrowding. According to many sources, the amount of units classified as “overcrowded,” as well as the total amount of residents affected by overcrowding, in general, have surged in recent years.

Eddie Shiew, the landlord involved in the mysterious case of the three rooms becoming ten, took immediate action when he found out what was going on. He ordered the prompt uninstallation of the sheet rock dividers which had parsed the three bedrooms into ten unimaginably small living quarters. Then, he changed the locks, and gave the two renters the boot. The two men responsible for the unauthorized renovations, Burak Firik and Dogan Kimilli, had agreed to rent the space from Shiew for $2,500 a month. Their plan? Not to live in the apartment themselves, on the long term, but to rent the subdivided spaces out to individuals: travelers and tourists looking for somewhere to stay for a short period of time. By enlisting the services of online booking website Airbnb.com, Firik and Kimilli hoped to find itinerants willing to shell out the thirty or so dollars per night- their per room asking price. In this way, they figured to turn a large profit. What they’d actually done, in the process, was manufacture an illegal hotel.

The two men disagreed on the legality of the enterprise, however. Both attested to their fluency in property law, and averred, in reaction to being locked out, that they would never be evicted.

“Ever,” they said.

They, cooperatively, got a court order against Mr. Shiew and intend to sue him for prematurely and unjustly locking them out of the apartment. However, wordage in the rental agreement may be of use to Mr. Shiew in a court of law. Their leasing agreement states that: “except as authorized by the consent of the Landlord, Tenants will not make any repairs or alterations to the premises.” Firik and Kimilli seem to be in direct violation of this plainly articulated rule.

As we mentioned earlier, this case-in-point is indicative of a larger, citywide dilemma. As of 2013, there were 272,000 overcrowded units in New York City. This figure represents a 20% jump from 2005’s figures. Over a million and a half residents are affected by this problem. Immigrant households are the most frequently affected- 70% of units categorized as overcrowded include a head of household who emigrated to this country. Units with more than one person per room are referred to as “crowded dwellings,” and units with more than 1.5 persons per room are referred to as “severely crowded dwellings.” Brooklyn has the dubious distinction of leading the vanguard of overcrowding statistical spikes. Since 2003, Brooklyn has witnessed a 35% jump in units deemed “overcrowded.” Now, a full 10% of Brooklyn apartments register above the overcrowded threshold.

And overcrowding is not simply a complication of comfort. Cramped quarters may more easily propagate airborne illness, worsen the symptoms of asthma, and cause desperate tenants fleeing towards homeless shelters. That’s to say nothing of more catastrophic possibilities: in 2013, the same block of student housing buildings in Boston was struck twice by fires, the result, authorities think, of the dangerous effects of unit overcrowding.

The problem does not have an immediate solution. Real estate in New York City is always sold at an ultra-premium, and so money hungry real estate moguls will likewise try to bleed every possible dollar from the residential stone. So long as there are tenants willing to pay, the impulse to pack more and more people into smaller and smaller spaces will live on. Oftentimes, these tenants are immigrants with little to no recourse when presented with suboptimal living conditions. Whereas the wealthy and well-established can afford to shop around, new arrivals to our city sometimes have no choice but to seek the cheapest option. Until more stringent legislation is put in place, this dangerous cycle will likely persist.

 

Kaplan Lawyers PC

Of course, overcrowding is only one particular act of landlord malfeasance that can afflict New York City residents. If you believe that you have been the victim of negligence or outright malice on the part of your landlord or superintendent, you may be entitled to compensation. If health code violations have directly led to injury or harm, the victims involved may be eligible for restitution. At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we will analyze your situation, build the foundation of your case, and fight doggedly to win you the compensation that you deserve. Our consultations are a free and easy way to get started, so contact us today.