Doug Wasser in the New York Times

Doug Wasser was quoted in Jay Romano’s  Q & A column of the Sunday New York Times Real Estate Section on April 1, 2012 (which first appeared on the NY Times website on March 29, 2012.)  The subject:   Legal occupancy of Brooklyn brownstones.   “A Two-Family with Three Units”

Here’s the link:;

And here is the actual Q & A:


A Two-Family With Three Units

Q I want to buy a town house in Carroll Gardens that has several apartments. I intend to live in one apartment and rent out the others. Many of these homes are old and have been altered. What are the consequences of buying a legally zoned two-family home that actually has three apartments? What if there is no certificate of occupancy for the building?

A “I would advise the writer to exercise extreme caution,” said Douglas Wasser, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. “A town house that is certified by the Department of Buildings for two apartments but contains three obviously fails to conform with applicable law.” And that could give rise to all types of difficulties, including financing, fire safety, insurance, even enforcement of lease terms against tenants residing in the “nonlegal” apartments. Mr. Wasser said that generally, the city’s Department of Buildings had been issuing “certificates of occupancy” for residential buildings since 1938. Buildings built before then, and in accordance with law at the time, may be legal if there has been no change of use or exits from the building. If the change was made after that time, and without Buildings Department approval, it is very likely illegal.

All Posts