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Home Construction and Renovations

Posted on 3rd Sep 2016

Without question, it is exciting to undertake a home renovation project that promises to refresh a space or give new life to a house. But these projects can be a daunting trap for the unwary. The matter of financing is key, because the home owner must be able to afford the project(s) to be undertaken. If the home owner can't afford to pay out of pocket, a home equity loan might be needed. This might entail, however, additional debt on top of a mortgage. But if a newly purchased house was sold at a discount because it needed work, that might not prove problematic, if the cost of the upgrades were budgeted as part of the purchasing price. Additionally, there are certain real estate laws that impact home construction and renovations.

It is important to research well. Develop a realistic sense of what the renovation might cost.  Look into finding qualified professionals to do the work. All those hired to do the work should be licensed professionals in their trade. The basic personnel might include an architect who can make a realistic assessment of the property, the project, and the cost. In addition, a good architect might be able to recommend contractor(s) to do the work. 

The New York City Department of Buildings is an important resource, because home construction must be done according to the New York City Construction Codes. This matters since renovations have serious implications for permitting and safety. The department hosts weekly informational sessions in each borough for home owners seeking guidance. These sessions are referred to as Homeowners and Residents Night. In the world of New York real estate, it’s important to be wary of the rules and regulations that govern home renovations.

The owners of one to four family homes might be tempted to undertake a specific type of project which has implications for the certificate of occupancy. But it is important to be careful.  The certificate of occupancy must be current. If a project will change the type of occupancy, a new one must be filed. For example, an owner might want to convert a one or two family home into a property with more income-generating units. The New York City Department of Finance provides a shortcut means of finding current certificates, since properties are taxed based upon the type of occupancy.

Owners who don't pursue the proper channels run the risk of harboring an illegal home use:  altered buildings and apartments that violate the construction codes and which can pose serious risks to residents, especially if there is a fire. These include new living spaces built without prior approval, such as those in a cellar or single room occupancies where walls are put in to create unauthorized units in one to four family homes. Violators face heavy penalties.

If you need help understanding the real estate law that applies to home renovations, contact a real estate lawyer today.