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Agents in New York Held Liable For Building Code Violations

Published on Thursday - May 30, 2013

Heavy fines have been levied at those who continue to perpetuate negligent real estate practices. According to the Department of Buildings in New York, agents and brokers who advertise illegal apartments for rent can be held in contempt. Traditionally, only the owners were held accountable for building code violations. Agents and brokers caught showing illegal apartments may now be subjected to the same penalties.

The fines, which have already been issued to several real estate agents and their respective companies, can reach approximately $18,000.

“They are the people in the middle in many cases, the licensed salesperson and the broker,” said the buildings commissioner, Robert D. LiMandri. “They are the enabler. We have to hold them accountable, too.”

A crack-team of inspectors from the department was assembled to uncover homes on the market that are in violation of building codes. Attempting to sell a home with building code violations is not only dangerous, but against regulations set forth by the Department of Buildings.

Posing as prospective renters, investigators scoured the Internet for potential listings in violation of New York codes.

“Operation: Danger Included,” as it was so aptly named, found a total of 10 dwellings with building code violations. Many were in the basement or the cellar and most did not have the required two means of egress.

The department issued fines to each respective agent, including those at Douglas Elliman and Halstead Property, for listing apartments in the following neighborhoods and boroughs:

  • Park Slope
  • Brighton Beach in Brooklyn
  • Hamilton Heights in Upper Manhattan

Representatives from Douglas Elliman and Halstead Property declined to comment on the situation at hand.

The operation focused specifically on building code violations, many of which could pose as potential threats to their residents. “Frankly, illegal conversions can kill you,” Mr. LiMandri said. “It’s very simple to go on our Web site and figure out if it’s an illegal apartment or not.”

It is important for agents and brokers to familiarize themselves with specific codes. Doing so may prevent the facilitation of dangerous accommodations. Those, however, that neglect to divulge certain information pertaining to building code violations will now be held liable. “Brokers do have a responsibility, if they know about something and they fail to act appropriately, they are clearly in violation of their license,” said Steven Spinola, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

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