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The Law Offices of Frank J. Dito, Jr.

The House is Beautiful, But is it Legal? Part 1

Frank J. Dito, Jr.
Car accident, personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney serving Staten Island and Brooklyn New York.

Why is Staten Island Different Than Other Boroughs?

Buyers want to know if the deck is legal of not so when meeting with  clients one item on any checklist is about any additions made to the house.  In the other boroughs deck permits are uniformly filed by homeowners.  Unfortunately, in Staten Island, residential home owners more often than not neglect to file for a deck permit which can lead to problems when trying to purchase the home.  Many sellers think that putting up a deck without a permit is like speeding, so if you don’t get caught it is not a problem.  But while that may be true most times,  when it comes to selling the house this may not be the case as your buyer (and lender) must agree to accept the deck without the permit or they can ask the owner to get a permit or take the deck down.  Both options can kill the deal or will at least cost the owner money.  Protect yourself by getting a permit before you put up a deck.

Why Does Staten Island Have So Many Un-filed Decks?

Staten Island has the youngest housing market in NYC.  With the building boom of the last 40 years Staten Island’s housing marker population has increased tenfold.  With all these new houses we have seen an abundance of decks without permits.  The major reason for not having a permit is the time and expense in obtaining a permit.  An architect or engineer is needed to determine whether the size or location of the deck raise an issue before filing for the permit.  Usually a new survey is needed and the total cost of obtaining the permit can be $3,000 -$5000 above the cost of the construction,  so many homeowners decide to risk putting up the deck without the permit.  Since the normal fine for getting a violation for an illegal deck is $250 many people say they would rather save the architect’s fee and risk the small fine.  Since the DOB does not inspect decks unless an actual complaint is filed for the vast majority of homes it is a safe bet that no complaint will be made so the status of the deck does not become an issue until they seek to sell.

What Should A Homeowner Do Before Putting Up A Deck?

Before you put up a deck think about resale.  If the deck is going to cost more than a minimal sum or add value to your home make sure you get a permit.  If you don’t get the permit it will certainly add some drama to your sale of the house and may cause you to lose a buyer or have to pay for the architect at closing.

What Happens If I Buy A House With An Un-filed Deck?

Usually nothing but if you are the unlucky person whose deck gets a violation it can become an expensive problem.  When a client wants to buy a house with a deck, try and explain that if your lender does not raise it you can buy a house but buying it as is does not make the deck legal.  Closing merely shifts the burden of compliance to the new owner.  If a neighbor complains and the DOB issues a violation it is now your problem to remedy.

What If I Get A Deck Violation?

If you get a violation it will contain a fine and a 30 day notice to either get a permit or remove the deck and restore the house to its condition before the deck was built.  Leaving aside the issue of the fine, you will need to remove the deck or hire an architect.  If you remove the deck, file an affidavit of compliance with the DOB and pay the fine the violation will be removed.  If you want to keep the deck you will need to hire the architect and have him file the deck.  Remember not all decks are allowed sometimes to get the permit it will be necessary to change the deck to comply with property setback or fire code regulations.  So not only will there be a cost for the architect to file the deck but also additional construction costs may make the deck an expensive project.



Because many homeowners put up decks and fail to get permits many Staten Island real estate deals are made more complicated.  While the seller says they had the deck for years without a problem and he’s selling AS IS but as a buyer I want a deck to be legalized so I won’t have an issue in the future.  It becomes a matter of negotiation.  Remember you can buy a house with the deck but if you accept it you must be prepared to pay an architect to file for a permit of remove it.