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The Law Offices of Frank J. Dito, Jr.

The House is Beautiful, But is it Legal? Part 2

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

How Do I Know If The Deck Is Legal?

In New York City, when a house is completed by its builder it must pass several building deptartment inspections to be issued a Certificate of Occupancy.  You can see most house’s Certificate of Occupnacy by going on line to the Department of Buildings website www.nyc.gov/buildings .  The Certificate of Occupancy will show that the house was legal when it was built but what if a structure was added after the Certificate of Occupany is issued. The simple answer is that any structure which is attached to the house needs to be filed with the Department of Buidlings, including a deck.  To insure that the home you are selling or even buying is legal, any add-ons including decks, pools, sheds and porches must be filed with the Department of Buildings.  To legalize structures added after the Certificate of Occupancy a building permit must be obtained and signed off by an architect or the Department of Buildings.  So if the Certificate of Occupancy search does not show the deck it is not legal.

Will My Attorney Tell Me Not To Buy The House?

No, the lack of a deck permit probably won’t prevent you from buying a house but it can turn into an expensive item after the closing.  If a violation is issued the owner must have a permit filed or remove the deck.

What Does An Attorney Look For?

Attorney's look to see if there is a Certificate of Occupancy for the main structure but often cannot tell if any items have been added after the Certificate of Occupancy was issued.  Attorney's must look at the engineer’s inspection and survey to try to determine if any structures appear.  To insure that the home you are selling or buying is legal any add-ons including decks, pools, sheds and porches, attorney's want to see the Department of Buildings filing that was done to legalize any structures added after the Certificate of Occupancy.  The legalization process entails filing for a building permit and having it signed off by an architect or the Department of Buidings.  When a client is purchasing a house attorneys have the title company do a title search which includes searching for building department violations.  If there is a deck violation you cannot close unless the violation is dismissed.

Can I Buy Or Sell The House If The Deck Has Not Been File?

Yes, if no violation has been filed you can close but know the consequences.  One of the major issues that arise in buying or selling)houses is the legal status of the home.  Is the house in compliance with building code and regulations?  If it is not it becomes difficult to buy or sell as lenders require that the house have a Certificate of Occupancy.  Without a Certificate of Occupany it is almost impossible to get a mortgage but most times you can buy or sell a house that has a deck without a permit. This is because most bank appraisers give little value to a deck and if no violation is listed in the title search the lender will allow the buyer to accept responsibility for the deck.  As a buyer you need to know what getting a deck violation means and having its consequences.