NYC Loft Laws

Manhattan Couple Has Refused To Pay Their $4,754 Per Month Rent For Seven Years Citing ‘Loft Law’

A Manhattan couple has lived in an expensive apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood for seven years without paying rent. The couple has been taken to court by the building owner citing their lack of payment as reasons for eviction. However, the couple says they owe the landlord nothing citing the little-known “Loft Law”.

The Daily Mail reports Zachary Bennett and Karen Nourse have lived in a Manhattan apartment rent-free for seven years. The couple and their two children still reside in the building despite having never paid rent on the property. Now, the landlord is telling the pair to pay the $410,000 they owe or to get out of his unit. Though the couple admits they haven’t paid for the property, they claim they “have a right” to live there due to New York’s “Loft Law”.

The New York Loft Law is a piece of legislation that protects tenants who are illegally living in commercial or factory spaces. As NYC Loft Tenants reveals, the laws allows illegal occupiers of commercial property to avoid eviction if certain circumstances are met. Bennet and Nourse claim that since the building is now occupied by commercial business and no other residential tenants, they should be protected.

The NY Post reveals that the couple quit paying their $4,754.02 per month rent back in 2010 when they were out of contract and renting month-to-month. The couple’s lawyer says the pair are not required to pay rent because of Loft Law protections. The pair are now the only residential unit in the building which is filled with commercial businesses such as art galleries. The pair says they are covered, however, as there were multiple residential units left when they stopped paying and the landlord quit maintaining a proper “residential certificate of occupancy” meaning he was in violation of Loft Laws.

“This building does not comply with the Loft Law. The owner is not entitled to collect rent and my clients are not required to pay rent.”

Meanwhile, the landlord’s lawyer says that for Loft Laws to be in effect the property must have at least three residential units and the current property only has one, the one that the pair is living in. He also notes the family is running up an electric bill that they refuse to pay.

Despite the bills and lack of payment, the landlord says he doesn’t want to evict them, he simply wants compensation for the use of his space and utilities.

“They can stay if they pay. The unit is legal. . . We really don’t want to evict them. We just want them to pay the rent. They’re getting all the services but the landlord got zippo.”

Though the couple seems to think the supposed violation of the Loft Law would make it legal for them to remain rent-free in the unit, Brick Underground notes the law is not intended for people to live in non-residential buildings for free. Rather, it is intended to encourage landlords to make the property residential-ready and makes it illegal for the landlord to increase rent during that time.

“During this process, your rent should initially be frozen with only three permissible increases allowed before the legalization process is complete. Those increases are often known as the “6/8/6 Rule” because it lays out increases in the amount of six percent, then eight percent, then six percent again when your landlord accomplishes certain tasks along the road to legalization. “

The official Loft Law legislation can be read here.

What do you think? Is the Manhattan couple “entitled” to live in the apartment rent-free due to Loft Law coverage? Or should the couple be forced to pay back all of their unpaid rental fees?

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