REAL ESTATE LAW
Your real estate may be your biggest asset, and at times it can be your biggest liability. Whether you are in a dispute with a neighbor about where to place a fence, or a tree, defending your home against mortgage foreclosure, or need to foreclose on residential or commercial real property, it is imperative to have experienced counsel diligently protecting your interests.
The need to have an experienced real estate attorney on your side is perhaps never as important as in disputes involving real property, our most valued possession.
Sondak Law Group represents clients across the industry in all aspects of real estatelitigation.
Sondak Law Group partners with its clients to provide business-oriented, and practical solutions
to various litigation disputes
Breach of contract (failure to consummate the deal)
Fraud, misrepresentation or nondisclosure
Problems at closing (breach of contract, time is of the essence, title defects, misrepresentations, loan/financing issues, etc.)
Recovery of down payment or earnest money deposits
Partition and co-owner disputes
Quiet title actions
Declaratory judgment actions
License and access agreements or actions
Contractor and construction contracts (delays, change orders, defects)
Construction litigation (mechanic’s liens, defects, nonperformance)
Beneficial and other ownership interests
Commercial and residential lease disputes
Distressed real estate
Mechanic’s liens and contractor disputes
Co-owner disputes - We are here to assist in instances when parties who own property together have had a falling-out. Resolutions such as partition actions and related disputes between estranged couples, family members, disputes between a surviving partner and the estate of the deceased partner, and real estate investors.
License and access disputes — Under Section 881 of the New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law, property owners can request court permission to enter into the adjoining premises for the purposes of making repairs and or improvements. We represent both parties’ in such proceedings as a request for access, or negotiating the terms of an agreement, such as duration, terms, scope, and other considerations.
Nuisance claims, infringement, and property damage — We resolve disputes over easements, adverse possession, noise complaints, nuisance, property damage, and other issues which commonly arise between neighbors.
Article 7A Proceedings
Article 7A of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) allows at least 1/3 of the tenants in the building, or the New York State Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to ask the court to appoint an administrator to run the building in place of the owner, when there exists for at least 5 days any of the conditions listed in the RPAPL. For further information, you may refer to RPAPL sec. 770(1).
Partition actions are when one party to jointly owned property or a business wants to sell their ownership rights. Business litigation and partnership disputes happen all the time and the remedy is a partition action that occurs in a court of law.
Parties owning property usually sell the property. This process makes it easier for each party to get its equitable fractioned interest. Estates can also go through a partition action. Inherited assets are complex because they can have many individuals with all of them having an interest in the estate. Therefore a partition in New York is a request to a court to help determine the best manner of dividing jointly-owned property.
Many people wonder what they can do to protect their interests during or before a partition lawsuit occurs. Best practices are a key factor in a positive outcome and winning your partition Action in New York.
Fraudulent deed conveyances
Deed fraud happens when criminals record fraudulent deeds, mortgages or other liens against a property without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Anyone can be a victim of deed fraud, but seniors, immigrants, and people of color are most at risk.
Deed fraud is a serious crime. The City Register’s Office at the Department of Finance reviews documents submitted for recording and reports suspicious activity to the Sheriff’s Office for investigation, but you can take action to protect yourself from deed fraud.
What Is Home Title Theft
Home title theft is a type of real estate fraud where someone uses a homeowner’s personal information to forge a deed and steal their home. The thief may apply for a home equity loan or line of credit in the homeowner’s name and then fail to make payments—exposing the owner to foreclosure and credit damage.
In the case of unoccupied homes, like secondary residences, the fraudster might sell the house without the owner’s knowledge or rent out the property without permission.
How Does Home Title Theft Happen?
Criminals commit home title theft in a few different ways, but the most common avenues are phishing schemes, malware, data breaches, unsecured Wi-Fi networks and mail theft. Theft can also occur if a homeowner loses sensitive documents like their deed or a mortgage statement. Here’s how home title theft typically happens:
Phishing occurs when a criminal pretends to be a legitimate company or individual to get a homeowner’s personal information. They may do this by sending an email or letter that looks like it’s from a bank or government agency or by calling the homeowner and pretending to be someone they’re not.
Malware is a kind of software that criminals can use to access a homeowner’s personal information. They may install it on the homeowner’s computer without their knowledge or trick them into downloading it by posing as a legitimate website or program.
Data breaches occur when criminals access a company’s or organization’s personal information database. Once they have the information, they may sell it on the black market or use it themselves to commit home title fraud.
Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks
If a homeowner has an unsecured Wi-Fi network, criminals may be able to access their personal information if they’re close enough to the router. They can then use this information to commit fraud or steal the homeowner’s identity. Likewise, homeowners who access the Internet using unsecured public Wi-Fi are at higher risk for home title theft.
Home title theft can also occur through mail theft when thieves steal mail from a homeowner’s mailbox to obtain their personal information. Once they have personal information like birth dates and Social Security numbers, they can use it to commit fraud. Homeowners can combat this by regularly checking their mailboxes and shredding mail that includes sensitive information.
Losing important documents and allowing personal information to fall into the wrong hands can lead to home title theft. If a deed or mortgage statement falls into the wrong hands, criminals can use the information to perpetrate home title theft.
What Happens If a Property Title Is Stolen?
If a property title is stolen, it may result in the homeowner losing their home through unauthorized sale or foreclosure. There are still risks even if the homeowner discovers the theft before the house is sold or enters foreclosure. The theft can result in legal issues, damage the homeowner’s credit profile and damage to the property itself.
How to Prevent Deed Fraud?
There are two key steps every New Yorker should take to prevent deed fraud:
Check your property's deed: Check the City Register’s records at least once a year to make sure that no deeds or mortgages have been recorded on your property without your consent. Visit ACRIS to check your deed for properties located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan & Queens. Visit the Richmond County Clerk’s website to check your deed if your property is located in New York county. You will need to know your property’s borough, block, and lot number, which can be found at www.nyc.gov/bbl or on your most recent property tax bill.
Sign up for the Notice of Recorded Document Program: The City Register will automatically mail you a notification when a new document is recorded against your property.
Make sure that the Department of Finance has the correct mailing address for you or the person who should receive notices about your property.
Contact the Department of Finance if you stop receiving property tax bills and the Department of Environmental Protection if you stop receiving water bills.
If your property is vacant, check it often to make sure it is not occupied illegally.
Ask someone you trust to look after your house if you are going to be away for a long period of time.
Do not let mail pile up if you are going out of town.
Make sure your will clearly states who should inherit your property when you pass away.
When a family member passes away and someone else inherits the property, make sure you update the deed with the new owner’s name.
Buy title insurance. It's a one-time fee that varies depending on the purchase value of your home.
Discuss with your trusted family members or consult a lawyer before making any decisions that affect ownership of your property, such as adding or removing someone from a deed or taking out a new mortgage, reverse mortgage, or second mortgage.
Additional Steps You Can Take to Prevent Deed Fraud
What to Do If You Think You May Be a Victim of Deed Fraud:
Act quickly! Report fraud to the Sheriff's Office online or by calling (718)707-2100
Get a certified copy of the fraudulent document via ACRIS or by visiting the City Register, if your property is located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx.
If your property is located in New York county, contact the Richmond County Clerk.
Contact the district attorney’s office in the borough where the property is located and report the crime.
Sondak Law Group will confirm your ownership in the property, and if it turns out that the deed to your property was illegally conveyed without your consent or knowledge, Sondak Law Group will start a Quite Title Action to void the fraudulent deed conveyance as soon as possible, call Sondak Law Group at (212) 324-3070 for a free consultation.
Recent Changes to Fraudulent Conveyance Law
With little fanfare, New York has recently enacted a complete overhaul of its fraudulent conveyance law. On December 6, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law an Act that entirely repeals New York’s existing fraudulent conveyance law which has been in place since 1925 and replaces it with the Uniform Law Commission’s Uniform Voidable Transactions Act (UVTA). The UVTA was promulgated as the successor to the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act in place in most states (but not New York) and has so far been enacted in 20 other states.
The UVTA will become effective in New York on April 4, 2020, and includes a number of substantive changes of interest to creditors. Among other things:
Shorter statute of limitations. The UVTA eliminates New York’s uniquely long six-year statute of limitations for fraudulent conveyances and replaces it with a statute of repose expiring four years after the date of the challenged transaction or one year after the date of reasonable discovery, whichever is later. This change brings New York’s statute of limitations in line with most other states and eliminates what is sometimes an advantage for creditors.
Codified bright-line choice of law rule. Currently, New York employs a common-law, multi-factor choice of law analysis for fraudulent conveyance claims. To reduce forum shopping, the new Act codifies a uniform choice of law rule based on the debtor’s location at the time of the transfer, determined by reference to its chief executive office.
Burden of proof lowered. Currently, New York law requires “clear and convincing proof” of the transferor’s intent to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors in intentional fraudulent conveyance cases. The UVTA provides that the “preponderance of the evidence” standard will now apply to all claims under the Act, including intentional fraudulent conveyance claims.
The terms “fraudulent conveyance” and “fraudulent transfer” are no more. With an aim of making clear to courts that fraudulent conveyances should not be considered a species of fraud and subjected to heightened pleading requirements, the Commission struck the term “fraudulent” from the text. The new terminology is “voidable transaction.”
Definitions of “insolvency” and other key terms modernized. The UVTA replaces archaic and idiosyncratic definitions of “insolvency” and other key terms with new versions that are more consistent with those of related terms in the Bankruptcy Code.
The changes are not retroactive. If you have a pending claim under the old law or are contemplating bringing a claim under the old law based on a past conveyance, do not worry; the changes should not affect your claim. The Act expressly provides that it applies to transfers made or obligations incurred on or after its effective date (April 4, 2020), and that it does not apply to transfers made or obligations incurred, or claims that accrued, prior to its effective date. Thus, pre-April 4, 2020, claims should continue to be governed by the old law, including its six-year statute of limitations.
Call Us Today
If you need legal representation involving real estate, call Sondak Law Group at (212) 324-3070.