Owner Fined $1200 for SRO Use

101-36 104th Street in Queens. Image Credit: GoogleMaps.

Owner leased space to non-profit providing services under contract with the State Department of Mental Health. The current certificate of occupancy for a three story building located at 101-36 104th St., Queens, provided for three residential units, one per floor. The owner of the building leased the third floor to Promoting Specialized Care and Health, a non-profit. The non-profit, under contract with the New York State Department of Mental Health, provides assistance to individuals with developmental and psychiatric problems to reenter society after being homeless or in prison. The owner converted the third floor to meet the non-profit’s needs, including individually numbered doors with individual locking devices. Each room contained personal effects, food items, and in one room, a microwave and three-piece bathroom. There was a common living space, kitchen, and bathroom.

On June 3, 2016, Buildings charged that the third floor had been illegally converted into three single-room-occupancies in violation of the certificate of occupancy. The building owner argued that the apartment did not function as a single-room-occupancy because the occupants viewed each other as roommates. The locks on the doors were necessary to prevent unauthorized entry to protect medications and property.

The hearing officer ruled against Buildings and held that the State Department of Mental Health’s use of the property, through its funding and licensing of the non-profit, superseded Buildings’ enforcement of the violation.

The appeals division of OATH reversed the hearing officer’s ruling and upheld the violation. Lack of access to all parts of the third-floor established that the third floor had been converted to single room occupancy. The Department of Mental Health’s contract did not trump the certificate of occupancy. The appeals division, based on the violation, imposed a $1,200 fine on the owner.

New York City v. Xiu Mei Zheng, OATH Appeal No. 1601202 (Jan. 5, 2017).

By: Shannon Lashlee (Shannon is a student at New York Law School, Class of 2017)

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