If you are thinking of selling your Harlem townhouse one of the first things you should verify is your certificate of occupancy. A certificate of occupancy tells a prospective buyer what the legal use is. The challenge is that the certificate of occupancy rules came about in 1938 and many homes were built before that. As a result, you may have a building without a certificate of occupancy. Department of Buildings site Go to the DOB site and enter the address of the property then click on certificate of occupancy link. Many properties will not have a certificate of occupancy on file. In some cases the CofO may contradict the actual use. Consult with your lawyer and architect and your real estate broker to see what would be required to modify the CofO and if it can be sold without bringing the C of O inline with the actual use.
If there isn’t a CofO on file then it may get even more complicated. Consult with your attorney/architect to see what the DOB records indicate. Sometimes, it can be confusing due to different NYC agencies classifying your Harlem townhouse as different usages. Recently, I met a homeowner who said his building was “registered” as a 4 family with the City. Upon initial research he was being taxed as a 4 family by the NYC Department of Finance but his CofO says 3 family home. If your CofO says 3 family, you have a 3 family.
As always, this blog is intended for informational purposes and not as a substitute for legal advice so please consult your attorney. Your real estate broker can normally recommend an attorney for you who specializes in real estate and hopefully can shed some light on any CofO issues that you might have. Additionally, an experienced, Harlem townhouse broker can advise you on what is customary as far as paper work and what would cost you money in terms of marketability.