Landlords of a one or two family houses are now required to register the building with the Department of Housing Preservation Development (HPD) unless the owner or the owner’s family resides in one of the units. In the past, only landlords of buildings containing three or more dwelling units (multiple dwellings) were required to register, so many owners of smaller properties may not be complying because they are unaware of the regulation. There are penalties for failure to register including fines in the hundreds of dollars. There may be a bigger penalty, though, if you wind up in housing court.
If your property is required to be registered and is not, you will not be able to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or get a money judgment for back rent in a holdover proceeding. Many landlords are not concerned about collecting back rent in a holdover proceeding. The focus is on getting the apartment back as soon as possible. These cases are often settled as a result of the parties trading money for time. That is, the tenant will agree to move by a date certain without the need for trial or lengthy litigation if the landlord agrees to waive all or part of the rent. If your property is not registered and there is no chance of collecting back money in court, your negotiating power is greatly diminished. You can’t give up a right you don’t have to begin with.
Luckily, there is a simple solution; register the property.