Clock ticking down on loft law

New guidelines make it tougher for tenants seeking protection from eviction

From left: Lofts at 99 Gold Street, 55 Berry Street and 199 Lafayette Street
From left: Lofts at 99 Gold Street, 55 Berry Street and 199 Lafayette Street

Tenants residing in illegally converted commercial buildings have only a few weeks left before changes to the so-called loft law take effect.

The law, established in 1982 to safeguard a tenant’s immunity from eviction, will have stricter qualification guidelines post-March 11. Beyond that point, tenants must have lived in their unit on or before June 10, 2010 to be eligible. In addition, the unit must have been occupied by someone, but not necessarily the tenant in question, for at least 12 consecutive months from 2008 to 2009.

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There are also new specifications for the unit itself. To qualify for protection, the property cannot be located in a basement or cellar, must have at least one window facing onto a street, courtyard or yard, must be accessible without having to go through another tenant’s space and must be 400 square feet minimum.

The law benefits landlords as well, who avoid illegal building violation fees once the loft tenants’ holdings are legitimized. And, a building with a certificate of occupancy means the landlord can refinance or sell the building.

“Generally, people don’t want to get into flights with their landlord,” Heather Troy, a New York City Loft Tenants volunteer, told Bedford + Bowery. “I have to remind them that it’s hard but this is your home so you feel sentimental about it. For your landlord, it’s a business.” [Bedford + Bowery]Julie Strickland