Illegally converted buildings for sale and rent have been popping up all over Queens, and recently in Bayside.
Community members with a sharp eye for real estate have continued to call attention to online listings for illegally converted homes in Queens.
An illegal conversion is an alteration or modification of an existing building to create an additional housing unit without first obtaining approval from the New York City Department of Buildings, according to the agency’s website.
Community blog Queens Crap recently featured two homes less than half a mile apart openly advertising illegally converted homes either for sale or recently sold in Bayside.
One of the residences is a recently sold property located on 215th Street alongside Crocheron Park.
The home is described on real estate listing sites Zillow and others as a legal two-family setup with three residential units above ground and two more in the basement, for a total of five separate living spaces. It reportedly has seven bedrooms and five bathrooms.
According to the Department of Buildings website, residents have been calling in to report suspicions of construction on the site to create the extra units dating back from 1995. Since 1994, numerous building code violations have been recorded related to extra units built on the property.
A representative of the agency confirmed that there are currently four open violations on the property related to occupancy contrary to approved use and construction work performed without a permit. A stop work order has been active on the property since 2001 for alterations done on the property without a permit.
After the first post had been put up on the blog, Queens Crap was notified of a second home nearby which was also being marketed as an illegal conversion.
The other residence is on 35th Avenue just down the block from Crocheron Park and is listed at an asking price of $848,000. The home is described on two separate websites as a legal two-family setup with three residential units which collect a monthly rental income of $2,000, $2,300 and $1,500.
Despite the self-proclaimed illegal conversion mentioned in the online marketing, the property does not have any violations listed online with the Department of Buildings and had never received any citizen complaints of illegal conversion before being publicized online. A single complaint, which was called in after the blog posting, is still active after inspectors were not granted access to the home on their first visit on March 1.
Illegally converted homes left unchecked often continue to flout the law by subdividing rooms over and over again throughout the years to reach absurd levels of overcrowding in a single space.
QNS recently published a report on an illegally converted single-family home in Flushing, which was ordered vacant after an inspection uncovered 16 single rooms rented out to different tenants.
The Buildings Department has been dealing with illegal conversions in Queens, often to little impact. A 2013 audit found that the agency was slow in responding to complaints and still had outstanding problems not resolved from earlier audits. At the time the department had received 22,129 illegal conversion complaints annually, with most coming from Queens. The city launched a task force that year to inspect illegal dwellings and illegal apartments for rent.
Illegal conversions can be reported online or by calling 311.
According to a representative of the Department of Buildings, the total number of illegal conversion complaints has remained largely the same since 2013. The total number in 2015 was 22,012 after a slight jump in 2014 to 23,559 complaints and inspectors were granted access to 39.9 percent of homes reported in complaints, down from 43 percent in 2013.