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Real Estate: New York/Illegally built detached dilapidated garage and unidentified parcel lines


We are trying to purchase a home that is in great condition but there is a dilapidated garage in the rear of the parcel. My research has turned up no evidence that this 600+ square foot garage was built with permits or to code (the home is being taxed on a basement garage that is no longer there, they also removed this without the city knowing). In addition, the garage in the back and is about 1 foot from an abandoned home, obviously encroachment that has never been addressed because the owners of the home we want to buy sold the abandoned home and its separate "parcel" to a company for back taxes. This 100 year old garage is not being taxed, nor has it ever been, on either parcel, so we can not link it to either property. In addition... the city and county have no records of survey for either parcel, or record of this giant structure, including only minimal information on the latest sale of this abandoned home (since both parcels are dated back to 1910 as being owned in the same family)... the only map that divides these parcels draws lines directly through our home and part of the garage in the back... It appears as though the garage is on our property but it is almost attached to this abandoned home... There is no mention of such garage in any of the deeds i could find either. The current owner inherited the home from her sister and is unfortunately of no help, she just want to get rid of the home. She did not have the key to the garage and told us to just bust the door down. She claimed there was a mechanic pit inside, this mechanic pit was the 600 sq ft wood floor caved in creating a giant sink hole, an obvious safety hazard. Do you think it would be possible to have the parcel lines re-drawn so that we would not inherent this garage when purchasing? Can we even obtain a mortgage with such a hazard and illegally built structure encroaching on another property on our property? Is this just legal nightmare?

Hi Katherine,

You have a few questions here, let me see if I can address them all.  Lets start with the location.  I'm not sure where the property is, which makes a difference because different counties have different means of assessing real estate tax.  If you are in New York County, in one of the five boroughs, they have been assessing the property every year.  If you want them to assess the property without the basement, you can submit a request.  

However, I believe that your property, based on the description, is outside the 5 boroughs.  In most cases, property taxes are assessed every time the the property is transferred.  So someone would come to the house and assess the property for any changes or additions since the last transfer, so the changing of the basement garage will be noted for the transfer.

Let's look practically at your other issues.  Redrawing the parcel lines are not easy if you don't own it and are not in agreement with owners of adjacent parcels.  If the garage house ever did become an issue from an encroachment perspective, it has been there so long that it would probably warrant an easement, allowing it to stay.  However, it appears that the house is not useful and is a hazard.  In that case, a bank may ask you to either insure against it, or take steps to remove the item from your property.  If anything they may make your mortgage subject to such changes within a specified period after closing.  But these are all maybes. The truth is that you should just bring it to the bank and ask.  There is a chance they will not question it as much as you are worried they will.  

Your best bet now is to talk to a bank, you have nothing to lose.  Also get a real estate lawyer ready, no reason to start paying them now.  If it is a problem, you will find out, and it is usually the bank that will mention it.  If the garage house does not present any encumbrance on clear title of the property, my guess is that it won't matter that much.   

Please let me know how it goes, I can give you more input as you move forward.  


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Mark Shemel


I believe I can answer questions in the following sub categories with respect to New York City: Residential Brokerage, Landlord Tenant disputes, Any type of lease questions, any definition pertaining to residential real estate, any questions about property management, most questions about development, construction codes, and housing laws, questions about Section 8, HPD and government sponsored housing. Also corporate and short term housing questions.


I am currently the President of Think Properties NYC, a residential brokerage firm in New York City. I am also President of National Property Management Group. We manage over 1000 Residential Units and 50 retail/commercial units, generally as tax payers or part of mixed use buildings. We handle project management, marketing, and rentals/sales of new construction properties as well.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Boutique Brokerage Firm Alliance (President)

New York Times, Real Estate Weekly, Wikipedia, Wiki-answers

Undergrad: Union College Degree: Bachelors Degree, Double Major Economics/French Graduate: New York University Degree: Masters of Science, Masters in Real Estate Development Licensed Real Estate Broker in State of New York

Awards and Honors
Undergrad: Phi Beta Kappa, National Honor Society, Magna Cum Laude

Past/Present Clients
Oakwood Worldwide, JP Morgan Chase (for Relocation), and several other firms.

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