Loft Law 101

What is the Loft Law?
The Loft Law is a NY State law designed to protect tenants in NYC who are illegally living in commercial or factory buildings. It has two goals: to bring those buildings up to residential safety and fire codes, and to give rights and rent protection to the tenants who live there.

who qualifies?
There are several parts to qualification. Your building and your unit must qualify, and you must qualify as the prime residence.

  • Does My Building Qualify?
    1. Do you live outside an IBZ (Industrial Business Zone), or in the Greenpoint or North Brooklyn IBZ? Parts of the Maspeth IBZ are also okay. Check our map or the NYCEDC website.
    2. Do you live in a building without a residential certificate of occupancy that was formerly used for manufacturing or commercial purposes? Check the DOB BIS website.
    3. Does your building have at least three units that were occupied residentially for 12 consecutive months during the window period of 2008 and 2009?
    4. Are the commercial uses in your building  “compatible with residential use”? If you are sure there are no commercial activities in your building (other than what residential tenants are doing in their own units), then this rule will not affect you. Learn more
  • Does My Unit Qualify?
    1. Can you can enter your unit without going through someone else’s space?
    2. Is your unit at least 400 square feet?
    3. Is it not in a basement or cellar?
    4. Does it have at least one window onto a street, legal court, or yard
  • Do I Qualify?
    1. Did you live in your space on June 21, 2010, or do you have a lease? (More difficult ways to prove eligibility include showing the landlord’s consent to your tenancy e.g. through rent checks and correspondence, or assignment by the previous tenant.)
    2. If you have an at-home business in your space, you’ll need to meet these conditions once you’re covered:
      • is your unit primarily residential?
      • is the commercial purpose clearly incidental to the residential use?
      • does the business take up no more than 49% of the space?
      • does it have 3 or fewer employees?
      • does it have to be carried on by a residential occupant of the unit?

what are the benefits?
The process can take a long time but some benefits are immediate.

  • you’ll no longer be at risk of being vacated for illegal residency by the DOB
  • you’ll live in a safe building
  • your unit will be rent stabilized
  • your unit will be a legal live/work loft
  • you can stay for life with all the protections of rent stabilization
  • one-time sucession right for family members
  • you’ll have guaranteed services (heat, hot water, electricity, habitability)
  • you’ll be able to go to Housing Court if there are any problems with the building
  • you’ll have the right to sell your Loft Law rights – your landlord has to buy you out if he wants to avoid rent stabilization for the unit, and both of you must agree to the dollar amount
  • if your landlord sells the building you keep all these benefits with the new landlord.

There is every reason to believe that city agencies (DOB and FD) are already aware of the illegal residential use of your building. They could vacate you for illegal occupancy now. The city has claimed that it will go after all illegal lofts after the Loft Law application deadline of March 11, 2014. The city could force your landlord to return the units to strictly commercial use which would mean removing your kitchen and bathroom.

how to apply…
Visit our how to apply page or a Housing Clinic for help with your application.

Update: window for new applications is June 26, 2015 – June 26, 2017.

Note: the deadline for new applications was March 11, 2014. Contact us for the latest information about post-deadline applicants.

what are the risks?
Depending on your landlord’s resistance, it can be an intense legal battle to win coverage. Many go along with the Loft Law immediately, but some do put up a bitter fight, which can mean legal bills and stress. In our experience, almost all buildings that apply do win coverage if they are willing to fight it through. It is also possible that the Loft Board or DOB will make sure that you leave if you lose your case or settle to stay for a limited time.