Monday, August 9, 2010

Temporary Walls

Temporary walls have been around for, well… as long as expensive Manhattan apartments have been. Naturally, people want to change the way their apartment looks and functions to fit their own needs. One can attain this by putting up temporary walls – of the pressurized or non-pressurized varieties. Nowhere is this practiced as much as it is in New York City. Countless tenants of rental buildings all across the city have put up walls, converting their 1 bedroom into 2 bedrooms or 2 into 3 and so on. In NYC, if it’s possible to divide a space and provide privacy and a separate bedroom then tenants or landlords alike have considered the alternatives.

Unfortunately, for those tenants who have opted for this solution, the days of the temporary wall are apparently coming to an end. More and more landlords are beginning to crack down on temporary walls, asking people to tear down the structures in the apartment. Some housing complexes are only asking tenants to take down temporary walls constructed without accordance to the New York City Building Code, while others are asking them to remove all temporary walls.
In fact, the term “temporary/pressurized wall” has become something of a misnomer. The walls constructed by tenants often become permanent fixtures of the apartment. Some Stuy Town apartments were even marketed in their altered states.

As we know the only thing in life that is common is change and now is the time for this change. In response to multiple lawsuits involving fires, landlords in every area of the city are making home inspections to determine if any temporary walls have been put up. This is causing a rather uncomfortable situation for some tenants. Imagine this: you moved into an apartment marketed as a 2bed/1bath. You live happily in your three room apartment, paying $3,450 a month. Two years later, some gruff men from the local construction company drop by with a legal-looking paper from your landlord. Before you have a change to open your mouth, your 2bed/1bath has become a 1bed/1bath with an L-shaped living room. Now, unless you really wanted that L-shaped living room, you aren’t going to be too happy.

Considering my automotive past, let’s use an auto analogy. Say you buy yourself a lightly used 335xi BMW. You drive around for years, happy with your 3.5 litre engine. Then, one day a guy from BMW comes by and informs you that the vehicle was branded as a 335xi but is actually a 323i. Yes, you have been driving a rear-wheel-drive 2.3 litre car. Not only that, but the man also says that he has to rebrand it immediately or he is going to get a fine from the New York State Building Agency.

Tenants who have moved into mis-marketed, already altered apartments aren’t the only ones at a loss.

Let’s return to our automotive analogy. You buy a 3-series BMW with a 2.3 litre engine. However, a few months after you buy it you get a really nice bonus. You decide to splurge on a new 3.5 litre engine and put it in the car. Before installing the engine you talk it over with the owner of the BMW dealership and everything gets approved. You pay for the engine and for installation and voila, you have a 335xi. Happily, you drive around in your souped-up car. Then the same guy that approved it all comes by and tells you that you must put the original engine in. Again, not too happy?

For decades, landlords have disregarded the regulations pertaining to temporary walls. Now, those landlords are beginning to feel the pressure from the city and are taking those walls down.

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