Column: Ask Jamie

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Jamie Heiberger-Harrison is widely recognized as a leading female attorney in the New York real estate industry. Her firm, H&A PC, was founded in 1994 and has offices in New York City and Port Washington, where Jamie lives with her family. Submit your real estate questions to askjamie@hapclaw.com.

Dear Jamie,
How important is it to have a certificate of occupancy for a “minor” item such as an addition to an existing deck or an extension of the driveway?
Anytime you plan to change an existing structure, there are specific filing requirements with the Building Department for the Town of North Hempstead. Every town has its own regulations but working without permits is almost never allowed and if work is done illegally and someone gets hurt, the owner can be held fully liable.
In Port Washington, an amended certificate of occupancy or letter of completion maybe required, and the owner should hire a licensed contractor and/or a registered architect to ascertain what needs to be approved and what the code requirements are for the work.
With regards to the driveway, I would recommend getting a survey of the property as this will be required for an architect to determine where the driveway ends. You may find that no permission is needed if the driveway is already defined within the property lines.

Dear Jamie,
If I’ve made an offer on the house and the seller has accepted the offer, can they then accept a higher offer?
Unfortunately, yes an owner can accept multiple offers. In theory, a seller should give the buyer reasonable time to complete due diligence and if a higher offer comes in, the seller should give the buyer the opportunity to match it. Doesn’t always happen that way, but those are best practices.

Dear Jamie,
What is your opinion on signing a sales contract without a mortgage contingency?
I have never been a fan of mortgage contingencies. If a buyer isn’t certain that they will qualify, why should a seller hold the property off the market? With that said, some first-time buyers insist on mortgage contingency despite being highly qualified, so it’s contingent on the circumstances surrounding the deal.

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