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Ask an Expert: Payback for a blocked view

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Q. I rent in a great downtown building.  Construction recently started on something (not sure what it will be) a few floors below me, and now it has reached my window.  It will surely block my window, and even if I open it, I'll be about two feet away from the wall they are erecting.  As I live in a studio + home office, I will live in a dark room

Is there anything I can do?  Does my landlord or the other building have to compensate me?  I am starting to crave sunlight.

A. Unless your lease contains special language to the contrary, your landlord has no duty to compensate you for the loss of light or view, says real estate lawyer Jeffrey Reich.

"If there is still adequate light and air as defined by the building code, the fact that the apartment might be darker would not likely give rise to any claim," agrees real estate lawyer Eric Goidel.

However, because New York City requires that all apartments have at least one operable window, you would have the right to break your lease if the construction renders the apartment's only window inoperable (or requires it to be closed up), say Reich.  You may also be entitled to some additional compensation for 'constructive eviction.'

Whatever effect the construction has on your apartment, the neighboring building owes you nothing.

"In the absence of an agreement restricting how a property owner may develop a property, it may be devloped to the fullest that is legally permissible, even if that means the light and air of neighboring properties would be affected," says Goidel.


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