Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

Illegal Conversions

What is an illegal conversion?

An illegal conversion is an alteration or modification of an existing building to create an additional housing unit without first obtaining the approval of the NYC Department of Buildings.

Examples of illegal conversions include:
  • Using for residential occupancy a property zoned for manufacturing or industrial use.
  • Creating a housing unit in a building designated for manufacturing or industrial use.
  • Adding an apartment in the basement, attic, or garage without obtaining the approval or permits from the Department of Buildings.
  • Creating a rooming house (single-room occupancy) or dividing an apartment into single-room occupancies.
Why are illegal conversions harmful?

Illegal conversions reduce the quality of life by bringing more people to live in a neighborhood than it can support.  This unplanned growth can strain the capacity of the buses and subways, as well as the sanitation and sewer systems.  It can cause overcrowding in schools and create parking shortages.

Most important, if the construction does not meet the Building Code standards, the building may not be safe to occupy.  The lives of the occupants, as well as those of the City's emergency responders, could be at risk.

Building owners who receive violations for illegal conversions face court hearings, fines, and daily penalties for the use of each illegal unit.  These penalties can amount to thousands of dollars.

What to do if you suspect an illegal conversion?

If you suspect an illegal conversion, contact the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association.  We will anonymously log the complaint with the Buildings Department and request that a Buildings Inspector be routed to the site to inspect the property.  We will also check the legal use of a building.

In addition, we will monitor the Buildings Department website to see what actions have been taken and contact you to confirm these actions.

Source: New York City Department of Buildings.

To view a PDF of our original leaflet containing all the information above, click here.