Q&A: Ladies of the Night?

Ladies of the Night?

Q I am writing to find out information on how to deal with a current problem in our condo building in New York City. We have recently noticed a couple of apartments being used as brothels. We live in a new, beautiful, doorman building with many families. The unit owners of these brothels have been notified, but they don’t care what goes on, as long as they get their rent money. We have started asking the doormen to ask for driver’s license/identification for everyone coming into the building who is not a resident, but this has not deterred the customers. Also, there is an alternate entrance where the “ladies” can go and let their customers into the building, bypassing the doormen. Now there seems to be a certain gentleman hanging out at this entrance (indoors and outdoors) allowing for easier access by the customers. It is daily becoming more and more concerning. What can we do to get them out? I’m sure this has happened before in Manhattan buildings, do you have any advice?

—Alarmed in Manhattan

A “A common provision in condominium bylaws,” says New York attorney Pierre E. Debbas, “states that “no nuisance or immoral activity shall be committed or permitted to occur in or about any unit or any part of the common elements, nor shall any use or practice be allowed in the unit that is either a source of annoyance to its residents or interferes with the peaceful possession or proper use of the property by its residents or occupants. No unlawful use shall be made of the property or any portion thereof.”

“The use of a condominium unit as a brothel is a clear violation of the provision stated above being that it is an immoral and an unlawful activity, due to the fact that it is prohibited by the laws of the State of New York. Such actions result in an interference with the peaceful use of the building by the remaining unit owners.

“The condominium took the correct first step in putting the unit owners at question on notice of the violations. So long as the condominium gave this notice in writing and the time to cure the violation (as provided for in the bylaws) has expired, then the condominium should proceed with filing a lawsuit against the unit owners running the brothel. A court of law will more likely than not find these unit owners guilty of facilitating and promoting prostitution and these unit owners may face a jail sentence and be evicted from the building.

“Simultaneously with filing a lawsuit against these unit owners, the condominium should also notify the lending institutions (if any) which extended a mortgage on the units being used as brothels. The notice to the lending institutions should state that the unit owners/borrowers are in material default of a provision of the bylaws and are using the units in a matter prohibited by law and that a lawsuit has been filed against the unit owners. The lending institution may start a foreclosure proceeding against the unit owners in order to protect its collateral and pay off the outstanding loan prior to a court rendering a judgment of eviction.”

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