Become a landlord (in a small way)

BY MARTHA WILKIE | In Brownstone Brooklyn, it’s common for row house owners to have income-producing rental units. Resident Laura Hansen needed a renter to pay the mortgage, but ended up with much more.

“Our first tenant was an acquaintance who became a good friend, despite the fact that she introduced me to her friends as Mrs. Roper,” said Hansen. (No one under age 50 will get this “Three’s Company” reference.) “We hosted parties together and spent hours stoop-sitting with our dogs and kids. She wasn’t handy and called us often about landlord stuff, but the relationship enriched our lives and made our little commune work.”

In Manhattan? Agent Hanina Levin with Wohlfarth & Associates works with buyers seeking this setup.

“My townhouse buyers are looking mainly in Harlem,” she said.

Being a landlord is complex and you must do your homework.

“I had a deal fall apart,” Levin said, “because the seller had done major renovations and could not provide documentation from the Department of Buildings — and refused to get it retroactively.”

She has more horror stories, including one in which a family bought a house with a garden-level apartment, intending to rent it, but found that it apparently wasn’t up to code.

Designer Christoph Haerter of H2 Architects has added rental units.

“Each project poses its own set of demands and unique challenges,” he said. “However, they all share the quest for the right solution within a tight regulatory framework (always) and budgetary constraints (almost always): a space that serves people well and provides comfort and retreat.”


This Harlem Victorian townhouse is spacious with great restored historic details.

A stunning Victorian townhouse in Harlem has a garden and four units. Located in the Mt. Morris Park Historic District, it’s huge (five stories, 21-feet wide) with beautifully restored original detail and chic touches like pressed-tin wainscoting. $4.35 million.

The Mt. Morris Park townhouse features an airy feeling, with an exposed staircase .


Bay windows are among this Hamilton Heights townhouse’s attractive features.

A four-story brownstone in Hamilton Heights has three units (and two tenants in place). The owner’s duplex has a private entrance, garden, pretty bay windows, and a yoga studio. $2.75 million.


The clean, open kitchen is a selling point for this townhouse on W. 140th St.

A 1900 townhouse in Harlem was just renovated and features an owner’s triplex, with a drop-dead gorgeous kitchen and a one-bedroom garden-level rental. $3.195 million.


A townhouse on W. 136th St. needs some work but has beautiful original elements.

And if you’re up for the challenge, a three-story, 11-unit row house in Harlem has a charming facade. Needs full renovation, but original details like stained-glass windows, fireplaces and an ornately carved staircase remain. $1.8 million.

One Response to Become a landlord (in a small way)

  1. Clarification: in the quotes from agent Hanina Levin, the examples of potential problems with townhouses with rental units were mischaracterized, I regret the error. An experienced real estate agent like Ms. Levin will do due diligence in order to avoid situations such as these.

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