What's a Lot Line Window?
A Law of Nature
Here’s one thing that we’ve learned from the condo explosion in Manhattan: developers abhor vacant lots. Look anywhere in the city, and you will see buildings constructed in the oddest places. With an almost unquenchable thirst for square footage, many new buildings utilize the entire footprint of the building lot, sometime resulting in unintended consequences. A prime example would be the increase in “lot line windows” in many newly constructed condos.
What Exactly is a Lot Line Window?
Any window existing on the wall of a building that is on or in close proximity to the interior or side property lines of a building, will be considered a lot line window. As lot line windows are not counted for required light or ventilation, when the adjacent property owner constructs a building that blocks the lot line window, that window will likely have to be closed up if it’s within 30 feet of the lot line window, usually at the expense of the condo owner. And it does happen.
Read the Offering Plan
Buyers should carefully review the “Special Risks” section of the Offering Plan (as well as the annexed floor plans) as developers are required to disclose the existence of lot line windows. When a windowed room is denominated a “home office,” that’s often a red flag that a lot line window is present, as the room does not have the required light and ventilation to be considered a bedroom. Lot line windows may have wire mess imbedded in the glass to be fired rated or will have a sprinkler head directly above the window.
If the View is Too Good to be True…
Buyers should beware of views that look out over low rise buildings, vacant lots or distressed properties. Unless the developer has acquired the “air rights” over adjacent properties, views can be impacted when construction takes place on the adjoining lot. The Internet provides an abundance of resources to research development in the area around a newly constructed condo. A buyer who does not research possible development of adjacent lots, does so at his or her great misfortune, if a window has to be closed up.
Beware the Older Offering Plan
Co-op and condo offering plans that are more than twenty years old often don’t clearly spell out the location of lot line windows. To make matters more complicated, managing agents often are unfamiliar with the location of these windows and sometimes don’t know whether a building has such windows in the first place. So it’s incumbent upon the buyer in an established co-op or condo, to consider boundary line issues that might impact the view and to do the required research.
Can You Buy an Apartment with a Lot Line Window?
The answer is “yes”. Whether to buy an apartment with a lot line window is just one of many factors to consider. In some cases, the possibility of closing a lot line window will have minimal impact on the overall value or livability of the co-op or condo, in other cases, it could be devastating to value and to quality of life. As I like to say, finish your due diligence, it’s good for you.
Note: A version of this post originally appeared in Malcolm Carter's serviceyoucantrust blog.