Owner converted two-family Queens home into a six-family residence. Jimming Zhao owns a residential building located at 143-10 Beech Avenue, Queens with a certificate of occupancy for a one or two-family dwelling. On October 17, 2016 an inspector from the Department of Buildings visited the premises and found the residence altered and occupied by six families. The second floor had four single room occupancies and the first floor had two single room occupancies.
Zhao, who spoke only Mandarin, testified through an interpreter. Zhao asserted that the property had not been changed since he bought the building in 2014. Zhao claimed that he resided on the first floor and his relatives resided on the second floor. Zhao submitted a copy of the deed, first-floor demolition plans, and photographs of the premises. Buildings submitted photographs taken by the inspecting officer and noted that the doorknobs in Zhao’s photographs were a different color from the photographs from the inspecting officer.
The hearing officer rejected Zhao’s defense and imposed the maximum penalty of $45,000.
On appeal, Zhao’s representatives argued that OATH had provided Zhao with insufficient language assistance services. Zhao’s attorney argued that the interpreter failed to communicate accurately Zhao’s assertions, which prevented the hearing officers from fairly assessing credibility. Zhao’s attorney pointed out that the interpreter confused the words “living room” and “hallway,” and failed to convey Zhao’s testimony about the layout of the house. The attorney also argued that Zhao had not been advised of his right to an attorney.
The OATH appeals Board rejected the appeal and found that the hearing officer’s decision was supported by the law and a preponderance of the evidence. The Board ruled that the inaccuracies did not constitute error or result in a substantial flaw in the hearing officer’s decision. The Board also ruled that Zhao was advised of his right to an attorney, and affirmed penalties totaling $47,400.
NYC v. Jimming Zhao, OATH Appeal No. 1700674 (Aug. 11, 2017). CityADMIN
By: David Mateen (David is a student at New York Law School, Class of 2019)