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Bayside realtor wants city to fix property database

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Frank Schemitsch, a licensed real estate agent with RE/MAX Universal Real Estate, said he noticed the potential problems last December while renovating a property in Glendale that required a valid certificate of occupancy and permit for alteration. But, Schemitsch said, due to mismatched data he was unable to locate the right document and has not been able to finish renovating the house."The certificates of occupancy are not matched with the right addresses" in some of the city's records, Schemitsch said during a meeting with City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) last week.On the Department of Buildings Web site, browsers can click on a link of a building's record to look up the certificate of occupancy, which dictates the legal use of the building. Schemitsch said he discovered that many records have the wrong certificate of occupancy attached on the Web site.Avella pointed out that many of the city's older homes were built before the 1938 requirements that mandated each constructed building must have a certificate of occupancy. "They didn't pay attention in those days," Avella said. But he noted the borough's preponderance of older houses means many homeowners who do not have the proper certificates on file will have to contact the Department of Buildings to get new ones."A lot of people own homes that are 50, 60 years old, and it's very hard to find those documents so they have to recreate them," Avella said.A Department of Buildings representative acknowledged that with hundreds of thousands of property records on file, a "possibility of error" existed."We ask people to bring it to our attention when these errors are found" by calling the city's 311 hotline, said Ilyse Fink, spokeswoman for the Buildings Department. "It's not perfect, but it's there." She added that a certificate of occupancy was not required to buy a house.Avella said that despite the potential headaches, the city is aware of such issues and would try to work with homeowners."The city will recognize the fact that people lose documents over the decades and they recognize that there's a problem (with the older homes). It's just not a streamlined process," he said.For Schemitsch, though, just doing his job is more difficult and time-consuming without the ease of looking up certificates of occupancy online."I can't close," Schemitsch said. "They don't realize it's a problem."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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