There might be several reasons why your building is illegal. You may have added a floor without a permit, you may have added a parking lot without a permit, you may have converted to another use without a permit or you may be operating your store in a new building without a Certificate of Occupancy.
I have dealt with all the issues I have named above. They are difficult to handle and take time/expertise to resolve.
You may or may not have received a violation. In order to sell the property with a clear Certificate of Occupancy or in order to obtain insurance, you will need to 'legalize' it.
The process is broken down into simple steps below:
1. You will need to hire an architect or a professional engineer.
2. If you received a violation, you will need to pay a fine and file an affidavit that you are in the process of legalizing the use/construction.
3. The architect/engineer will need to conduct a zoning review to ensure that the use is permitted, and/or the built-up building 'envelope' is allowed.
4. She/he will have to file an Alt-1 application with the building department.
5. Your contractor will have to pull a permit and do the required retrofit work. He will need to pull a permit even if no work is required.
6. Your architect/engineer will have to conduct sign-off inspections, to ensure that the work has been done as per NYC Construction Code.
7. The city officials will need to conduct various inspections as well.
8. You can now obtain a new Certificate of Occupancy.
Congratulations- your building is now legal!