New York State regulations now allow persons sharing apartments as members of non-traditional families to have the same rights as traditional family members to remain in rent controlled apartments and to obtain renewal leases for rent stabilized apartments after the tenant of record has died or permanently vacated.
These “succession rights” are afforded to any person who has been living with the tenant as a primary resident and who is able to show a relationship with the tenant involving emotional and financial commitment and interdependence. To protect privacy, evidence of a sexual relationship may not be considered.
Many factors may be considered, including: the length of the relationship; the sharing of household expenses; intermingling of finances; engaging in family-type activities; formalizing legal obligations, such as wills naming each other as executor and/or beneficiary or having mutual powers of attorney; acting publicly as family members; and performing family functions such as caring for each other or each other’s family members.
In addition, both traditional and non-traditional “family members” are required to have lived in the apartment with the tenant a minimum of two years (one year if the “family member” is disabled or sixty-two years old or older) or, if they have lived together a shorter time, from the beginning of the tenancy or of their relationship with the tenant.
Generally, a non-traditional family member will have the burden of proving that he or she had the required degree of commitment and interdependence with the tenant to qualify for succession rights. However, the burden can be shifted to the landlord to disprove such a relationship by taking a simple step. Obtain from The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), a form entitled “Notice To Owner Of Persons Other Than Tenant Residing In Apartment”, complete it and send it to the landlord.
Any New York tenant wanting to protect the succession rights of a traditional or non-traditional family member should be sure to notify the landlord on the DHCR form and be sure the family member retains proof of such notification. (If you have more than one roommate, be sure that you are not indicating a violation of the Apartment Sharing rules.) If possible, have the landlord acknowledge receipt of the form and the date of receipt on a copy, or send it by certified mail return receipt requested.
If the NY landlord refuses to recognize a succession right it may be time to get a tenant lawyer involved. Contact the Law Offices of Attorney Eric Feinberg for a free consultation.