When a rent-stabilized tenant dies or moves out of their apartment, it does not automatically mean that the family members they leave behind must also leave. Under the Rent Stabilization Code and Mitchell Lama laws, qualifying family members have a right to remain in the apartment if they have resided with the tenant-of-record (leaseholder) for a period of at least two years before the tenant's permanent vacatur from the apartment. Qualifying family members that are over sixty-two years old or disabled only need to live with the tenant-of-record for one year.
Non-traditional family members (not blood related and not related by marriage) can also succeed to a rent-stabilized tenancy by showing financial and emotional interdependence with the tenant on the lease. Courts will consider whether the family member and leaseholder had joint bank accounts, listed each other in their wills, named each other as beneficiaries on insurance policies and jointly paid household expenses. Courts will also look at whether the tenant and non-traditional family member shared meals and attended family functions, holidays, celebrations and social events together and whether they held themselves out as family members to their community. The hallmark of a non-traditional family member and one of the most important elements to show is the reliance on each other for daily family activities and responsibilities.
Landlords often file eviction proceedings in Housing Court against remaining family members after the tenant of record has died, permanently vacated or if the landlord suspects that the tenant of record is not actually living in the apartment. It is important that a family member claiming succession rights consult with an attorney as early as possible to prepare their claim. Succession claims require the tenant of record and potential successor to submit documentation establishing that they lived together in the apartment before the tenant on the lease died or moved. This is a time-consuming process that requires parties to disclose sensitive financial and personal information to the landlord and/or their attorney, so having an attorney review and redact your documents and counsel you along the way is imperative.
Mitchell-Lama (“M-L”) apartments are affordable rental and cooperative apartments. Eligibility to rent or own the apartment is based on income and apartment size. There are three main conditions that an occupant of a M-L apartment must meet to succeed as the tenant/cooperator: 1) the potential successor must be an authorized family member; 2) they must be included on the income affidavits for the two years immediately prior to the date of the tenant/cooperator's vacatur; and 3) they must have lived with the tenant/cooperator for a period of not less than two years immediately before the tenant/cooperator's moved from the apartment. The co-residency requirement is reduced to one-year for potential successors who are over 62 years old or disabled.
A family member attempting to succeed to a Mitchell-Lama apartment will have to submit an Application for Succession to the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and follow the procedures set in place by the individual housing development. This can also be a daunting task, that can be made significantly easier and less stressful if you have a knowledgeable attorney assist in preparing your application and supporting documentation.