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Beware of Possible Succession of Rent-Regulated Apartments

Under the rules governing the vast number of Rent Stabilized and the much lesser number of Rent Control apartments, certain family members and others can try to take over and keep rent-regulated apartments at low rents for themselves and defeat a landlord’s right to regain possession, even when the named lessee permanently leaves the apartment or passes away. Therefore, it is important for these landlords to have some knowledge of the basic rules to make sure the persons claiming Succession Rights are actually entitled to such benefit.

The basic standard is that a "family member" has the right to request a renewal lease in their own name and avoid eviction if he can prove co-residency with the tenant of record for the preceding 2 years prior to the death or permanent departure by the lessee from the unit. If the family member claiming succession is either a senior citizen or disabled, then the standard of co-residency with the tenant of record is reduced to just 1 year.

The definition of "Family Member" includes the traditional lineal and lateral relationships like spouse, parents, parent-in-laws, stepparents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, children-in-laws, stepchildren and siblings. In addition, the scope of "family members" has been extended to also include "non-traditional" relationships if the person claiming succession has co-resided with the tenant for the requisite period of time and can prove an emotional and financial commitment and interdependence between him/her and the tenant of record.

While every case turns on its own individual facts, the courts have denominated several key factors to consider in determining the degree of emotional and financial commitment and interdependence between the proposed successor and the former tenant. These factors include but are not limited to: the longevity of the relationship; the sharing or dependence on one another for financial needs; the commingling of their financial assets and obligations; the customary attending of family functions and events together while holding themselves out as family members; the formalizing of their long-term and legal joint obligations together; engaging in traditional caretaking for each other and each other’s extended family members; as well as other evidences of a joint and mutual intention to create a long-term and emotionally-committed family relationship.

Since the financial stakes are high for landlords in limiting the succession of rent-regulated apartments to just those truly entitled to this benefit, we would encourage owners to be acutely aware of who is occupying the apartment and investigate the legitimacy of those making a claim of succession.

We have successfully litigated against a vast number of meritless claims for succession raised by those left behind after the departure or death of the tenant of record, and protected the landlord's right to control who occupies their apartment units.

Please call us if you have any questions, or to further discuss this topic or any other legal issue confronting you as a property owner or lessee in the rapidly-evolving field of landlord and tenant law.

Over the past four decades of representing property owners and renters, our office has constantly striven to offer personalized and friendly service to our clients and their acquaintances. We truly appreciate our clients' steadfast loyalty to our staff, our attorneys and ourselves and promise that we will always be just a phone call or email away to answer any of your legal questions.

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The lawyer stares icily at the devil for a full minute before demanding, “So what’s the catch?”

A defendant isn’t happy with  how things are going in court, so he gives the judge a hard time. Judge: “Where do you work?” Defendant: “Here and there.” Judge: “What do you do for  a living?” Defendant: “This and that.” Judge: “Take him away.” Defendant: “Wait; when will I get out?” Judge: “Sooner or later.”     

My niece was dragged into court by a neighbor who complained about her barking dogs. At one point, the judge asked the neighbor a question. The neighbor didn’t reply. “Sir, are you going to answer me?” The neighbor leaped to his feet. “Are you talking to me?” he asked. “Sorry; I can’t hear a darn thing.” The case was dismissed.

While serving jury duty,  I noticed that the defense attorney seemed a bit nervous. At one  point, he picked up a piece of  evidence and asked his client, who was on the witness stand, “I see  an acronym on this receipt. What  would CAR stand for?” The defendant replied, “Car.”

I was a brand-new attorney in practice alone, and I had a likewise inexperienced secretary fresh out of high school. The importance of proofreading the results of my dictation was highlighted one day when a reminder to a client's tenant to pay her rent or suffer eviction was transcribed as follows: "You are hereby notified that if payment is not received within five business days, I will have no choice but to commence execution proceedings."

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