Living in NYC is expensive. Rent prices keep going up and it’s become nearly impossible for the everyday citizen to find affordable housing. If you are lucky enough to have a family member living in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartment you may be able to claim succession rights upon their death or if they vacate the apartment permanently.
What are the succession rights?
Under New York State law, family members of rental tenants have “succession rights”. This provides family members with the right to take over and/or renew the lease of a rent-stabilized unit or protection from eviction in an apartment under rent control when the tenant dies or permanently leaves the apartment.
However, certain conditions must be met in order to claim succession rights:
1. The family member has succession rights if he/she resided with the tenant as a primary residence for the two years immediately prior to the death of, or permanent departure from the rental unit by the tenant. This residency requirement is reduced to 1 year if the family member is a senior citizen (62 years of age or older) or disabled person.
There are several instances in which the residency requirements may be waived such as if the family member was:
– on active military duty;
– enrolled as a full-time student;
– not in residence in accordance with a court order;
– engaged in employment requiring temporary relocation from the unit, or
Additional protections under succession rights
One of the biggest advantages of succession rights is the right to rent-controlled or rent-stabilized units. Under the law, the first family member to establish succession rights is not required to pay the owner a vacancy increase, but the second successor does not have these same protections. He or she may be subject to a rental price increase, even with the right to a renewal lease. This rental increase is possible even for rent-controlled units. Once the vacancy price has been applied, a new succession situation is created.
Of course, succession rights hinge on the definition of “family”. According to the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, a family is defined as:
“…either a spouse, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the tenant or permanent tenant.”
However, the definition can also include “any other person(s) residing with the tenant or permanent tenant in the housing accommodation as a primary residence, who can prove emotional and financial commitment and interdependence between such person(s) and the tenant.”
This opens up a lot of possible avenues for an argument that a person has a right to the unit. As such, several factors are considered when determining whether a person is protected by succession rights. An emotional and financial commitment and interdependence between the tenant and the other occupant must exist. This may be proven by:
– the length and longevity of the relationship;
– sharing of or relying upon each other for payment of household or family expenses, and/or other necessities;
– the intermingling of finances;
– engaging in family-type activities jointly;
– formalizing of legal obligations, intentions, and responsibilities to each other by various legal means;
– presenting themselves as family members to others through their words and/or actions;
– regularly performing family functions and caring for one another;
– any other pattern of behavior or other actions that provide evidence of a long-term, emotionally committed relationship.
– Under these criteria, it is possible for a non-traditional family member to be granted succession rights. Many gay and lesbian couples have successfully claimed succession rights in this manner.
Claiming succession rights
Succession rights cannot be claimed until the primary tenant dies or vacates the apartment. Once that happens, the family member should send a letter by certified mail to the landlord explaining the situation and that he/she would like to sign the renewal lease.
The landlord may, and probably will ask for documentation to prove your claims, such as a death certificate as well as proof of your family relationship and that you have been living in the unit for the past 2 years. If approved, you would sign the renewal lease when the current lease expires. At that time, one or more family members can sign the renewal lease without encountering a vacancy price increase.
Claim your succession rights with help from Brasch Legal
If you believe that you are entitled to succession rights, or are a family member of a tenant who has passed away or vacated your rental unit and wants to claim succession rights, contact Brasch Legal at 212-267-2500. We can help you gather evidence to make a case for succession rights, negotiate lease terms or help you get a buyout from your landlord.