What are my rights as an occupant of an apartment if my name is not on the lease?

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What are my rights as an occupant of an apartment if my name is not on the lease?

My boyfriend and I have found an apartment in NYC and are planning on having the lease signed tomorrow. We are both full-time students and dependents of our parents who are also residents of the city. My boyfriend’s father is listed as the tenant. My name and my boyfriend’s names are not on the lease. What would our rights be as occupants? This is a rent stabilized building. Are there ways we can strengthen our rights as future occupants? Could we consider subletting [as in his father will sublet to us] or if my boyfriend’s father claims that apartment as his primary residence?

Asked on July 7, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the father's name is on the lease, he is the tenant, not you. If you and your boyfriend pay him rent, then you'd be his subtenants; if you pay him rent without a written lease, you are month-to-month tenants. This means that your boyfriend's father could evict you if you violate the terms of the rental (including not payin his rent). If you don't pay him rent, you are simply guests of his, and he could ask you to leave any time. If he loses possession of the apartment--for example, he does not pay the landlord rent--then you will be evicted, too, since you can't stay there if he loses his rights to the premises.

So paying the father rent will put you in a strong position than just being guests; being subtenants with a written lease gives you more rights than having just an oral or verbal lease (since with the oral lease, it can be difficult to prove the terms and you can be asked to leave on a month's notice); and in any event, if you are not on the lease with the landlord, you are vulnerable to being evicted if the tenant, your boyfriend's father, fails in his own obligations.

If you are on the lease for the apartment (e.g. as cotenants), then you'd have enforceable rights to the apartment.


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