Q&A: Bi-Coastal Blues

Q&A: Bi-Coastal Blues

Q. I have a two-bedroom co-op in Manhattan. I also have a townhouse in Los Angeles because that is where I pursue acting for TV and film mostly. I have had roommates in my New York apartment as I come in 1-2 times a year. My current roommate is leaving at the end of June, and I have a new roommate who wants to move in the first week of August. The management company is trying to tell me that it constitutes a sublet. I told them no, he is a roommate. My bedroom is mine and my clothes and furniture are there. Plus I pay the utilities. They are saying that I should be there more than I am in Los Angeles. What are the legalities of this? 

             —I Only Play a Landlord on TV

A. Lucas A. Ferrara, a partner at Newman Ferrara LLP and an adjunct professor at New York Law School, says: “The distinction between a roommate and a subtenant is simply this: If you are residing in an apartment with another person, then that other individual can be characterized as a roommate. If you are allowing someone to live in your unit, in your place and stead, or in your absence, you probably have a sublet (or an assignment).

“According to New York State’s Unlawful Restrictions on Occupancy Law—popularly called the ‘Roommate Law’—you are usually permitted to take on a roommate without a landlord’s or co-op board’s approval. But, for that law to apply, there are a few restrictions, including a ‘simultaneous occupancy’ requirement. 

“In 2019, a New York City Civil Court judge defined a ‘roommate’ as ‘a long-term co-occupant of an apartment with the lease-holder, with whom the entire living area is shared,’ further noting, ‘[The Roommate Law] contemplates that the occupant reside in the apartment together with the tenant.’ (Emphasis added.)

“Thus, even if clothes, furniture, or other personal belongings remain, the arrangement the letter writer describes may be construed as a sublet (or assignment), which—depending on the co-op’s bylaws and other governing documents—may have required prior board approval. Any failure to abide by those strictures would arguably be violative of the governing proprietary lease and could potentially subject the letter writer to a termination, and possible eviction, if the unauthorized occupancy is not remedied.”

Related Articles

Young guitarist teasing woman in curlers at a 1970s Disco Music Party

Tenants, Subleasing, & Non-Resident Owners

Striking a Balance That Works for All

Flooded vintage interior. 3d concept

New Flood Provisions Must Be Incorporated into Proprietary Leases

Yes, the Law Applies to Co-ops

Q&A:  Tenant Obligations During Foreclosure

Q&A: Tenant Obligations During Foreclosure

Q&A: Tenant Obligations During Foreclosure

Businessman is holding legal documents. Eviction Notice Form. Human resource management concept. Vector on isolated background. EPS 10

Q&A: Subleasing a Co-op

Q&A: Subleasing a Co-op

Summer vacation journey flat vector illustration. Road trip adventure. Family travelling by car with active rest equipment. Extreme sports accessories on vehicle roof top isolated on beige background

When Residents Are Away

Managing the Challenges of Empty Units

New York US state law, code, legal system and justice concept with a 3d render of a gavel on the New Yorker flag on background.

The Continuing Effect of HSTPA on Co-op & Condo Owners

The Law of Unintended Consequences