Upon the death or departure of a regulated tenant, the remaining occupants of the apartment are not necessarily subject to eviction. Delineated family members may be entitled to "succeed" to the unit--that is, remain in the apartment and receive a lease in their own names--provided they have contemporaneously resided in the premises with the tenant-of-record for at least two years immediately preceding the tenant's demise or relocation. (When the person claiming the succession right is a senior citizen--62 years of age or older--or a disabled individual, that occupancy timeframe is reduced to one year.)
The regulations authorize the following family members to stake a succession claim: the tenant's spouse, children, stepchildren, parents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law, sons-in-law or daughters-in-law. In addition, any person who shared an "emotional and financial commitment and interdependence" with the tenant may also qualify. However, in order to determine whether an unrelated claimant meets this latter standard, courts will examine a variety of factors, with no one element or group of elements being more persuasive than others.
Matsia Properties Corp. v Rodriguez, a recent case decided by the Appellate Term, First Department, demonstrates how the law is applied to unrelated persons. Although the remaining occupant testified to having had a romantic relationship with the deceased tenant, and established that the couple had exchanged greeting cards over the course of 14 years, the lack of proof of an "emotional and financial commitment and interdependence" for the requisite duration operated to the claimant's detriment. As the Court observed:
No documentary or other credible evidence was presented establishing that respondent and the deceased tenant held themselves out as a family unit, jointly celebrated holidays with other family members, intermingled finances and formalized legal obligations...While respondent and the deceased tenant may have been romantically involved at one time, there was no evidence that a relationship characterized by "emotional and financial commitment and interdependence" continued over the years....
Matsia Properties reinforces what many of us may have already known or suspected: Just giving your loved one a greeting card on those special occasions ain't gonna cut it.
For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision in the Matsia Properties case, please click on the following link:
For a copy of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal's "Fact Sheet #30" (which addresses the succession issue in greater detail), please click on the following link: