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Can rent-regulated tenants travel or own a home?

Believe it or not, we get asked that question almost every day.

And many are surprised by the affirmative nature of the response. After all, regulated apartments were not intended to serve as prisons.

However, this apparent freedom is not without some restrictions or limitations.

The operative test to be applied is whether the protected occupant maintains an "ongoing, substantial, physical nexus with the (regulated) premises for actual living purposes as demonstrated by objective, empirical evidence."

The factors used to determine whether a tenant satisfies that standard include whether:

  • an address other than the regulated apartment is listed on tax returns, motor-vehicle registrations, drivers' licenses, voters' registration forms, and other documents filed with federal, state or local agencies;
  • an address other than the regulated apartment is listed on insurance forms, utility bills, banking, leasing and credit-card statements;
  • the tenant actually occupies the regulated unit for less than 183 days of the year (excluding temporary absences for military service, enrollment as a full-time student, employment requiring temporary relocation, or, hospitalization for medical treatment); and
  • the unit is subleased.

As you can imagine, when these kind of disputes are litigated they are intensely fact-specific and will rise or fall on the evidence presented by both the landlord and tenant.

In L.F. Gue Investments & Orsid Realty v. Ruskin , the owner commenced a summary holdover proceeding alleging that the tenant did not primarily reside in the Manhattan building.

Both the New York County Civil Court, and the Appellate Term, First Department, were of the opinion that the long-term, rent-stabilized tenant -- who had occupied the unit for some 30 years -- did not principally live elsewhere, despite his work-related travels and ownership of a Long Island vacation home. Here's how the AT1 put it:

The record shows that tenant's bank, credit card and utility accounts, as well as his driver's license and registration, designate the subject premises as his address. That tenant travels in connection with his employment and owns a Long Island summer house, which he visits on weekends during the spring and summer months, does not, on this record, compel a finding of nonprimary residence.

"See you in the Hamptons, dahling!"

For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision, please use this link: L.F. Gue Investments & Orsid Realty v. Ruskin


For our other blog posts on this topic, please use this link: Nonprimary Residence