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When a tenant dies or abandons a regulated apartment, certain family members and "significant others" are permitted to remain in the unit as tenants in their own right. 

According to existing regulations, in order to trigger this "succession entitlement," 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 must demonstrate that they contemporaneously resided in the premises with the tenant-of-record for a two-year period immediately preceding the latter'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.)

Any other individual 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 look at a number of factors, with no one element or series of elements being of greater weight than others. 

Simply being a "close friend" or "employee" will not suffice to support a claim, as was recently demonstrated in First Sutton Assoc. v. Hoffman.  In that particular case, Joyce Desormeaux, a home health aide who resided with an elderly stabilized tenant, asserted a succession right upon the tenant's death.  Both the New York County Civil Court and the Appellate Term, First Department, examined the underlying evidence and found against Desormeaux, with the AT noting the following irregularities with her position:

Conspicuously absent from Desormeaux's evidentiary submissions was any evidence tending to show that her relationship with the tenant contained the requisite "emotional and financial commitment and interdependence" required for succession ... "[T]here was no comingling of finances, no joint ownership of anything, not even an indication of sharing household or family expenses" ... The record shows that Desormeaux was paid a salary to live with and provide 24-hour care to the elderly infirm tenant, a position she previously held for a series of other individuals, and was compensated for any expense incurred on tenant's behalf. Gifts of personal property and cash made to Desormeaux after tenant's death by her executor son, allegedly at tenant's behest, are consistent with the recognition of a valued employee or close friend, not necessarily a family member.

While being a loyal friend or valued employee has its rewards, one of them ain't necessarily going to be a below-market, stabilized apartment.

For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision in First Sutton Assoc. v. Hoffman, please click on the following link: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2007/2007_27026.htm


For our other blog posts on succession, please click on the following link: http://www.nyrealestatelawblog.com/search/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=4&search=succession