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Landlord's Obligations When A Rent Stabilized Tenant Requests Spouse Be Added to Lease (& Michelle on Mann Report Cover!)

Michelle made it on to the cover of the Mann Report Nov./Dec. 2015 Residential Issue as part of the feature article on LandlordsNY, in which Michelle is quoted because she is LandlordsNY "Legal Expert".  


December 14, 2015:  This post originally appeared on the LandlordsNY blog, where Michelle Maratto Itkowitz is the "Legal Expert".


Question:  “One of our tenants (Rent Stab. one bedroom APT in Manhattan) asked, is we could add her husband to the lease when it is up for renewal. They just married, and as far as I know so far it is only her living in the apartment. We checked the lady before she moved in and I am wondering, whether we are allowed to also ask the husband to fill in a Rental Application, provide his Credit Score etc. or whether there is no risk for us anyway or we cannot decline her request to add him to the lease? Thank you for your support.”

Answer:  You have to allow the husband’s name on the lease if he resides in the apartment as his primary residence.

Rent Stabilization Code § 2522.5(g)(1) states:

“(g) Same terms and conditions. (1) The lease provided to the tenant by the owner pursuant to subdivision (b) of this section shall be on the same terms and conditions as the expired lease, except where the owner can demonstrate that the change is necessary in order to comply with a specific requirement of law or regulation applicable to the building or to leases for housing accommodations subject to the RSL, or with the approval of the DHCR. Nothing herein may limit the inclusion of authorized clauses otherwise permitted by this Code or by order of the DHCR not contained in the expiring lease. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the tenant shall have the right to have his or her spouse added to the lease or any renewal thereof as an additional tenant where said spouse resides in the housing accommodation as his or her primary residence.

[Emphasis supplied.]

This is from the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal (“DHCR”) Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”) page (http://www.nyshcr.org/rent/faqs.htm#ol21):

“Does a tenant in a Rent Stabilized apartment have the right to add their spouse's name to the lease?

Yes. The tenant has the right, upon request to the owner, to have the name of his or her spouse added to the lease as an additional tenant, if the spouse resides in the apartment as a primary residence. There is no rent increase associated with this change, other than the approved renewal lease increase rates in effect at the time of renewal.”

Thus, there are two pieces of information that you need from the tenant: (1) are they legally married; and (2) is the spouse living in the apartment as his primary residence. I do not see why it would be wrong for you to specifically ask both those questions, and to request proof for the marriage part. If people on this planet were more trustworthy, I would be out of a job. For argument’s sake, let us say this guy is not her husband and he doesn’t live there yet, but this is the tenant’s way of handing the apartment over to a friend. Then she would, in essence, be choosing your tenant for you and cheating you out of a twenty percent (20%) vacancy increase.

Therefore, I recommend that you send her an email or a letter that states:

“Pursuant to the Rent Stabilization Code, you are allowed to have your spouse added to the lease if your spouse resides in the apartment as his primary residence. Therefore, please send us a copy of proof of the marriage and a return email or letter whereby you state that the apartment is currently your spouse’s primary residence. Upon receipt of such, we will update the lease.”

Let me know if you need anything else.

Thanks,

Michelle Maratto Itkowitz

itkowitz.com

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