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Roommates: you can have more than one! maybe

Posted by Anna on September 14, 1999 at 22:46:16:

In 1998, the Court of Appeals, the highest court in NY state, agreed that RPL 235f, the Roommate Law, did not create a right for the landlord to evict a Rent Control tenant because she had more than one roommate (she had 3). The landlord could not produce her original lease so could not prove it allowed only one 'occupant'.

In a decision in tomorrow's NYLJ, Judge Billings (Manhattan) dismisses a holdover eviction petition for essentially the same reason. This tenant has 3 roommates AND a written lease. Judge Billings decided that the 'standard lease' roommate clause does not restrict him to one occupant and neither does RPL 235f. However, your lease might limit you to just one.

Tenants: before you add extra roommates, please consult a lawyer. Have her read YOUR lease clause. (Any tenant who is contemplating getting even one roommate should see a lawyer anyway! You become his/her landlord: a lawyer can help keep you out of trouble later..)


Holding Co. v. Stavrolakes, 242 A.D.2d 240 (1st Dep't 1997), aff'd, 92
N.Y.2d 1007 (1998), the court examined the extent to which N.Y. Real
Prop. Law (R.P.L.) §235-f limits roommates in residential tenancies.

While R.P.L. §235-f allows a lease to limit roommates to one, the
statute does not contain any prohibition or presumption against more
than one. Therefore the standard lease provision at issue, which limits
the number of roommates "in accordance with" R.P.L. §235-f, permits
more than one roommate.

the parties' lease, which states at ¶1:

You shall use the Apartment for living purposes only. The
Apartment may be occupied by the tenant or tenants named
above and by the immediate family of the tenant or tenants
and by occupants as defined in and only in accordance with
Real Property Law §235-f.

Section 235-f(3) provides:

Any lease or rental agreement for residential premises
entered into by one tenant shall be construed to permit
occupancy by the tenant, immediate family of the tenant,
one additional occupant, and dependent children of the
occupant provided that the tenant or the tenant's spouse
occupies the premises as his primary residence.

In light of the legislation's permissive language and remedial purpose "to
protect tenants and occupants, not landlords," the statute did not create
"an affirmative right of action for landlords to enforce occupancy

The provision concerning the number of occupants is not a prohibition
against a tenant having more than one unrelated roommate. R.P.L.
§235-f(3). Nor does the statute elsewhere contain any limit or
presumption as to the number of occupants.

Although R.P.L. §235-f did not create any statutory limitation on
occupancy, the statute did not render unenforceable lease provisions
establishing "reasonable occupancy limitations"

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