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Re: RPL 235-f Allows Multiple Roommates Under Standard Form Lease

Posted by Anna on September 15, 1999 at 14:38:21:

In Reply to: Court Allows Multiple Roommates Under Standard Form Lease posted by Mark Smith on September 14, 1999 at 22:51:29:

: The New York Law Journal's September 15th online edition reports the case of ROXBOROUGH APTS. CORP. v. BECKER, where a housing court judge allowed a single tenant to have three roommates. Although Real Property Law 235-f allows only one roommate (occupant), the lease quoted uses the word "occupants" -- in the plural.
:The New York Law Journal's September 15th online edition reports the case of
ROXBOROUGH APTS. CORP. v. BECKER, where a housing court judge allowed a
single tenant to have three roommates. Although Real Property Law 235-f allows
only one roommate (occupant), the lease quoted uses the word "occupants" -- in the
plural.

: The lease provision quoted in the decision is from the standard apartment leases of the Real Estate Board of New York. If this decision stands, tenants with this very common lease form may be able to have more than one roommate.

: http://www.nylj.com/decisions/99/09/091599b5.htm


You say: "Although Real Property Law 235-f allows only one roommate (occupant)..."

This is not true: RPL 235-f, enacted in 1983 as part of the Omnibus Housing Act, allows a MINIMUM of one occupant, not a maximum. From the TN Housing Court Summary you link in the other thread: "However, if there's no lease provision, or if the lease permits more than one roommate, the purpose of the roommate law would be "perverted" if landlords were permitted to use the law against tenants."

RPL 235-f renders null & void any lease clause that forbids non-family occupants. In Stavrolakes, the Court of Appeals confirmed: if there is no lease or no VALID lease clause restricting 'occupants', RPl 235-f does not restrict the number of occupants either.

It further confirmed: RPL 235-f does not create a new right for landlords to evict tenants. Landlords can, however, and Judge Billings suggests this possibility, sue for breach of lease IF there is a VALID occupant-restriction clause in it. She ruled that the one she was reading did NOT restrict the number to one and neither does RPL 235-f.

(ps: for reasons unknown to me, i.e., some earlier court decision ?, most people read RPL 235-f(4) as restricting the total number of tenants plus occupants as the total number of names listed in the lease... I read it as one occupant per tenant (it does say "occupants" plural). Eventually someone will take it through the appeals process.

excerpt: (nb: the Court of Appeals did uphold the AD decision)
New York Law Journal
November 16, 1998

BY GARY SPENCER

The Appellate Division unanimously dismissed the eviction proceeding, finding
that the Roommate Law was meant only to protect tenants and placed no limits on
occupancy. The law was enacted in 1983 in direct response to court decisions
upholding lease provisions that limited occupancy to a tenant's immediate family,
decisions that tenant advocates had warned could be used to bar unmarried couples
from living together in rented apartments.

Holding that the law gives landlords no right of action, the Appellate Division said
"the purposes of 235-f would be undermined, indeed perverted, were courts to permit
landlords to use the statute as a sword against the very group it was designed to
shield."

*******
Here are some examples of lease clauses that are null & void:

Blumberg #T327, 197x: "Only a party signing this lease and the spouse and children of that party may use the apartment."

Blumberg #A55, 197x: "nor by any one other than Tenant and Tenant's immediate family..."

Other court decisions have declared that the definition of family is the one in the RSL & RSC, even when the lease is not controlled by those laws, e.g. a coop lease.

Note: if a dwelling is subsidized by a federal gov agency, such as HUD, and that agency has occupancy restrictions, they do apply: RPL 235-f does not remove them. (fed law trumps state law).

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