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Roommates: the real deal

Posted by Anna on September 22, 1999 at 09:42:12:

As I said last week: the Court of Appeals already decided that RPL 235-f does not give landlords a new legal basis to start eviction proceedings. What is does is outlaw oral and written lease clauses restricting roommates to only family members. Judge Billings, a Civil Court Judge taking her turn in Housing Part Y in Manhattan, did not re-invent the wheel: she applied the law as written in Stavrolakes to a post-1983 "standard lease clause", deciding that this particular clause also does not limit the number of roommates to one. NB: the info in the Attorney General's book is wrong: he's making the same mistake most of us did.

The bottom line: the Roommate Law, as written by the Legislature and interpreted by the highest court in NY State, is that when one tenant signs a lease, s/he can have as many roomates as s/he wants, unless there is a valid ocuupancy restriction clause in the lease, 'valid' being one that does not violate RPL 235-f. However, valid restrictions exist in Fed rules for subsidized housing.

The 'law' for roommates when two or more tenants sign the lease is still fuzzy: someone will have to lose a case and take appeals to clarify the language of RPL 235-f (which is what Stavrolakes did). Most people ignore the words "the NUMBER of tenants SPECIFIED in the lease" in 235-f(4), replacing them in their minds with "the number of tenants NAMED in the lease". This is an absurd interpretation: think about this: family with 2 kids moves into 'classic six' (2 beds, living, dining, kitchen, AND 'maid's room' with its own bath). If husband only signs lease: they can fill the maid's room with a maid or nanny/au pair or boarder, but if both husband and wife sign the lease, they can get evicted for having a nanny? Absurd.

TenantNet has RPL 235-f, which covers all tenants in all types of housing in all of NY state, on it's website 'Real Property Law'. Posted below is the rest of the law, the Appellate Division decision, which the Court of Appeals affirmed (agreed with) completely without further comment on the statute. (TN: please ad it to your website).

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