My domestic partner and I have been living together in a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan. The lease is in her name, but I have lived here with her for the past three years. My partner was recently diagnosed with a serious illness and we have started planning our future with the worst case scenario in mind. While it is very possible that my partner will be fine with proper treatment, we want to make smart choices now. She already has a will and healthcare proxy, but the apartment is an issue we have not yet dealt with. Can I stay here if something was to happen to my partner? What can we do to make sure this remains my home?
-Rent Controlled in Manhattan
I am sorry to hear about your partner’s recent diagnosis. There are so many things to worry about when dealing with the possible loss of a loved one. Hopefully, with some basic information, you can arm yourself to ensure protection from the loss of your home.
In New York City, rent controlled apartments will pass to a family member of the tenant upon their death, provided the family member lived in the apartment continuously for two years immediately preceding the death of the tenant. In 1989, the landmark Braschi decision gave this right of succession to same-sex couples, granting tenancy rights to a surviving partner. In this decision, the Court used indicia of the relationship to determine that the couple had a family. Such indicia include things like wills naming each partner as the beneficiary of the other, joint bank accounts, health insurance benefits to the other partner, drivers licenses and voting registrations that list the apartment as the principal residence of both individuals, and, of course, registration as domestic partners with the City. In 2007, the New York City Council created a bill which was signed into law amending the New York City Administrative Code to include registered Domestic Partners as eligible to qualify as a “family member” under the New York City Housing Authority and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. This hopefully codifies the Braschi
decision and makes it easier to establish your prima facie right to be recognized as a family unit, and thus enjoy succession rights by filing as Domestic Partners.
However, to ensure the maximum protection, your partner could also list you as an occupant of the apartment, and you may even want to reference this right of succession in her will. Hopefully, you and your partner will live long and happy lives in your home for many years to come.
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Special thanks to Gina M. Bonica, Esq. and Audrey A. Mars, paralegal, at Kurland & Associates who competently and compassionately help to handle our adoption proceedings.
*This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own attorney.