My partner and I have lived together in the Village for the past 10 years. The rent is very affordable and we are lucky to have the apartment. The problem is that my partner, Lisa, is not on the lease. I am older than her and I wanted to make sure she was protected in case anything happened to me. I asked someone if I could have the landlord put her on the lease, and they said that he didn’t have to. We are legally registered domestic partners, and one of the reasons we filed for domestic partnership was to handle problems like this. What do we do? Is it true the landlord doesn’t have to add us?
The unfortunate reality is that legally registered domestic partners in New York are not allowed the right to include their partner on their lease. Shame on this City for not passing legislation that would require this.
In fact it was not through legislation, but rather a landmark legal decision, Braschi, which allowed domestic partners to inherit the rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment of their deceased domestic partner. These rights, also known as succession rights, unfortunately did not create the right for one’s partner to be added to a lease when you are both tenants.
It seems especially unfair given the fact that same sex couples are not allowed to marry in New York, while heterosexual married couples have an automatic and absolute right to add their partner on their lease.
The other concern is that while Braschi has been codified to some degree, there is always the opportunity for the landlord to contest or put up obstacles to succession, not to mention the fact that the landlord has no duty to inform you of your rights in this situation, so unfortunately many surviving partners leave the home they have shared with their partner for years, not knowing they have a right to stay.
Now, what can you do? First, you could speak with your landlord and see if, despite the inequity in the law, he would be willing to put her on the lease. Make sure he doesn’t try to use a vacancy argument to increase your rent in the process. The other thing we need to do as a community is put pressure on our lawmakers to pass legislation that would require landlords to do this. No one wants to wait until something happens or not know that their partner will be cared for if something happens to them.
Finally, I would strongly suggest reiterating in your will that you are giving succession rights to your domestic partner and making a bequest of the rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment to her in the will.
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*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.