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What are the rights of co-tenants in New York City?

Due to expensive rent rates in New York City, many individuals opt to live with roommates. While living with a roommate or co-tenant offers numerous potential advantages, there is also the potential for conflict to arise between the parties, as well as between a landlord and tenants.

It is important to distinguish between roommates and co-tenants, as these parties have different legal rights. When roommates are both named on the lease of a rental property, they are co-tenants and have the same rights and obligations to the premises. In contrast, when an individual rents space to another individual as a roommate, that person is not a co-tenant and does not have the same legal rights.

If co-tenants are no longer on good terms, either co-tenant may try to negotiate with the landlord of a non-rent regulated building to acquire a lease as a sole tenant. For rent-stabilized premises, co-tenants each have a right of renewal and if either wants a new lease in his or her name only, he or she must acquire the written consent of the other co-tenant. A landlord cannot renew a rent-stabilized apartment to only one tenant without the other co-tenant's consent.

Additionally, neither a landlord nor a co-tenant can take a tenant's name off a lease that has not yet expired. To do so may constitute an illegal eviction. An individual's signed lease will establish that he or she still has the right to occupy the premises.

If you are facing a dispute with a co-tenant or a landlord regarding a co-tenant leasing issue, you may want to consult with an attorney. These can be complex, and often time-sensitive, issues and legal counsel may provide a tremendous advantage for a tenant.

Source: New York City Rent Guidelines Board, "Roommate Issues & Leases FAQ," accessed Aug. 19, 2016

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