New York Estates May Involve Succession Rights to an Apartment

It is very common that a decedent is a tenant in a New York City Rent Stabilized or Rent Controlled apartment. The rules regarding such rent regulated housing are very complex and concern matters such as the amount of rent that can be charged and other landlord-tenant issues.

One of the aspects of rent regulated housing is that certain family members and other persons who had been living together with the decedent in a family relationship, are entitled to succession rights to the apartment. In other words, these survivors have the right to take over and become the new tenant under the lease in the place and stead of the decedent.Since Rent Stabilized and Rent Controlled apartments are valuable commodities due to the limitation on rent increases allowed under law, there is typically controversy between landlords and the persons who desire to succeed to the deceased tenant’s rights. These disputes are typically played out in New York City Housing Court when the landlord attempts to evict the remaining family member after the decedent’s death.

I have represented many tenants in cases where the landlord has sought to evict them after the death of a close friend or relative. Essentially, there must be shown that the person claiming inheritance rights lived with the decedent in the apartment as a primary residence for the two years prior to the decedent’s death. The rules regarding succession rights are complex, but the Courts do recognize that surviving occupants can enforce their rights.

While these landlord-tenant cases are not held in the Surrogate’s Court, the Housing Court judges are faced with reviewing information regarding the primary residence and relationship between the decedent and the person claiming the succession rights.

Recently, there were two cases that concerned these rights. In Maimonides Medical Center v. Garcia, decided by Brooklyn Housing Court Judge Jeannine Baer Kuzniewski on August 17, 2015, the landlord commenced a proceeding for the non-payment of rent against a decedent and only named her granddaughter as a “Jane Doe”. The granddaughter alleged that the landlord knew that she was living in the apartment and should have included her real name in the Court papers. The granddaughter also claimed that she was entitled to succession rights.

The court dismissed the landlord’s case without prejudice since it found that the landlord knew the granddaughter’s name and should have named her in the court papers. The Court also found that the landlord could not bring the proceeding against the decedent. The landlord was required to bring the court case against someone who represented the decedent’s estate such as an Executor or Administrator or an heir at law.

In another case entitled 360-363 Assoc. v. Hyers decided by Manhattan Housing Judge Maria Milin on September 14, 2015, the Court granted succession rights to an individual who had lived in a family relationship with the original tenant for many years. Hyers did not involve the death of the primary tenant. Instead, the primary tenant had vacated the apartment. However, the principals relating to succession rights applied in the same manner and the Court recognized the rights to be afforded to the remaining occupant.

New York Estates involved many different issues regarding rights to real estate and leases. If you have any questions regarding Estate inheritance rights or landlord-tenant matters call me now for a free discussion.

New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate, estate settlement and landlord-tenant cases throughout New York City including Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.

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