Roommate Advice and HP Actions

1.  Introduction:  Many people living in New York City decide to have a roommate live in their apartment for a variety of reasons – most commonly financial ones.  Whether you currently have a roommate or are considering looking for one, there are a few things you should know:

2.  Every residential Tenant has the legal right to have at least one adult roommate.  The law requires the Tenant to notify the Landlord of the name of the roommate.

  • Generally, one roommate is allowed per each tenant on the lease. The landlord may not evict a tenant for having too many roommates, unless the lease specifically discusses this issue and sets limits.   Read your lease carefully, violating this provision of a lease gives landlord grounds for eviction. Watch out because landlords are getting more careful about including roommate limitation provisions in leases.
  • Rent Control Apartments:  The landlord has the right to add a 10% surcharge to your rent if you bring in a roommate (you can, of course, pass that cost on to your roommate). The tenant should NOT charge roommate an amount that exceeds the total rent for the apartment.  Overcharging is also a ground for an eviction as well as an overcharge claim from the roommate.
  • Rent Stabilized Apartments: You CANNOT charge your roommate more than a proportionate (equal) share of the rent. Charging a roommate more than a proportionate share of rent is a violation of the Rent Stabilization Code and can lead to eviction. If the overcharge is willful, the tenant could end up paying the roommate treble damages, or three times the amount of the overcharge.
  • Written Agreements w Roommates: It’s a great idea to have a written agreement in place to avoid future problems.  The essential terms of a rental agreement are:

(1) The amount of rent being charged and how it is to be paid,

(2) The term of the occupancy, and

(3) The space being occupied.

3.  Additional items to consider including in a roommate agreement:

  • What are the rights and penalties if there is a late payment;
  • Are there any restrictions on house guests;
  • Will there be any division as to household chores;
  • What is the amount of the security deposit and how will it be returned at the end of the roommate tenancy;
  • What happens when one roommate wants to terminate the roommate relationship early?

4.  Final Considerations:  If both roommates have signed the lease, then both roommates are responsible to the landlord for the rent, but the reality is that the remaining roommate gets stuck with the consequences of the debt, i.e. eviction. Even if only one tenant is named on the lease and other tenant leaves early, the remaining tenant on lease is out of luck. An equitable solution is to allow the departing roommate out of the lease, or the rental agreement, once the remaining tenant finds an acceptable roommate to take her/his place. If the remaining roommate rejects the proposed new roommate without good cause, then the departing roommate should be released of any further obligations.

If you are the tenant of record and your roommate is not and they’ve been in the apartment for more than 30 days, and you want them to leave but they refuse, then you have recourse — a formal eviction proceeding generally known as a licensee proceeding.

If you have any questions and you live in New York City please call us at 718.230.1379, Ext 150.

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