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You Are a Tenant If You Paid the Rent in Your Own Name, Even If Only Your Ex-Boyfriend Is On the Lease

Nov 25, 2018

Tenant Question:

My ex-boyfriend moved into a Rent Stabilized apartment in 2005. I moved in with him 2010, and have lived in the apartment ever since. Only my ex-boyfriend’s name was never on the lease. My ex-boyfriend moved out in 2015. I started paying the rent in 2015 from a checking account in my name only. The landlord always accepted the rent from me, but never sent me a lease renewal.

Suddenly this month, the new property manager told me that the new owner of the building would not accept my check, since I was not the name on the last lease. I explained to him what I just explained to you. He said I have no right to succession of the apartment from my boyfriend because we were never married.

What are my rights?

Thank you,

Jessica

TLP Instructor Michelle’s Answer:

Jessica,

YOU are the Rent Stabilized tenant of that apartment.

You paid the rent in your own name for the apartment and the landlord accepted it for five years! That makes you the tenant of the apartment.

A contract creating the relation of landlord and tenant may be implied from the conduct of the parties. Hershkopf v. Engel, 142 N.Y.S. 344 (App. Term 1st 1913). No particular words are necessary to constitute a lease where it appears that it was the intention of one party to dispossess himself of the premises, and of the other to enter and occupy as the former himself had the right to do. Canton Steel Ceiling Co. v. Duffy Malt Whisky Co., 200 A.D. 306 (1st Dep’t 1922).

In New York City Hous. Auth. v Padmore, 140 Misc.2d 912 (NYC Civ. Ct. NY Cty. 1988) a landlord’s acceptance of rent payments from a deceased tenant’s employee created a direct landlord-tenant relationship between the employee and the landlord. In Rafolin Const. Co. v. Lippman, 116 Misc. 2d 926, 929 (NYC Civ. Ct. Qns. Co. 1982), a tenant’s boyfriend openly resided in the apartment for eleven years. Although some of the rent checks drawn on the boyfriend’s account may have been marked on behalf of his girlfriend, the tenant of record, other checks drawn on his account were simply marked “Rent Apt. 6V”. Landlord accepted those checks. The court found that this constituted a waiver on the part of an early owner of the building and that the waiver was binding upon the current owner of the building. The boyfriend was found to be a legal tenant in the apartment.

Thus, you are already the tenant because the landlord has been taking rent directly from you for five years! And a tenant in a Rent Stabilized apartment is…wait for it…a Rent Stabilized tenant. Gather all the cancelled checks cashed by the previous landlord, that will be your proof. You should file a claim with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal for failure of the landlord to issue you a Rent Stabilized lease. Thus, we don’t even really need to get to the succession as a “non-traditional family member” issue.

Thank you for this question. Finally, I am obligated to say that this answer is for general informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney and client relationship between you and me or between you and the Tenant Learning Platform.

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