Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Limits on the Roommate Law

Just about a week ago, I was co-instructing our Real Estate School’s course, the Long Island Landlord. We were presented with a thought provoking question about the ability of a landlord to limit the occupants in a rental premises. The buzz and chatter in the room that commenced when we mentioned the roommate law made it clear that this was a hot topic.


If you don’t know about the roommate law, you can read it by clicking here. This law has been around since 1983 for the protection of tenants and occupants, not landlords. So it's about time to know this law.


It is essential for a landlord to know and understand the roommate law because it enables a tenant to prevent an eviction regardless of the terms of the lease. Yet, it is further important for tenants to know and understand what their rights are with relation to occupancy so that they can exercise those rights in preventing such an eviction. This is true particularly with regard to family members who are afforded the greatest rights under the law.


While the rights of immediate family members of the leasing tenant, as defined in the Real Property Law, are great, other roommates are not afforded such broad protection. Nonetheless, and as a matter of illustration, Section 8 landlords can impose occupancy restrictions regardless of the roommate law. This is because the law states: “Nothing in this section shall be construed as invalidating or impairing the operation of, or the right of a landlord to restrict occupancy in order to comply with federal, state or local laws, regulations, ordinances or codes”.


Consequently, we always advise landlords to be familiar with all the laws applicable to their rentals as some lease provisions are void as a matter of public policy according to the tenant-friendly New York State laws.

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