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Do you know about 'succession rights' here in New York City?

Location, location, location. That's the Realtors' motto and people who rent in New York City understand this real estate concept better than most. Many of the city's apartments are rent-controlled or rent-stabilized. If you have a family member who lives in one of these apartments who dies, you may have "succession rights."

This means that you may be designated as the tenant of record if the apartment is rent-controlled, or if the apartment is rent-stabilized, as the leaseholder who can take advantage of renewal leases. Don't get too excited just yet, however. First, certain conditions must exist.

Where do you live?

You may have succession rights only if you lived with your loved one prior to his or her death for a specified amount of time. If you fall into one of the following categories of relatives, succession rights are automatic:

  • Parents
  • Spouse
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Children or stepchildren
  • Legally adopted individuals
  • In-laws

You may also qualify under the "non-traditional" family member rule, but it may not be enough to be a biological relative. You would need to meet other criteria in order to qualify.

Asserting your rights

You will need to notify your deceased family member's landlord that you claim the apartment under the right of succession. It's best to do so through a certified, return receipt requested letter. Pay the rent in your name and request a renewal lease for a rent-stabilized apartment when the time comes. The landlord may want you to provide more information to prove your succession rights. You don't have to provide sensitive information, such as financial information, social security numbers and the like in the documentation you provide.

You may need support

It often isn't as easy as informing the landlord. He or she may deny your claim as a matter of course. You may run into numerous roadblocks. If you are a non-traditional relative, you could have even more issues. The landlord may even attempt to evict you. It may be necessary to take your claim to court in order to enforce your rights.

It may be in your best interests to talk to an attorney who deals specifically in the area of landlord/tenant law here in New York City. Without a thorough understanding of your rights and knowing how the process works, your situation could become tenuous. Working with the right attorney could make all the difference.

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