In a real estate market where the need for affordable housing is great and rents continue to rise, rent-stabilized apartments provide relief to many New York tenants. These apartments cut down on yearly rent hikes and provide increased eviction protections. However, a rent-stabilized tenant’s protection from eviction is not absolute, especially if tenants are not using the apartment as their primary residence.
“You can be evicted, but the grounds for eviction are limited under rent-stabilization,” stated Sam Himmelstein, a tenants’ rights attorney with Himmelstein McConnell Gribben & Joseph LLP.
Code dictates you must live there more than six months
Renters are most often evicted from rent-stabilized apartments because they are using it as a non-primary residence. The rent stabilization code states that you must live in your rent-stabilized apartment for more than half of the year for it to count as your primary residence. Landlords can legally evict you if they find out you have lived there less than six months of the year. Factors considered by a court include where you are registered to vote and file your taxes. Subletting your apartment without permission could also be a factor.
Some circumstances prevent eviction
Certain exceptions protect you from eviction for non-primary residence. You may not be evicted if you are not staying at your rent-stabilized apartment because you are travelling for work, are away at school or in the military, caring for a sick member of your family or if you are suffering from illness requiring you to vacate temporarily.
Can you sublet a rent-stabilized apartment?
It is legal to sublet your rent-stabilized apartment for two out of four years. You just must follow the legal guidelines for doing so.
If you don’t meet the requirements for using your rent-stabilized apartment as your primary residence, you may face eviction. In order to evict you, the landlord must serve a notice of non-renewal of lease between 90-150 days prior to your lease ending and then take you to court, but if the court does not find in your favor, you may be unable to stop the eviction.
During that court proceeding the landlord will be granted pre-trial discovery, meaning that you will have to turn over hundreds of pages of documents (tax returns, credit card and bank statements, financial, employment and school records, gym and church records, flight and travel records) and have to submit to questioning under oath by the landlord’s lawyer at a pre-trial deposition. Many of the documents you produce will create an “electronic footprint” of your whereabouts, which will help in your defense of the case, or help the landlord prove their case, depending on where the activity takes place.