I'm sorry, I screwed up. Please let me live with my boyfriend?
August 2, 2010 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Landlord damage control: my boyfriend moved in with me temporarily two months ago, which gradually became permanent. My landlord found out through other people in the building, and she's furious. How do I repair this? Should I write her a letter or email of apology?

Necessary info: I live in New York City.

I live in a two bedroom apartment. I'm the only person on the lease, and have had a succession of roommates, all of which the landlord has known about. Right now, a roommate (who the landlord was aware of) lives in one bedroom, and my boyfriend and I are in the other. I hadn't yet told her about my boyfriend moving in, both because, at first, it was temporary, and then, because I didn't realize it would be a big deal (I was going to tell her this month, since he's started contributing to the rent).

Apparently, though, it is a big deal: I am one of a very few renters in a condo building (my landlord lived in the apartment for 20 years before moving out of the city; this is the only rental property she owns), and she is (I have found out) supposed to tell the board of the building everyone who is living in the apartment. One of the board members called her and told her that "a man" (my boyfriend) had been living in the apartment for six months.

While that isn't true (I have barely known my boyfriend for six months, and he didn't start coming over for part of the week until the end of May) it certainly doesn't make me look good. She called me this morning, very upset that I had violated her trust. She said she would think about it, but that from where she stood at this point, she thought he would have to move out.

Until now, I've had a very good relationship with my landlord; in fact, I just signed a two-year extension to my lease a month ago (before I realized that my boyfriend moving in would be permanent).

I feel sick about the whole thing, and can't figure out the best course of action. In my ideal world, my roommate, my boyfriend and I would all continue to live in the apartment. If she demands he leave, I'd like to move with him, but that leaves my roommate in the lurch, not to mention the fact that my lease runs through 2012.

Is there anything I can do to repair this situation other than writing her an email of apology? And if I do write that email, should I include a timeline of events, as best as I can determine them from things like emails? Oh, AskMe, what do I do?
posted by ocherdraco to Human Relations (70 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
what does your lease say? That's what matters. Subletters are different from someone who lives with you.

You don't have to be a jerk to her, but she's being a little nuts.
posted by JPD at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

I guess I must come from a world of much more laid back, non-NYC renting, but I am really not understanding this story. OK, so the board is supposed to know about who's living in the apartment. Now that they know, why does he have to move out? Are there rules against live-in boyfriends?

This is your landlord, not your mother! I understand that landlord frown upon things like a one bedroom apartment with 20 illegal immigrants sleeping on the floor, but this doesn't sound like a particularly unusual situation. Why does your landlord want your boyfriend to move out, if you're a good tenant who pays the rent, and haven't violated any other rules aside from telling her that he moved in what sounds like about 6 weeks ago? I'm baffled.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:44 AM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: I'm looking for my copy of the lease; I haven't been able to find it. The lease extension, which I do have on hand, is just an amendment.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:45 AM on August 2, 2010

Emailing leaves a paper trail; this can be used for you or against you, but right now it doesn't look like you'd be coming up on top. You violated the rules and have been found out. Talk to your landlord, preferably in person, and ask what the options are. If there's a board, there are hard rules (very likely written down,) and your landlord's hands may be tied.

More than likely, he'll have to move out, and all of your actions will be looked upon with scrutiny from hereon out. If your landlord calms down, she might be able to help you figure out a way to get him in there, but the board would probably have to approve and they're less likely to be sympathetic to your needs as they see this as someone trying to pull a fast one on them. Violating your lease would put everyone in a world of pain: your roommate, you, the landlord and the board. It'll mess up your credit, your recommendation for another apartment, etc. You don't want to violate a lease unless your health is at risk.

Best situation here: your boyfriend moves out, gets his own place, and you live there until your lease runs out or you're able to sub-lease with the board's/landlord's approval.
posted by griphus at 8:47 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Subletters are different from someone who lives with you.

This is your landlord, not your mother!

Apartments with a board, at least in NYC, are different than apartments simply let by landlords. There are usually books of rules that the renter is required to sign and stick to as, more-or-less, the law. The size of the infraction doesn't really matter; if a board member brings it up, it has to be addressed.
posted by griphus at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2010

Griphus is needlessly freaking you out. You can't know anything without the lease.

also dude email leaves a trace that can be used against you? WTF are you talking about - its a simple contract issue.

Especially if this is a condo and not a co-op there is no big deal at all. There is very very little the board can do to your landlord if it really is a condo. Really calm down, find the lease. It sounds like your landlord isn't very experienced and is needlessly freaking out about the situation and thus freaking you out.

Griphus' "best case" is actually "worst case" as a tenant in NYC you have lots of rights. Literally the most she can do to you is force him to move out and refuse to offer you a renewal in two years. She can't evict you unless you do something willfully obnoxious.
posted by JPD at 8:55 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think honesty is the best policy.

1. He stayed sometimes as one's boyfriend sometimes does.
2. Due to whatever circumstances he stayed on a temporary basis (you thought it would be x so long until he found another apartment, whatever the case was).
3. You all decided that he would live there, which was just this month, on a permanent basis, and you were planning on talking with her about it when you next saw her (paid rent, whatever the plan was).
4. Whether you should have or not, you didn't realize that the condo board had to know everyone living in the building. Apologize for the oversight if it was something you were supposed to know about.
5. Beg forgiveness and leniency. If you can get her on your side with the condo board, that is probably only going to help.

You didn't set out to do anything wrong but you did violate the rules. Own up, explain yourself, and hope for the best.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:55 AM on August 2, 2010 [15 favorites]

I understand where the landlord is coming from, the landlord could lose her right to rent her condo out if the board doesn't approve of the three people living in the apartment. This isn't someone acting like the poster's mother; this is condo/co-op rules that they all have to abide by.

Yes, give a timeline of events in an email, apologise for not contacting her sooner about this, state that you would appreciate all three people living in the place, and ask what needs to happen to allow that, if there is a review or some other board process.
posted by kellyblah at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2010

Apartments with a board, at least in NYC, are different than apartments simply let by landlords.

If it is a condo then this simply isn't the case. If it is a coop they have the ability to make things much more difficult - but as long as you correct the issues then its cool. (BTW if she's already been able to sublet the place for multiple years you are not talking about some hoity-toity co-op building - most will only allow 2 years of subletting)
posted by JPD at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2010

For some landlords having an extra person living in the house is a big deal because it's that much more wear and tear on their property. If you offered to pay more rent that might offset some of her dismay. She may not be thrilled with the idea of a three-roommates-for-the-price-of-two situation.
posted by corey flood at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2010

I've seen leases here in NC that specifically limit people not on the lease to two or three days and after that they have to leave. Depending on the lease, HER continued residency could be in jeopardy.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

An apology with a timeline explaining the situation is at least a start. You can say that this has just been a brief trial period (which is basically true) and that you didn't want to inform her about his moving in until you were certain that it was, in fact, a long-term arrangement. You can say that you can understand how someone may have gotten the impression that he'd been there longer, because naturally he'd have been seen coming and going. Maybe if there's any documentation of rent he'd been paying to someone else for some of those months, that would convince her that you're telling the truth.

If she is at all mollified, great. I'd wait and see before deciding whether to ask her to release you from the extension so that you can move out together.
posted by hermitosis at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2010

If it is a coop they have the ability to make things much more difficult...

Okay, yeah, I only know how this goes with co-ops, not condos. Considering the landlord's response, I've been assuming this is a coop. And I'm not sure why I wrote "best case" when I meant "most likely." Obviously having your boyfriend leave isn't the best case. Although as far as I am aware, if it is a co-op board and she refuses to have her boyfriend leave, they can put eviction motions into actions for violating the co-op rules. It would be an arduous process thanks to NYC's fantastic tenant laws, however.
posted by griphus at 9:00 AM on August 2, 2010

Best answer: I am a landlady. I am not your landlady. I am also, currently, renting an apartment in a condo building, directly from the owner.

Here is what I would suggest, with no knowledge whatsoever of landlord/tenant laws in your jurisdiction and no knowledge of your building's specific rules, nor of your lease in particular:

Call your landlord directly and speak to her about this, either on the phone or in a personal meeting if that is practical. Explain the situation, and apologize. Then ask her how you can make this right with her, and how you can help her make it right with the condo board. Then, work together to put in writing whatever needs to be in writing going forward. A direct call shows that you take the matter seriously enough to contact her in a more immediate way than email.

Many leases included clauses that indicate a tenant must notify the landlord if there will be guests present in the property for more than a certain amount of time. If yours does, then you have technically violated that lease. However my guess is that the landlord is less concerned about the relatively minor lease violation and more concerned about saving face with the condo board.
posted by padraigin at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I think I'm going to write her an email using Medieval Maven's comment as an outline. I'm not sure whether it's a co-op or not. The building's name includes the word "condominium," but I suppose it could be a co-op in any case.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2010

Well, wait. Is your boyfriend living there, or is he staying over at your place a lot? In my opinion, those are two really different things. Unless your lease forbids overnight guests or specifically spells out how long/often a guest can stay before they are considered a resident, your boyfriend can stay over as often as he wants. If he hasn't officially moved in, everything is still in your name, etc. then he's not living there and while a heads up to your landlord would be polite, it's not really a matter for the condo board. It's just a simple misunderstanding - a neighbor saw someone and assumed they lived there, when they do not.
posted by Sara C. at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

What padraigin said.
posted by hermitosis at 9:06 AM on August 2, 2010

Is it a condo or a co-op? Her concern for the board approval almost makes it sound like a co-op. I can see her being upset if it's a co-op because for those there are rules and regulations with a board of directors that needs to be followed. Which means if someone new is moving into the building, it's not just a matter of she has to let the board know, but said person will have to go through an approval process with the board. I don't know much about renting from condo renting/subletting, though I think they're supposed to be more lenient about what the board can say or not say I think. Nonetheless I wouldn't be surprised that that differs with each condo situation. There might be bylaws and such with the building itself that requires some method of notification of who is living in the building even if it isn't a full-on approval process. So it's not the landlord playing mom with you as stated above in one of the answer, but more that as the condo owner, she probably has rules and regulations that she needs to follow in regards to subletters or may face a hefty fine or something from the board.

Since she's notified you that your bf being kicked out is a possibility anyway, I agree that apology and an honest explanation is really all you can do at this point, especially since you say you've had a good relationship with her. I'd let her know that you weren't familiar with the condo rules and while, yes, your boyfriend *HAS* been visiting, he didn't really live there for the past six months since you guys have only been seeing each other for X months or whatever and that you were going to inform her about him moving in.

Apologize for any inconvenience and ask her then what she needs to allow your boyfriend to stay in the apartment and you definitely want to work with her and the board to make it OK for him to live there. Does the condo have regular board meetings? How well do you know the neighbors? Is there a way for you to personally address the board?

I mean it sounds like you're not really the one in danger of being kicked out so that's some kind of silver-lining, it just sucks for your bf. Unfortunately, stuff doesn't always work out optimally when renting in New York.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:06 AM on August 2, 2010

If it has condo in the name it is a condo.
posted by JPD at 9:07 AM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: Ooh, I didn't see padraigin's comment.

Padraigin, I don't deal with stressful phone calls well (I sort of shut down), which is part of why I want to do this in writing. Given that, do you think a phone call would still be a better course of action?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:07 AM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: Which means if someone new is moving into the building, it's not just a matter of she has to let the board know, but said person will have to go through an approval process with the board. (kkokkodalk)

The thing that confuses me is that with roommates, previously all I have had to do is tell her the name of the person who's moving in. I just wish I had told her sooner. Gah.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:09 AM on August 2, 2010

This all sounds ridiculous. I would just apologize and ask if you can get out of your lease early and then move somewhere else. I've never lived in an apartment/condo/house where something like this would happen.

It sounds like you live with a bunch of stuck-up board members who hate renters and watch their every move.
I wouldn't even want to live in that situation.

If you want to stay there, I would just call the landlord up and say something like, "due to unforseen circumstances, my boyfriend was staying with me for a a couple of weeks and it turned out that this may be permanent. What are my options about this?"
posted by KogeLiz at 9:10 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've seen leases here in NC that specifically limit people not on the lease to two or three days and after that they have to leave. Depending on the lease, HER continued residency could be in jeopardy.

nyc city law is a) very friendly to tenants and b) different from new york state, let alone north carolina. so: wtf?

ocherdraco, this is the relevant part from the nyc rent guidelines board roommates faq:
Apartment SharingLandlords may limit the total number of people living in an apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards. (Real Property Law ยงยง 235-f) However, it is unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and immediate family. When the lease names only one tenant, that tenant may share the apartment with immediate family, one additional occupant and the occupant's dependent children, provided that the tenant or the tenant's spouse occupies the premises as his primary residence. When the lease names more than one tenant, these tenants may share their apartment with immediate family, and if one of the tenants named in the lease moves out, that tenant may be replaced with another occupant and the dependent children of the occupant. At least one of the tenants named in the lease or that tenant's spouse must occupy the shared apartment as his or her primary residence.Tenants must inform their landlords of the name of any occupant within 30 days after the occupant has moved into the apartment or within 30 days of landlord's request for this information. If the tenant named in the lease moves out, the remaining occupant has no right to continue in occupancy without the landlord's express consent.
not a lawyer and not your lawyer, but looks like while you were in the wrong to not inform your landlord when your boyfriend moved in, unless there's language in your lease, your landlord probably can't force you or your boyfriend out without going to court. even if she did, all you'd need to do would be register with the city as domestic partners, as that would qualify your boyfriend as spouse/immediate family. medieval maven's advice is pretty good and what i'd go with in your situation.
posted by lia at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: all you'd need to do would be register with the city as domestic partners (lia)

How would one go about doing that?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2010

In my opinion she is in the wrong to not let her landlord know. If the lease states she must let the landlord know she CAN GET THROWN OUT fro violating the lease.

she has to find that lease. its very important.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing that confuses me is that with roommates, previously all I have had to do is tell her the name of the person who's moving in.

If this is the case (plus the name of the place) it sounds like you live in a condo. This is good. In a co-op, you usually have to go through interviews with the board and so on. Which means there will probably be lenience in your favor. Gather the courage to do this over the phone or in person. Your landlord probably isn't as mad as she was when you first brought it up, and she's not going to rip your head off.
posted by griphus at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2010

BTW I used to live as a "subletter" (AKA roommate of the original renter) in a rented co-op and did not personally have to go through any sort of approval process. My roommate simply asked the landlord for permission for me to move in, landlord said yes, I moved in, end of story. That said, in a really fancy building it might be different.
posted by Sara C. at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2010

Ooh, I didn't see padraigin's comment.

Padraigin, I don't deal with stressful phone calls well (I sort of shut down), which is part of why I want to do this in writing. Given that, do you think a phone call would still be a better course of action?

You know, I don't deal well with them either. If I had this problem with a tenant I probably would have cried when the board called me, cried when I contacted you, and then called my mom to cry about it to her, with a bunch of cigarettes in between.

If you can outline the talking points before calling that might help (it helps me a lot to pre-script my important calls). Otherwise the best thing might be to email her, and let her know that if she wants to speak to you directly about it you're available at such and such number and time, and let her make that decision.
posted by padraigin at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the lease states she must let the landlord know she CAN GET THROWN OUT fro violating the lease.

This is just not true. Eviction in New York City is a very long process and a last resort for most landlords. No one is throwing anybody anywhere.
posted by hermitosis at 9:23 AM on August 2, 2010

I understand that you're uncomfortable with the prospect of calling her, but I really think this ought to be discussed in person or on the phone. It is so easy to misunderstand tone (she misunderstands you or you misunderstand her) if this is done by email. I strongly suggest you email and ask her for a convenient time to meet or talk on the phone to clear up this misunderstanding/miscommunication/whatever you want to call it. Even if you are audibly uncomfortable during the conversation, you will almost certainly come away looking better to your landlady (and she'll be more likely to take you seriously) if you speak to her directly rather than relying on email. Any time I've had an unhappy landlord, phone or in-person conversations have gotten me a lot further towards what I wanted than email has (and, like you, I am deeply uncomfortable with confrontational or tense phone calls).
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:24 AM on August 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Also, registering as domestic partners is done at City Hall, the same place you'd go to get married. In addition to living together, I believe you need to have a joint checking account in order to qualify.
posted by hermitosis at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2010

I did some work as a lawyer for condo boards, until I started refusing them as clients, because CONDO BOARDS ARE CRAZY. I say this not to scare you, but because your landlord was probably fairly freaked out by having to deal with the condo board and getting the call. It's a passel o' crazy. Even the good ones are full of insanity. She'll probably calm down as she gets a little distance from the crazy.

Depending on the timing of the "moving in" of the boyfriend (and the wording of the lease), this just doesn't sound like that big a deal to me, and like the kind of thing that reasonable people can work out. Hopefully your landlord has had a little time to get back to reasonable and this is easily sorted.

And then after it's sorted and he's safely allowed to live there, I'd probably send her cookies as an apology for the confusion.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:29 AM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Registering as domestic partners seems to be way overshooting the mark. You should contact a renters-assistance organization to confirm, but from my limited understanding of renting in NYC I think you are in the clear; you can't be thrown out for having a roommate. The co-op/condo's rules or even your lease can't (generally) curtain rights that the law grants.

I would not write that email. An apology could be construed as an admission that you did something wrong, and I am not sure that you did. You may want to apologize, but don't. Or if you feel that you must, be sure to word it that you're sorry "if there was some misunderstanding" or "for the miscommunication".

Don't paint yourself into a corner because of your emotions or reluctance to have a face-to-face or telephone conversation. This person is your landlord, not your mom; it's not worth messing up your living situation in order to please them, particularly since you're in a jurisdiction that is very renter-friendly.

To be blunt, I think you're getting screwed, and they're probably trying to violate your rights as a tenant -- you shouldn't be apologizing to them, they should be apologizing to you.

I would probably start thinking about your strategy if your landlord decides to play rough; living in a place with a landlord that dislikes you is no fun, so I'd probably aim for voiding the two-year lease extension and letting you move out, if they're not willing to let you have whomever you'd like live with you, to the extent that you are legally entitled pursuant to fire codes, etc.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:36 AM on August 2, 2010

I know phone calls suck but don't. Put. Anything. In. Writing.

This. Minor matter or not, you always, always, always want plausible deniability. So does your landlord. I'm almost entirely sure she'd rather have stuff settled quietly with you than have to deal with the board. This is why you were contacted by her and not called to the board. As long as neither of you have a document that says "HE WAS LIVING WITH ME," they don't have a way of making that into an issue if they choose to make this stuff into an issue.
posted by griphus at 9:36 AM on August 2, 2010

I came in to say what Ms Detective suggested. Don't put anything in writing just yet. If talking to her is stressful, it might help to keep a list of points you want to bring up in front of you during the phone call. Mentally rehearsing the call will also help.

I'm rooting for you.
posted by special-k at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2010

Registering as domestic partners seems like a plan of last resort. As far as I know, domestic partnership carries some of the same legal implications as marriage. You may not be ready for that, if you're at the point where your boyfriend only just moved in.

I believe the law that lia cited is colloquially known as the "live-in lover law."
posted by the_blizz at 9:42 AM on August 2, 2010

Ooh, yeah, nthing "don't put anything in writing."
posted by the_blizz at 9:46 AM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: As long as neither of you have a document that says "HE WAS LIVING WITH ME," they don't have a way of making that into an issue if they choose to make this stuff into an issue. (griphus)

Which makes me feel awful since there already is something in writing.

She called me several times yesterday and left messages to call her. My phone was dead, so I didn't see them until it was too late to call. Since it was too late to call, I sent her an email instead, which said the following:
Dear [landlord],

I'm sorry, I didn't get your voice messages or email until just now, and I'm afraid it's too late to call. Is there a good time for me to call on Monday?

In thinking of what you might be calling about, I realize that I paid $XXXX for rent for August, but that I should be paying $XXXX+$XXX (the lease renewal is in my file drawer at my office, so I don't have the date right in front of me to make sure). In any case, I will deposit $XXX in your account at [bank] in the morning to cover that possibility. I'm very sorry for the confusion.

In other news, I was going to be emailing you tonight anyway to say that as of today, my boyfriend, [name], is also living with me. (He had been staying with me temporarily earlier this summer while he was between jobs, and now that he's employed again, we've decided to make it permanent.) It is our plan that eventually, when [roommate] leaves, it will be just the two of us.

She hadn't read this email yet before she called and we talked this morning. How does this change things?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:47 AM on August 2, 2010

Also, I wouldn't be too upset about not having said something earlier - I think given the actual timeline, the landlord will be in a position to be much more lenient. Remember that her reaction so far has been based on your neighbor's report of someone living there for 'six months'.
posted by Lady Li at 9:48 AM on August 2, 2010

However my guess is that the landlord is less concerned about the relatively minor lease violation and more concerned about saving face with the condo board.

I suspect this is the heart of what's happening. Many condo boards can be incredibly rigid with petty rules, and your building's condo board could even be threatening to rescind your landlord's right to rent her unit (obviously that'd be a serious blow for any out-of-town owner the current real estate market--and could explain why your landlord's freaking out about this.)

I suspect your landlord likes you and personally doesn't care one iota about your boyfriend moving in, so the comments above about her not being your mother are red herrings. Talk to your landlord asap about how to make this right with her condo board. Depending on what your building's condo association's bylaws say, [and yeah yeah you already know IANYA bla ba bla] a condo owner may have a right to remedy a violation of rules, and/or the condo board might be required to give a formal rejection for cause (which they probably can't do unless your boyfriend is a nocturnal death metal drummer), or require the condo board show that damage (which I highly doubt exists here) has resulted from your landlord's (aka your) breach of rules before they can do much of anything to her, or you. Talk to your landlord!
posted by applemeat at 9:49 AM on August 2, 2010

I had owned a house with a very small apt. at the top. Girl I had known for many years moved in. All was well. Then her sister "visited," and, to make matters worse, they decided to operate a little cooking business out of the rental! I got stuck for the huge increase in utilities. I had to ask the girl to cut out her sister and the biz. She moved in a huff, but we later remained good friends.
If the place is for two, you don't move in another. The way this stuff often works: a lover stays for a week, and leave overnight and then returns. That beats some regs on alimony, and sometimes, the "just visiting" routine.
posted by Postroad at 9:53 AM on August 2, 2010

Look, NYC laws are different than other areas. Contact a lawyer. Ignore all the discussion on this thread.
posted by dfriedman at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Is there a tenant advocacy group in New York that I could talk to?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: (I'm sure there is, I just don't know where to look, and google is turning up lots of different stuff.)
posted by ocherdraco at 10:00 AM on August 2, 2010

You can always offer her a bit more money for the 'wear and tear'.
posted by Vaike at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2010

Rent Laws in NYC: If you are the only person who has signed the lease, in addition to your immediate family, state law allows you to have one roommate (i.e. an occupant of the apartment who has not signed the lease). Your roommate's dependent children are also permitted. Any lease provisions disallowing a roommate (and dependent children) are illegal.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:07 AM on August 2, 2010

You should definitely find out what a tenancy lawyer has to say. You have the right to one roommate, not two.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:09 AM on August 2, 2010

Do NOTHING (and avoid, diffuse or delay communications) until you:
1. have your lease in hand
2. are very clear about what you have or have not violated
3. know what your rights and options are, and
4. have a clear course in mind about how to deal with them.
posted by kch at 10:24 AM on August 2, 2010

Re tenancy advocated group: call 311 and ask them this question.
posted by dfriedman at 10:26 AM on August 2, 2010

In addition to living together, I believe you need to have a joint checking account in order to qualify.

My partner and I just (in March) registered as dom pars, and you do not a joint checking account. They didn't even ask for proof that we lived together (although I brought it). All they wanted was a state issued ID and $35.

As far as I know, domestic partnership carries some of the same legal implications as marriage.

No, not really. My boyfriend researched this extensively, and there are virtually no legal implications. Rather, it entitles the couple to certain legal accommodations within the state of NY. It can be dissolved by going back to the courthouse with $27.
posted by kimdog at 10:32 AM on August 2, 2010

Best answer: Be careful about taking legal advice from this thread. I am a tenant attorney in New York City, and I am not sure if some of the laws people have cited here apply in a condo situation. There's no harm in calling some tenant advocacy groups, but I suspect you're probably over income for most of them (which tend to serve people who are 125-150% of the poverty level).

Even though you already said in writing that your boyfriend is living with you, I would recommend against putting anything further in writing. If you can't work things out with your landlord, and you're not eligible for help from the tenant advocacy groups, you may want to call some private attorneys and find out how much a consultation costs. Once you find your lease, this whole thing sounds like a fairly simple matter of contract interpretation.
posted by Mavri at 10:49 AM on August 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

NYC renter's law can be a little vague on the wording, but it does make a distinction between subletters, tenants, and roommates. For instance, in a rent controlled building, your having one tenant allows the landlord to raise the rent %10, but you can have as many roommates as you want up to legal occupancy limit, as an unfettered right with no consequences. Suppose you pay the rent, and your boyfriend buys the food, then he might be a roommate and not a tenant. As long as it is still your primary residence, things generally tilt in your favor by default.

The primary renter can request a list of who is living in their unit, and you are required to answer that written request in a reasonable amount of time. However, there is no penalty under the law for not providing that list, so, whatever.

Even in the most restrictive coops, having a live in partner is not a problem, as far as I know.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:19 AM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, here's the plan:

1) Find the lease, and review it.

2) Call the landlord as suggested by padraigin, and, using Medieval Maven's guidelines, discuss the situation and how to resolve it.

3) If the situation can't be resolved through conversation, contact a tenant attorney, as Mavri suggests.

Thanks, folks. You've given me some much needed perspective on this. I feel like I know what I need to do to work through this situation.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Let us know how it turns out (curious NYC tenants want to know!)
posted by griphus at 5:12 PM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: Will do. Lease and lease renewals have been located. There is nothing in them about roommates, actually. It mentions "occupants," which technically only includes me and my initial roommate—none of my subsequent roommates have been mentioned in the lease renewals, even though they were clearly co-occupants with me. (I.e., if my boyfriend has been in violation of some rule, so have my previous two roommates.) It also mentions "guests," but provides no definition to distinguish guests from occupants. In any case, there are no penalties for having persons residing in the apartment outside those two classifications.

I'm hoping to speak to the landlord tomorrow, and will ask about the bylaws of the building, because it seems to me that if there are any violations, they must be of the bylaws, not of my lease.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:27 PM on August 2, 2010

A note on your email:

If I was your landlord, and I'd just been called out by an angry board/board-member, I'd be pretty pissed by the way you mentioned the fact that your boyfriend is now living with you.

You've been a tenant for a while, you know the rules about notifying her of roommates in advance, and here you are in this email, trying to somehow mention your bf in passing, as if bringing it up in an offhanded manner makes up for the fact that she just got reamed by the board.

You know what landlords like in tenants? Easy:

* Tenants who pay the rent on time.
* Tenants who don't damage their apartments.
* Tenants who don't piss off the neighbors/boards/HOA/cops/nuns/PTA/etc.

In otherwords, if you start making your presence difficult for your LL, they will not be happy.

You made life difficult for your LL, and your email did not acknowledge the fact that you did so. If you're going to repair this situation (assuming it is), some sensitivity for the position you put your LL in is required.

A side note: For non-NYCers who are opining in this thread - if you're familiar with HoA's in your neck of the woods, and are familiar with just how nasty they can be, think that. On steroids. With rabies.
posted by swngnmonk at 8:34 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: the rules about notifying her of roommates in advance (swngnmonk)

To be clear, with the most recent roommate, I notified the landlord when she moved in, not before, and she was fine with that. The issue here is that someone told her my boyfriend has been living here for six months, which is not true.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:44 PM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: Also keep in mind that I wrote that email before I had any idea of what she was calling about.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:45 PM on August 2, 2010

While I think you've gotten a lot of good, practical advice in terms of how to proceed, I think the overall tenor of the replies has been way, way overdramatic.

Of course, I am not a/your lawyer, and all the usual disclaimers, but I have spent the last 10+ years in NYC under all sorts of different rental situations, many of which were a good bit dicier than what you're describing, and in that time, what I've basically come to understand is this: if you are a reasonable person, and you aren't wrecking the place or racking up complaints from your neighbors nor constantly haranguing your landlord/super with tons of petty complaints of your own, and, above all, are able to pay your rent on time every month, than keeping you on as a tenant is as much in your landlord's best interest as it is yours.

Don't sweat too much about what you put in writing, and don't feel too bad over not telling your landlord the very second your boyfriend segued from "staying over a lot" to "pretty much living here" to "actually living here." It's really not that big a deal, whatever the specifics of your rental agreement or the condo's bylaws say -- it's not even remotely worth the considerable time and expense it would cost your landlord or the condo board to actually do anything to penalize or evict you, and for what? So instead of getting rent for the apartment, it can be vacant for a month while they either pay a realtor or have to show it themselves -- and in the worst housing market in NYC in the past 10 years?

Landlords tend to develop the habit of acting like drama queens over slight infractions, because tenants that feel less confident of their good standing with their landlords are less likely to make said landlord fulfill various obligations regarding apartment upkeep. The trick is to keep calm, and not let a landlord scold you into thinking of them as some sort of disproving authority figure. Regardless of whether you should have told your landlord about your boyfriend earlier, you haven't actually acted in bad faith at any time, and your actions haven't in any way damaged their property, or posed any risk or inconvenience for the building's other tenants.

You don't really owe her anything more than a perfunctory apology, and it is inappropriate for her to be talking to you about "violating her trust" and acting like whether your boyfriend can stay or not is her decision to "think about." Her posturing about this is an obnoxiously presumptuous bluff on her part. If she tells you he has to go, and you say "I'm sorry, but we're staying," there is no way in hell that, in a city where it can take years to oust squatters, it would be worth her time and money to go through the legal process of trying to evict an otherwise ideal tenant just for getting a boyfriend.
posted by patnasty at 9:56 PM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm also a tenant attorney in NYC. Listen to Mavri -- she's spot on. There's a lot of pretty erroneous legal advice in this thread. People are mixing up the Rent Stabilization roommate law with the law governing condos and coops and then throwing in domestic partnerships and succession rights for good measure. Do nothing precipitous -- in particular do not make admissions in writing -- without consulting a qualified tenant attorney who practices in this jurisdiction. Good luck. I hope it works out for you.
posted by lassie at 10:25 PM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: I've left both an email and a voicemail asking to talk. Now I just have to wait.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:27 PM on August 3, 2010

posted by hermitosis at 11:37 AM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Lawyers.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:13 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, it seems we're almost out of the woods.

The story: the landlord sent a threatening letter via her attorney in her home state (not New York) that we received a few days before my last comment. My boyfriend and I consulted with a tenant's rights attorney whose firm was recommended to us by Mavri, and our attorney then responded to the letter, stating our rights under New York's roommate law. The landlord then consulted with a New York attorney, and called our attorney to tell her that she had decided (initially) that even considering the roommate law's clause about limits on tenancy, she would not allow my boyfriend to move in unless my roommate moved out. Our attorney confirmed with her, though, that we had not bothered any other tenants, nor broken any bylaws of the building.

Since case law is inconclusive on whether or not the roommate law applies to condominiums, the only way we could contest the landlord's decision would be to take her to court. That's not an option for us, as apparently tenants who go to court with their landlords, regardless of who prevails, are blacklisted from renting in the city by future prospective landlords. So, we were prepared to deal with that, and discuss with my roommate the possibility of her moving out in a few months, so my boyfriend could move in.

This last part was happening while my boyfriend and I were in Alabama, so he could meet my family for the first time. Talk about an intense week.

The day after her call to our attorney, the landlord called again, and completely unexpectedly reversed her decision, saying that she would allow my boyfriend to move in, so long as we gave her contact information for my roommate and my boyfriend, and prepared and signed a roommate agreement between the three of us. (We are in control of the terms of that agreement, since she is not party to it.)

Hooray! Victory!

So now we're gathering paperwork together, and my boyfriend and I can live in sin and bliss. I cannot wait for this whole thing to be over.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:59 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

yay ocherdraco! I'm happy this turned out well.
posted by special-k at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2010

So glad it all worked out!
posted by Mavri at 2:24 PM on August 26, 2010

Response by poster: This might be a question I should lob back to my attorney, but I'll ask it here anyway: if I'm the only one on the lease, she shouldn't need my boyfriend's or my roommate's social security numbers, right? She's asked for them as part of the contact and emergency info.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:15 PM on August 27, 2010

I'd think the only reason she'd need that info is if she needed to run a credit check on either of them. Since there's no reason for her to do that, I think it's probably OK for you to just say that neither of them is comfortable passing on their SSNs unless a credit check is needed -- and then see what she says about that. I don't think she can do a credit check on either of them without their consent, so if she's wanting to make sure they're both financially stable, etc., she'll need to request that info from them specifically.

I wouldn't automatically assume nefarious motives by the landlord, BTW. It may be that she's just trying to fill out a standard form she has that she also uses for the lease application, and that's why she's asked for SSN. When I recently filled out an info form for the management company for an apartment I'm subleasing, there was a space for SSN and I just left it blank. They had no problem with that -- they just wanted to know how to reach me in case of emergency.
posted by devinemissk at 11:49 AM on August 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, devinemissk. My boyfriend has given his, but my roommate has decided not to. We'll see what happens. I've got my fingers (and pretty much everything else) crossed.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2010

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