Working & renting in one state and owning a home in another
January 6, 2013 8:15 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are moving to NYC for work, but we own a condo in MA. Should we try to maintain MA as our legal, permanent domicile or should we just give in and call that our second home? What are the implications of working & renting in one state and owning a home in another?

Background: we've lived and worked in MA for the last 14 years; all our friends and my family is there. 18 months ago Mr. ITNB started commuting to NYC each week for a new permanent job, and I start a permanent job in NYC this month. We have signed a lease to rent an apartment in NYC, but we are also hoping to keep our condo in MA, and expect to stay there an average of one weekend per month. We've crunched the numbers and can make the budget work, so that's not a concern at this time.

The NYC thing is pretty exciting and we're committed to giving it a go for a couple of years. Longer term, there's a fair chance we could return to MA. Are there any advantages to keeping the MA residence as our permanent domicile, or is that an emotional hangup and logistical hassle that we need to get over?

Condo rules: Our initial consideration is that we need to avoid shifting the owner-occupancy rate for our condo building, which I am led to believe we can do by maintaining our unit as either a domicile or a second residence. We are hoping to have a roommate or two to defray the costs and keep it from sitting vacant while we're away. Are there any major flaws with this plan?

Car/License: If we keep our car with us in NYC, it looks like we'd have to switch our insurance & registration to NY and turn in our MA driver's licenses for NY ones so all the addresses match. That seems so bossy. Has anyone in our situation (domicile in one state, statutory residence in another) handled this differently without committing insurance fraud?

Voter Registration/Mailing Address: I understand that domicile is partly determined by good faith intent, but is there a minimum of ties we should maintain in MA in order to preserve some sort of clarity and documentation of our ties there? If we have to get NY driver's licenses, do we have to vote in NY too?

Are we creating a whole lot of unnecessary complexity? Now I can't even remember why we have settled on keeping MA as our domicile. Please help.
posted by isthenewblack to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One other factor that may affect your final decision: income taxes.
posted by TTIKTDA at 8:39 PM on January 6, 2013

Your question seems to largely hinge on a presumed ability to register an address as a "domicile". I do not think it works that way. The answer to the question of, "where is my domicile?" is another question: "for what purpose?"

What is the domicile is determined by the attendant facts in most cases. Are you in NYC indefinitely or do you have a concrete plan to return to MA? This is going to be the most common determining factor in where your domicile is. Since you describe the two NYC jobs as permanent jobs, chances are that you are now domiciled in NY for most purposes.

Regarding your condo, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as registering a home as a "domicile". Many states have a homestead exemption for the primary residence, and that address is registered, but the condo in MA isn't your primary residence anymore. I don't practice any condo law so I don't have any idea about the owner-occupancy issues.

I'm sorry it seems "so bossy" to you, but every state I have heard of requires that residents have their vehicles registered in that state and driver's license issued in that state. In my state, after you move here you have ten days to register your car and 30 days to get a new license.

I don't know the election code of NY, but in my state, the election code requires voter registration where the voter is domiciled. That's NYC for you now.

Yes, I think you are creating a whole lot of unnecessary complexity. If you two were on some sort of fixed-term contract and you knew you'd be going back to MA after some period of time, there's a good chance that the MA condo would be your domicile. I do not know what you would get by having your MA condo be your domicile, which it isn't going to be. This is a discreet, boring legal issue that was recently at issue when Rahm Emanuel wanted to run for mayor of Chicago. It's an unusual legal nuance to be the source of an emotional attachment.

posted by Tanizaki at 8:41 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Has anyone in our situation (domicile in one state, statutory residence in another) handled this differently without committing insurance fraud?
I'm intentionally ignoring your constant use of "domicile", "residence" and "statutory residence". This sentence implies to me that you want to live in NY and have your car in NY, but not pay NY rates (leaving the rest of us NYers to pick up the tab). Most insurance companies (specifically, the three I've received quotes from State Farm, Geico, All State, though I'm sure many others are similar) ask a question something along the lines of:
What address is this vehicle principally garaged at?
And they define "garaged at" to mean the address where your garage is, or your card is parked nearby on the street during the times in which you are not using it when you have not taken it someplace such as work, school, shopping, etc.

If you don't want to commit insurance fraud (read: rate jump) then you'll have to give them a NY address.

I know it seems "bossy" for the state in which you want to live to insist that you register a car with it, but it's been that way for a while and it doesn't look like it is changing (nor do I consider it an unreasonable requirement).

In the spirit of the thread, IANAL, IANYL, TINLA.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:59 PM on January 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

The owner-occupancy rate for your condo building wont change just because you aren't physically present. It would only change if you were to rent it out.

You are being very "fussy" about this whole thing. Most states will allow you to register to vote in that state when you go get your license. REgister your car, get a NY license and change it back to MA when you go back there. Whats the big deal?

IF you are emotionally attached to your condo, keep it. RE-evaluate the situation after a year or so and see if you still want to keep it. You could find schelping back once a month becomes a chore. You could find NYC now feels like home and you want to unload MA. You could feel you made a huge mistake and return to MA. If your budget allows it, just keep the place as a backup.
posted by WeekendJen at 4:32 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most likely under MA and NY law, if you are domiciled and earn your livings in New York State in jobs that are for all intents and purposes "permanent" (meaning that you don't have a contract that expires in 18 months after which you will be moving back to your permanent residence in MA) you have to be a NY resident.

I'm not sure that it makes much difference tax-wise. MA doesn't exactly have low income taxes, and regardless I believe NYS and NYC tax you on income you earn in the state.
posted by slkinsey at 5:27 AM on January 7, 2013

(The usual NYer outrage at people registering their cars out-of-state should not apply to people from MA. In my experience MA rates are higher, which is why you never see any MA plates parked in Brooklyn.) However, if you spend 80% of your time in NY I don't believe you can do anything but get insured in NY without committing fraud.
posted by zvs at 7:03 AM on January 7, 2013

Car registration, driver's license, insurance, voter registration --- all of these are supposed to be tied to your home address, and if you live and work in New York then that's your legal residence: a weekend a month elsewhere makes no difference, whether it's spent at a condo you own in Massachusetts or a campground in Pennsylvania. (Don't know what NY rules are, but most states require registering your car and changing your driver's license to your new address within 30 days.)

You're really overthinking this and, yes, creating a lot of unnecessary complexity in a common situation; changing addresses is something millions of people do every year. Just go to the New York DMV to take care of the car and your driver's license; call your insurance agent to change the insurance. Sometime before the next election, register to vote in NY. Finished. And when/if you move back to Massachusetts? Repeat the process there.
posted by easily confused at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for the confirmation that yes, I have been over-thinking this. Apparently I need to just make peace with the fact that I am truly moving to NY, with all that it entails. Grateful for your input!
posted by isthenewblack at 12:05 PM on January 7, 2013

Almost forgot: there IS one more small thing you'll need to do --- fill out one of the Post Office's 'new address' postcards to forward all your mail to your new address. Again, like the rest, easy-peasy.
posted by easily confused at 1:45 PM on January 7, 2013

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